Managing Knowledge and Information

Managing Knowledge and Information

Case Study
TPM Tools Ltd. (TPMT) is a 10

year old company based in the UK that exports high

quality,
specialised hand tools
(e.g. special wrenches, tile cutters, frame saws, etc.) to English

speaking
countries in Africa. TPMT has 6 full

time workers in the UK, including three owner

directors, and
usually has up to 4 part

time workers whom it employs depending on the level of
active business
orders, i.e. how many orders it must satisfy in a given time period and how complicated the orders
are to fulfil.
The tools to be exported are of high value, which makes them attractive to thieves. The tools can
also be heavy, which res
ults in high shipping costs and complicated arrangements, and are often for
cutting hard materials, which can result in the tools being classed as dangerous .
TPMT uses agents in 10 of the 15 countries it operates in. The agents are supposed to look after
TPMT’s interests in their region. For the five countries with no agent, TPMT makes arrangements to
engage with agents as and when they are needed. As well as looking after deliveries and maintaining
some stock belonging to TPMT, their agents tell TPMT wha
t the state of the market is and whether
customers are satisfied. Unfortunately, information provided by agents is often contradicted when
they get direct feedback from customers via email or letter, or on the rare occasions, when directors
visit Africa.
TPMT sources most of its tools from 7 regular suppliers. TPMT employees spend most of their time
dealing with enquiries from suppliers, customers in Africa, and agents by phone, email and fax. The
directors are committed to delivering exactly what customer
s order, on time, for the agreed price,
aiming for customers to return to place future orders. However, directors often find it difficult to get
employees to maintain good relationships with customers and agents or to go ‘above and beyond’.
The full

time
workers who are not directors typically work for the company for only two years,
showing little commitment to the company and leaving after they become skilled in the business
sector for other opportunities. This means that there is usually at least one f
ull

time worker who is
learning the business; sometimes one or more of the part

time workers have worked casually for
TPMT before.
TPMT is too small to support a sales or customer relationship team in any country other than the UK,
although the Directors a
re considering whether more frequent overseas trips might build sales and
customer relations.

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