Ensuring the transfer of know-how: a file is quite a story

Initial situation

This project was carried out in 2016 at the request of the UMV’s human resources, under the impetus of Laure Kloetzer, assistant professor in sociocultural psychology at the University of Neuchâtel, and with the support of Innovaud.

“My know-how, I would like it to remain here at the UMVs”, a setter at the Vallorbe Metallurgical Works (UMV) told us. The company is one of the world leaders in the production of files. When their employees retire, the company loses a wealth of know-how. Indeed, making a good quality file is not easy to tell and even less easy to write. It can be seen, felt and heard. “I hear that the cut is soft,” another fitter told us, his hand resting on the chisel of his machine.

How it happened

To capture this precious know-how, with Laure Kloetzer, we listened to machine setters tell us about their practices on the basis of observations and videos of their activities. We spent several hours observing and filming these experts making files. We then selected excerpts from films that were viewed and commented on by peers. We were able to identify the strategies and tricks they used to produce good quality files. When several experts tell you “Yes, I do the same”, you know you’ve found an ingredient from the Know-How recipe.


We have made several films illustrating how high quality files are made in Vallorbe. These films will be integrated into a training programme for new employees. This project also made it possible to open dialogue between workshops, experts and hierarchical levels. The challenges faced by the machine setters to ensure high quality could be discussed and solutions considered. De nouvelles portes se sont ouvertes, des dialogues ont été amorcés et des bribes de savoir-faire ont été formalisées. The seeds of the exchange are sown.

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