A learning alliance for robust design in product development – The case of Volvo 3P and Chalmers University of Technology
Journal article, 2014

Although the use of robust design within product development has a large potential, its practical application in industry has been limited. Learning from an earlier less successful trial, the Volvo Group developed an initiative that was successful in making robust design part of development engineers’ regular work. This initiative was conducted in 2006-2009 as action-research collaboration with Chalmers University of Technology, involving researchers and 22 master students. The aim of this paper is to describe and analyze this initiative. Data have been gathered through formal interviews, participation and observation in formal and informal meetings and through master theses. The initiative’s design included a broader robust design concept, emphasizing robust design principles, and the creation of local learning processes involving product development engineers and their supervisors. The company-university collaboration functioned as a ‘learning alliance’ on different levels. First, a learning relationship was created between individual engineers and master-students resulting in reflection-in-action and iterative mutual learning. Second, the learning alliance also included professors/researchers from Chalmers interacting with company representatives in an open learning environment, as well as reflection-in-supervision in the interaction with master-students. This interaction also supported the company in its process of creating structure and practices for organizational learning.


learning alliance

standard practice

organizational learning

learning relationship

product development


robust design


Azadeh Fazl Mashhadi

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Quality Sciences

Sverker Alänge

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Quality Sciences

Lars-Uno Roos

Volvo Group

Total Quality Management and Business Excellence

1478-3363 (ISSN) 1478-3371 (eISSN)

Vol. 25 9-10 1-18

Subject Categories

Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics


Driving Forces

Innovation and entrepreneurship

Learning and teaching

Pedagogical work



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