Introducing Robust Design in Product Development Learning from an initiative at Volvo
Journal article, 2012

Robust design (RD) has a large potential to contribute to product and process improvements providing increased customer value. However, it has shown to be difficult to obtain these benefits in practice. This study aims to evaluate and learn from an initial approach to introducing RD within the Volvo Group. It is based on three pilot cases within the product development organisation of a business unit. Data were collected through formal interviews and informal dialogues with pilot participants, supplemented by existing documentation of the pilot cases. The main finding was that a RD initiative, characterised by ‘tool-pushing’ and with a predefined solution introduced by an external consultant, faced many obstacles and could not create a sustainable result. Instead, it was found that there is a need to involve engineers and create a learning culture in which RD principles can become a natural part of work practices. This study identified six obstacles to the success of the initiative, which were perceived as learning points for a broader application of RD at the company. This underscores that RD initiatives can also be hampered by similar types of obstacles that have been identified in research on other change processes.

RD method

middle management

Pugh matrix



resistance to change

product development

change management


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. 23 9-10 1191-1205

Subject Categories

Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics

Driving Forces

Innovation and entrepreneurship



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