Toward enhanced interaction between engineering design and industrial design
Doctoral thesis, 2005
The product development industry faces increased product complexity with demands on cost, lead-time and quality, resulting in a need to integrate multiple disciplines in the product development work. This thesis focuses on the integration of engineering design and industrial design. A continuing dilemma of this integration is how to make the disciplines interact and collaborate so that successful, integrated product solutions can be achieved.
The purpose of this research is to understand what interdisciplinary interaction between engineering and industrial designers implies for product development work, the factors that influence interaction and how they can be described in practice. To fulfil this purpose, three questions have been formulated: 1) What is meant by interaction between engineering and industrial design in todays product development work?, 2) How is collaborative interaction supported in integrated product development work?, and 3) How can interaction be transformed into collaboration?
Empirical studies, in the form of interviews and observations, have provided an understanding of the implications of situational interaction as well as actors perceptions of product development work. Data has been collected from industrial designers, engineering designers and project leaders in the automotive, telecom and radio communication industries. Using a conceptual lens-triangulation consisting of communication theory, sense-making and activity theory, and working iteratively with empirical findings, this research problematises the complexity of interdisciplinary product development work.
The empirical studies revealed that interaction in product development work is characterised by mere information exchange rather than dialogue and socialisation; that actions are optimised within disciplines, but do not consider interdisciplinary dependencies; and that there is an institutionalised understanding of industrial design and engineering design as two separate and competitive camps. Hence, interaction between engineering designers and industrial designers lacks a collaborative work environment and coherence between organisational and operative intentions. Compromises rather than synergy effects were often the outcome of the product development work.
Collaborative interaction is little supported in product development projects since the activity does not encourage the merging of different mindsets. Instead, product development work reinforces disciplinary differences through use of contradictory technical tools, organisational structures and processes, which prevents the evolving of a common language and shared knowledge.
The research advocates a shift in perspective, arguing that socio-cultural and technical factors need to be aligned in order to achieve successful interaction and optimal product development work. Also, the local activities in product development work need to be aligned with organisational activities. Moreover, dialogues, socialisation and learning need to be legitimised so that a collaborative culture may be created among product development actors. To develop such a collaborative culture requires legitimised time and space, in this work referred to as a collaborative workspace. The thesis concludes by suggesting some practical ways in which a collaborative workspace may be created and maintained in an organisation. These methods need further development and testing in real product development environments.
integrated product development