The Influence of Learning on Naturalization of New Practices -The Case of Robust Design in Product Development
The Influence of Learning on Naturalization of New Practices
– the Case of Robust Design in Product Development
Azadeh Fazl Mashhadi
Department of Technology Management and Economics
Division of Quality Sciences
Chalmers University of Technology
Customers appreciate a robust product which performs its desired function consistently and independently of the sources of variation during its life cycle. In order to deliver a robust design to customers, the upstream activities during the product development process should proactively support such a result. Even though there have been methods and methodologies developed for robust design in product development, such as Taguchi Methods, Robust Design Methodology, Design For Six Sigma, and robust design practices, companies are still struggling with the application of robust design in practice.
Volvo 3P is one such company that has begun to apply robust design in the product development processes since 2004. Volvo 3P has recognized that in order to utilize robust design to its full potential, there is a need for cultivation and local growing of the concept in the organization’s context. Through this approach robust design can also achieve its continuous application. This is referred to as naturalization of robust design in the present thesis.
This thesis firstly elaborates on Volvo 3P learning from a previous unsuccessful initiative for introducing robust design through an external consultant. The obstacles in the organization and weaknesses in the initiative are discussed. Secondly, it describes the influence of learning on the individuals at Volvo 3P experiencing what lies in the robust design concept for them in practice and therefore changing their way of working. And finally it elaborates on how Volvo 3P has utilized a learning alliance with the Division of Quality Sciences at Chalmers University of Technology as a means to create a learning environment in which robust design is cultivated in the organizational context and grows into the practices in a natural way. In this thesis also the key attributes to achieve learning alliances are identified as a learning relationship, reflection-in-action, mutual learning, and sharing of knowledge and experiences on the organizational level.
The thesis identifies four contributions to the research community based on practice which are also valuable for industry. These contributions can be summarized as a broader view of the robust design concept, development of a concrete view for robust design practices in an organizational context, the positive influence of learning for naturalization of robust design, and the learning alliance as a method to create such learning.
Keywords: robust design, naturalization, learning, robust design practices, learning alliance, action research
robust design practices