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Managing concept decision making in product development practice
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Machine Design (Dept.), Integrated Product Development.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8790-3859
2011 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Making concept decisions is a crucial activity for product-developing companies since these decisions have high impact on the subsequent development and launch of the product. Consequences of unsuccessful concept decisions can be severe, e.g. missing out on business opportunities or spending money on rework. This thesis investigates concept decision making in product development practice and contributes by enhancing the understanding of what is actually happening, the difficulties experienced in the process, and how to manage and improve concept decision making. Such enhanced understanding should serve as a basis when support methods for concept decision making are developed. In-depth studies have been conducted in a Swedish automotive company, focusing on the technical system level of the product.

The concept decision process was found to be a web of interconnected activities, embedded in the concept development process, and with several actors on different hierarchical levels. An overarching challenge identified in concept decision making was to achieve compatibility before completeness, meaning that compatibility between product systems must be met before the system solutions are completely developed. In addition, a number of conflicts intrinsic in the process were revealed, pointing to underlying causes of the difficulties in managing concept decision making. These conflicts are omnipresent due to the product and organizational complexity and have to be handled by the product developers in their daily work.

The thesis identifies key elements for improving an organization’s concept decision making: Create meta-knowledge and awareness regarding what influences the process and the actors in the process since there is a general lack of knowledge regarding one’s own and the organization’s decision-making processes; Ask questions to ensure that aspects, previously neglected, are considered; Provide visualizations to enhance understanding of both process and solutions; Provide vision as guidance in everyday decision making and trade-offs; and Ensure reflections since there is a need for actors in the process to reflect on the own decision-making process.

In conclusion, a model to improve the concept decision making in practice is proposed. The model includes a set of proposed activities that are designed to address the previously identified challenges, and was developed in collaboration between researchers and practitioners.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology , 2011. , x, 84 p.
Series
Trita-MMK, ISSN 1400-1179 ; 2011:14
Keyword [en]
concept decision, decision making, product development, industrial practice
National Category
Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-43396ISBN: 978-91-7501-138-7 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-43396DiVA: diva2:448227
Public defence
2011-11-11, F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26, KTH, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC 20111019Available from: 2011-10-19 Created: 2011-10-14 Last updated: 2011-11-22Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Concept Decisions – a Web of Interconnected Actions
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Concept Decisions – a Web of Interconnected Actions
2009 (English)In: Proceeding of 16th International Product Development Management Conference, IPDMC, EIASM, 7-9 juni, Twente, Holland, 2009Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-25442 (URN)
Conference
16th International Product Development Management Conference, June (7) 8-9, 2009, Enschede, The Netherlands
Note
QC 20101022Available from: 2010-10-22 Created: 2010-10-22 Last updated: 2011-11-18Bibliographically approved
2. Deficiencies in Management of the Concept Development Process: Theory and Practice
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Deficiencies in Management of the Concept Development Process: Theory and Practice
2009 (English)In: Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Engineering Design, ICED'09, Design Society / [ed] Norell Bergendahl, M.; Grimheden, M.; Leifer, L.; Skogstad, P.; Lindemann, U., 2009, 267-278 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Concept development is a key success factor in product development and in theory concept development means that a number of concept solutions are generated and evaluated in an objective way using a systematic evaluation method. This paper presents identified deficiencies in both theoretical models and industrial product development. The aim is to supplement previous research, by increasing the understanding of how concept decisions are managed in product development in practice, in order to suggest proposals for improvement of management procedures. Empirical studies have been performed in two large product developing companies that act on the global market. The results imply that actors in the concept development, instead of evaluating different alternatives (as recommended in theory), rather are struggling with developing a solution that will fulfill the specifications. Decisions concerning concepts are found to be embedded in a complex weave of actors and activities that characterizes concept development. It is concluded that changes are required in theory as well as in working procedures in practice in order to actually support the actors in product development.

Keyword
concept decision, decision making, product development process, management models
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-25437 (URN)000302594100026 ()2-s2.0-84859221415 (Scopus ID)
Conference
17th International Conference on Engineering Design, ICED'09, Design Society, August 24 - 27, Stanford, USA
Note

QC 20101021

Available from: 2010-10-21 Created: 2010-10-21 Last updated: 2012-09-18Bibliographically approved
3. Navigating in uncertainty: identifying dependence factors in concept decision making
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Navigating in uncertainty: identifying dependence factors in concept decision making
(English)In: Design Studies, ISSN 0142-694X, E-ISSN 1872-6909Article in journal (Other academic) Submitted
Keyword
case study; conceptual design; decision making; concept decision
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-43402 (URN)
Note
QS 2011 QS 20120327Available from: 2011-10-14 Created: 2011-10-14 Last updated: 2017-12-08Bibliographically approved
4. Compatibility before completeness - Identifying intrinsic conflicts in concept decision making for technical systems
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Compatibility before completeness - Identifying intrinsic conflicts in concept decision making for technical systems
2012 (English)In: Technovation, ISSN 0166-4972, E-ISSN 1879-2383, Vol. 32, no 2, 79-89 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper investigates the practice of concept decision-making, i.e. making decisions on technical solutions in early product development stages. An empirical study was conducted in a Swedish automotive company, using a qualitative approach. The study reveals that a major challenge in concept decision-making is to achieve compatibility between systems in the product before the system solutions are completely developed. Managers and product developers need to know that conceptual solutions are good enough to progress into detailed development without performing detailed analysis. In the concept-decision process a number of intrinsic conflicts that these actors have to address are identified: understanding of the overall development process as iterative or stepwise; developing satisfying or optimized solutions; using defined or interpreted criteria when comparing solutions; and composing a complete car from different systems solutions, prioritizing project targets or long-term system targets. Consequences of these intrinsic conflicts, omnipresent in the process, are characterized and discussed. The authors suggest a number of means to address these intrinsic conflicts, such as enhancing actors' awareness of psychological biases. The authors also suggest to have clear and well-communicated visions regarding both product and development process, in order to guide individuals' daily judgments and trade-offs that have to be made.

Keyword
concept decisions, product development, decision-making, case study
National Category
Mechanical Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-43401 (URN)10.1016/j.technovation.2011.10.005 (DOI)000328872000001 ()2-s2.0-84855879131 (Scopus ID)
Funder
Vinnova
Note

QC 20120618

Available from: 2011-10-14 Created: 2011-10-14 Last updated: 2017-12-08Bibliographically approved
5. Exploring a decision-making forum in early product development
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exploring a decision-making forum in early product development
2011 (English)In: Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED11), Vol. 10: Design Methods and Tools / [ed] Culley, S.J.; Hicks, B.J.; McAloone, T.C.; Howard, T.J. & Dong, A., Copenhagen, 2011, 360-369 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Decision making in early phases of product development is of great importance due to the large impact they have on the subsequent project, whilst in the same being heavily characterized by uncertainty. This paper explores decision making in early phases of product development, and reports empirical findings from a case study conducted in an automotive firm. The case study investigated a project meeting officially responsible for deciding the technical content of the product. For example it was found that defining working assumptions and asking questions were used as means to reduce uncertainty in the decision-making process, where three genres of questions were identified: elucidating, self enlightening and argumentative. Further, a number of challenges in managing the decision-making process were identified, specifically for such agenda-based meetings as in the case study which was found to rely on instant interactions between the participants. Project management e.g. instantly had to judge to widen or limit the problem discussed, or whether to continue probing a problem or stop the discussion in order to save the total meeting agenda.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Copenhagen: , 2011
Series
International Conference on Engineering Design, ISSN 2220-4334 ; 10
Keyword
decision-making, concept development, case study, meeting, project
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-43392 (URN)000320273700035 ()2-s2.0-84858842956 (Scopus ID)978-1-904670-30-8 (ISBN)
Conference
18th International Conference on Engineering Design, ICED'11
Note

QC 20111017

Available from: 2011-10-14 Created: 2011-10-14 Last updated: 2014-01-09Bibliographically approved
6. Improving the concept decision-making process: a study of an automotive company
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Improving the concept decision-making process: a study of an automotive company
2011 (English)In: 12th International CINet Conference, Aarhus, 2011Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Aarhus: , 2011
Keyword
decision making, concept decisions, action research
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-43394 (URN)
Conference
12th CINet Conference
Note
QC 20111017Available from: 2011-10-14 Created: 2011-10-14 Last updated: 2011-10-19Bibliographically approved

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