Investigating Product Design and Development Capabilities for Transformation to Automated Assembly in a Low-Volume Industry Context
MetadataShow full item record
This thesis context has been the maritime low-volume manufacturing industry undergoing change and restructuring due to markets affected by a shift in energy sources and digitalization. More cost-effective production methods are needed to sustain competitiveness while ensuring sustainable and environmentally friendly products and manufacturing processes. Forwardlooking businesses increase in-house production by investing in advanced technology, reducing labour to a less significant portion of the production cost. Successful product development, including productivity improvement promised by new-to-the-company manufacturing technology, relies heavily on creating a strong interface between design and manufacturing, such that product- and process design considerations are collectively considered. How to enhance product design and development capabilities needed to enable automated assembly of large and heavy marine low-volume products still need to be fully accounted for in existing theoretical frameworks. This thesis aims to contribute to and extend theory about the complex nature of product development to the low-volume industrial context. Through the lens of (Lean) product development theory, this thesis explores product design and development capabilities for transformation to automated assembly in the given context. As Lean is primarily a management approach, the present problem makes it necessary to include engineering strategies as a starting point for the study. The thesis has adopted Design for X strategies to supplement Lean in identifying necessary changes in product design. The investigation is guided by three overarching research questions (RQ): RQ1: What are the obstacles of the existing product development system and product design practices to enable the transformation to automated assembly in a low-volume industrial context? RQ2: How can an industrial company operating in a low-volume context best combine people, processes and technology & tools in an LPD system to optimize product development to facilitate automated assembly? RQ3: How can the combination of Industry 4.0 and precise product information (data accuracy) contribute to more sustainable choices and improved ways of working in product development? The three research questions are investigated through the literature, retrospective and longitudinal case studies, and interviews with case company employees involved in recent and ongoing product development projects: four main and three supportive papers answer the thesis’s overall research objective. The individual research papers apply different perspectives. However, what they have in common is investigating product design and development capabilities for transformation to automated assembly in a low-volume (industrial) context. The research objective is answered by and contributes to the theoretical perspective of Lean PD and DfX, providing operational insights from product development in KM. All four main papers have some overlapping contributions to the RQs in this thesis. The answer to the first research question (RQ1) is mainly based on data from semi-structured interviews with 18 KM respondents. These interviews and the initial LPD workshop helped identify obstacles to enabling automated assembly in the given context. The answer to the second research question (RQ2) is mainly based on the longitudinal study presented in main papers 2 and 3, assessing company PD practice against the 13 management principles presented by Morgan and Liker (2006) and how these capabilities can improve product design and development practice in KM. As a follow-up, the effect of introducing new PD practices outlined for the development stage of a new, optimized tunnel thruster (TTC) for closing observed capability gaps was analysed. In answer to the third research question (RQ3), main paper 4 presents a participatory research study of two projects in KM, aiming to autogenerate process output based on adequate data input. Main paper 4 contributes to Design for X and Industry 4.0 literature investigating concerns related to product data and digital data flow when aiming to automate and improve working practices using tools in the context of Industry 4.0. A prerequisite for digital tools to support sustainable decision-making in PD is adequate data to be available early in the PD process and throughout the entire lifecycle. The three supportive papers have overlapping findings based on product and process development case studies, including automated assembly in KM. These findings contribute to and support answering this thesis’s overarching RQs. In total, this thesis makes nine contributions to answer the overarching research questions in this thesis. In answer to RQ1, this thesis identifies obstacles to address to transform toward more automated assembly in the given context. These obstacles include ‘project-like’ PD practices and heritage within existing design practices for manual assembly (C1). Moreover, it identifies obstacles in PD within the three categories of people, process, and technology & tools (C2). This thesis emphasizes making major trade-offs between Engineer-to-order (what the customer wants) and the standardization of products and components. When a prototype is sold to a customer, there is extensive work to prepare documentation and ensure quality. This can lead to point-based design focusing on the optimization of the chosen (customized) solution rather than exploring alternative solutions (C5). In answer to RQ2, main paper 1 argues that in the early design phase, company design practices must include leveraging automated assembly in terms of more conventional product and component engineering (DfX). Moreover, to carefully consider synergies within a product, product family, and product variants to facilitate standardized operations in production (C3). Main paper 2 & 3 identifies several areas that have the potential to strengthen the PD process once contextualized to the marine sector (C6). The reassessment based on new design practices in a PD benchmark project identifies six lean capability improvements and one new capability gap (C7). In answer to RQ3, this thesis identifies how product data must be made available early in the PD process and connected throughout the lifecycle through harmonization, integration, and automation to utilize digital tools efficiently and effectively (C8). The two case studies emphasize the digital thread in engineering and manufacturing as a promising start toward more data-driven and sustainable decision-making (C9). This thesis can serve as a source for practitioners and the academic audience to understand better what product development capabilities within lean PD and engineering strategies within Design for X are relevant for the transformation towards more automated assembly in the low-volume industry context.
Has partsPaper 1: Synnes, Elisabeth Lervåg; Welo, Torgeir. Industrialization of Automated Assembly in a Marine Low-Volume Context: A Case Study of Product Development. This paper is under review for publication and is therefore not included.
Paper 2: Synnes, Elisabeth Lervåg; Welo, Torgeir. Applicability of Lean Product Development to a company in the marine sector. I: 2017 IEEE International Conference on Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management (IEEM) : 10-13 Dec, Singapore. IEEE 2017 ISBN 978-1-5386-0947-7. s. – Copyright © 2017 IEEE.
Paper 3: Synnes, Elisabeth Lervåg; Welo, Torgeir. Using Lean to Transform the Product Development Process in a Marine Company: A Case Study. Procedia CIRP 2022 ;Volum 109. s. 623-628. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license.
Paper 4: Synnes, Elisabeth Lervåg; Welo, Torgeir. Data-driven product optimization capabilities to enhance sustainability and environmental compliance in a marine manufacturing context. This paper is submitted for publication and is therefore not included.
Paper 5: Synnes, Elisabeth Lervåg; Welo, Torgeir. Design for automated assembly of large and complex products: Experiences from a marine company operating in Norway. Procedia Computer Science 2015 ;Volum 44.(C) s. 254-265. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license.
Paper 6: Synnes, Elisabeth Lervåg; Welo, Torgeir. Bridging the Gap Between High and Low-Volume Production through Enhancement of Integrative Capabilities. Procedia Manufacturing 2016 ;Volum 5. s. 26-40. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license.
Paper 7: Synnes, Elisabeth Lervåg; Welo, Torgeir. Enhancing Integrative Capabilities through Lean Product and Process Development. Procedia CIRP 2016 ;Volum 54. s. 221-226. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license.