manufacturing

Bringing Attention to Problem Solving and Meaningfulness at Work: How Ethnography Can Help Answer Difficult Business Questions

CAROLE CHARLAND Sapiens Strategies Inc. KAREN HOFMAN Sapiens Strategies Inc. A local division of a multinational manufacturer was experiencing declining enagagement and perceptions of leadership (measured in employee satisfaction surveys). In anticipation of coming waves of organizational change, they asked the research team to explore how “nostalgia” may be contributing to these issues and how they might define the unique culture of the division. Combining ethnographic observations with other qualitative methods, across all levels and departments of the plant, the team uncovered other, more critical issues. Having built a trusting relationship with senior management of the plant, the team used extensive work sessions to help them to understand issues from employee perspectives. This new empathy was conveyed during validation session that spurred initiatives to address a variety of isssues that had been contributing to the problems that initially spurred the project....

Ethnographies of Future Infrastructures

by LAURA FORLANO, IIT Institute of Design Article 4 in the series Data, Design and Civics: Ethnographic Perspectives On April 1, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced a $317 million federally funded initiative in textile innovation and manufacturing—a national consortium of public and private organizations to be led by MIT. It’s only the most recent project of the Obama administration’s National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, a major effort to re-invigorate the American economy. This ambitious initiative to build manufacturing infrastructure nationwide plans an initial network of 45 Manufacturing Innovation Institutes over 10 years. Led by non-profit organizations, the institutes partner universities, businesses and government agencies with the aim of bridging the gap between basic and applied research in key manufacturing areas such as additive manufacturing (eg, 3D printing), digital manufacturing, lightweight metals, semiconductors, advanced composites, flexible hybrid electronics and integrated photonics. The...

Tangible Tools in Para-Ethnographic Fieldwork

PATRICIA LIMA SDU Design, University of Southern Denmark & LEGO Group WAFA SAID MOSLEH SDU Design, University of Southern Denmark This paper sets out to explore how tangible tools can invite industrial managers to have a say in how ethnographic fieldwork can be conducted to explore the use of products in real-life contexts. We draw upon video materials and field notes from a series of customer visits in four European countries. Our main aim is to address the following questions: How can tangible tools help facilitate dialogues in the field to bring awareness and to challenge taken-for-granted assumptions? In what ways can company managers be involved in conducting fieldwork? To what extent can we involve the participants so that they do not solely serve as informants? Our arguments focus on challenging industrial manufacturing companies’ assumptions and expectations about their customers’ use of their products, as well as bringing awareness to company managers about the advantages of ethnographic praxis instigating collaboration...

What Is a Product? How a New Definition is Leading Us toward a Place-Based Design Process

by MEGAN NEESE, Future Lab, Nissan Motor Ltd. The Product Company Identity Crisis I have always worked at or with OEMs (original equipment manufacturing companies) in the industrial design and product development industry. The work has ranged from very large products such as sleeper cabins for long haul trucks and farming equipment down to very small products in the consumer electronics industry, but consistently, the emphasis has always been on products. The very nature of being an equipment maker requires expertise in integrating parts, components, and systems into physical objects. Product development processes have always been structurally similar, focused on integration and related at some level to Stage Gate or Six Sigma. They reflect the constraints of manufacturing, in which decisions are cascading to ensure forward momentum and reduce last-minute changes that could have unforeseen ricochet effects on years of decisions that have already been made. And they work—so long as you don’t consider software, data, automation, or...

Manufacturing Expertise for the People: The Open-Source Hardware Movement in Japan

MATT KREBS Manufacturing itself is changing as open-source sentiment grows with the “maker” movement, especially in FabLabs around the world. “Makers” are open-source hardware enthusiasts who want anyone to be able to make almost anything. This ethnographic research, conducted in 2013, centers on the “makers” in FabLabs in Japan. The research addresses cultural coherence among actors – human and machine – in these FabLabs, and changing notions of expertise enabled by open-source, DIY manufacturing practices. Are modern machines like 3D printers changing manufacturing? Will they change the world?...

Design Anthropologists’ Role in SMEs: Unveiling Aptitude and Attitude

MARK ASBOE Research collaboration and methods development within user-centered design and the emerging discipline of user-driven innovation have traditionally taken place in research institutions and large forward-looking enterprises. Due to this fact, concepts, methodologies, approaches have primarily gained foothold in companies with resources, competencies and organizational support to make sense of this seemingly fruitful but somehow elitist approach. The roles that the design anthropologist plays in user-driven innovation will depend on size and competencies of the specific organization. The economic realities of small-to-medium sized companies (SMEs) suggest a more holistic research perspective from the single design anthropologist that potentially constitutes the entire (and affordable) user experience department of the SME. This paper suggests a plausible approach for utilizing the skills of a design anthropologist in a small manufacturing company based on experience from two collaborative projects. Rather than informing about...