University of Oulu

Macroergonomic approach applied to work system modelling in product development contexts

Saved in:
Author: Putkonen, Ari1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Technology, Department of Industrial Engineering and Management
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.9 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: 2010
Publish Date: 2010-09-08
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Technology of the University of Oulu for public defence in OP-sali (Auditorium L10), Linnanmaa, on 18 September 2010, at 12 noon
Reviewer: Professor John Abeysekera
Docent Hannakaisa Isomäki


Product development (PD) has an important role as a key competitive factor in business environments. The capacity of designers and other stakeholders to perceive and process product related information is burdened by the increasing complexity of products and the high demands of working life. Therefore, companies need new human-centred perspectives and methods of balancing and enhancing their overall PD processes in order to develop successful products. The main motive for this research arises from the fact that ergonomics design research has been scarce from the process-oriented and systemic methods perspective. It has mainly focused on the methods, such as those needed in user interface design, and the usability and safety testing of products. The purpose of this dissertation is to consider the PD work system from the macroergonomics perspective.

Macroergonomics is a top-down sociotechnical systems approach that is concerned with the analysis, design and evaluation of work systems. Nowadays, the individual user context is the dominating source of product requirements, but the designers’ work system has significant influence on its outcome as well. As an open work system, PD covers the use and design contexts of a product, not only at the individual, but also at the social and system levels. In this dissertation, the use and design contexts of products are examined through six individual studies, which were carried out during a demanding PD project of a new simulation game. In this design process, from the initial state to the goal state, macroergonomics was used as the main theoretical guideline.

In many companies, PD processes are considered and developed mainly from the project management or technological points of view. However, because of the increasing complexity and systemic nature of products, PD organisations, too, will have to become more participatory, more networked and more systems oriented.

As the main findings, this dissertation indicates that the macroergonomic approach can enrich the PD process and its outcomes by emphasising the balance between the technical and social subsystems of PD work system. The emerging complexity of products must be controlled from the entire PD work system, not the individual context of use only. The research introduces a new PD work system model that includes both the design and use contexts of products and demonstrates their analogical sociotechnical structures. The value of this dissertation for the industry is that companies can overcome certain emerging challenges of PD by applying the introduced macroergonomic principles. The findings of the research may encompass the re-designing of the current PD process in a company. Instead of shutting their eyes to the complexity of the surrounding world, companies should consider it as the macroergonomic PD work system and be more aware about the overall product requirements.

see all

Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. C, Technica
ISSN-E: 1796-2226
ISBN: 978-951-42-6237-1
ISBN Print: 978-951-42-6236-4
Issue: 360
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2010. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.