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A design framework for agile virtual enterprise collaboration

Lomas, Christopher David William (2009) A design framework for agile virtual enterprise collaboration. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The market in which engineering companies must operate is increasingly turbulent and unpredictable, largely due to the global nature of the engineering industry in the 21st century. This turbulent environment is further exacerbated by the increasing focus on customisation for individual consumers, rather than the mass manufacturing market of the past. In order to thrive in this turbulent environment companies are increasingly focussing on their core competences, and building strategic alliances with complementary partner companies to satisfy the overall needs of an individual project. This is true of the design as well as manufacturing stages of product development. The increasing levels of collaboration and the requirement for companies to be agile in their response to unexpected events are the background to this research. Specifically, this research addressed the ability of collaborating groups of companies to respond to unexpected events during the design stages of product development. The hypothesis was that through the specific implementation of a novel collection of tools and techniques the agility of collaborative design projects can be increased. A multi-method approach was adopted for the research, beginning with an industrial survey identifying those tools and techniques from the literature which are linked to an increased level of agility. These results form the basis for the definition of the Agile Design Framework which takes the form of a series of implementation steps carried out by a collaborative design team to put in place tools and techniques for increasing their responsiveness to unexpected events. The second stage of the research tested the Agile Design Framework in a controlled laboratory environment with both an experimental and control group undertaking the same collaborative design project. Unexpected events were introduced and the responses of both groups are analysed. The experiment group using the Agile Design Framework had a Key Agility Index score of 0.04 compared with a score of 0.13 for the control group. A low score on the Key Agility Index indicates a higher level of agility while high scores tending to 1 have a lower agility level. The results supported further calibration of the Agile Design Framework for the final stage of the research which was an implementation of the framework in industry for a real-life collaborative design project. This industrial implementation showed an improvement in the agility of the collaborative design project using the Agile Design Framework, improving the Key Agility Index from 0.54 to 0.43.The research makes three novel contributions to knowledge in this field. The first is the Agile Design Framework which is a set of tools and techniques with a specific implementation process, which has been shown to increase agility for collaborative design projects. Secondly, a four-level classification scheme for unexpected events will be presented which allows categorisation of unexpected events into Trivial, Minor, Major and fatal, based on specific criteria. Finally, through the use of easily obtainable data the Key Agility Index is validated as a meaningful quantitative metric for the measurement of agility at the project or departmental level.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2009
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Sep 2011 18:25

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