BTH PDRL at the 21st International Conference on Engineering Design 2017

"Good design is elegant, effective, efficient and simple. How can we teach that spirit, learn that ethic, embrace it culturally and plan for its sustainability?" is the introduction to this year's International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED, which will be held in Vancouver, Canada.

The BTH Product Development Research Lab is today one of the major academic players in the domain of model-driven decision support. A total of eight papers collecting current findings have been recently accepted for publication at the 21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED17). 

ICED biannual conferences are organized by the Design Society and represent premiere forums where the design community comes together to share insights, discover new ideas, and to stay abreast of new developments in the field. From its engineering roots, ICED has evolved over the past 35 years to cover a wide area of design-related topics. In keeping with the critical nature of natural and human resources to Canada, the overarching theme of ICED17 is “Resource-Sensitive Design”.

The conference will be held at the University of British Columbia campus from Aug. 21-25, 2017.

Here below the list of PDRL papers accepted for ICED’17, where 3 of the papers have co-authors from industry:

Johansson, Christian; Wall, Johan; Panarotto, Massimo. Maturity of models in a multi-model decision support system. 21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED). 2017.

Abstract: To reduce uncertainty in decisions, engineers experiment with models, such as, exploring what-if scenarios, and thus increase knowledge. Still, because modelling is an idealisation of reality, there is often substantial uncertainty involved, and this decision makers less confident to lean onto models alone when making decisions. The aim of this paper is to conceptualize a design support for improving confidence and validity in models, by communicating uncertainties from modelling and simulation to relevant stakeholders. The paper reports on empirical data from a research profile workshop. The findings illustrate the importance of communicating uncertainties from models between relevant stakeholders in order to drive action. The paper then presents an approach to visualize model maturity levels as well as impact levels in relation to one or several aggregated models. With this approach, focus can move to discuss the knowledge about the knowledge that is created from modelling, and to facilitate discussions on a meta-level about the modelling and simulation. This is exemplified by a test scenario where a multi-disciplinary modelling and simulation of an asphalt roller is presented.

Note: The paper has received the reviewer's favorite award for being in the top 10% of the ICED conference papers.


Bertoni, Alessandro; Larsson, Tobias; Larsson, Jonas; Elfsberg, Jenny. Mining data to design value: A demonstrator in early design. 21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED). 2017.

Abstract: The paper presents a study run to verify the applicability of data mining algorithms as decision support in early design stages of a complex product development project. The paper describes a scenario built in two-stages providing the rationale for the application of data science in engineering design. Furthermore, it describes a demonstrator where usage data are fed back to the early design stage and used to populate value models to reduce the uncertainty in engineering design decision making. The development of a new machine for construction equipment, a wheel loader, is the subject of the demonstration and machine learning algorithms are applied on a dataset built on machine performances and contextual and environmental data. The demonstrator allows the estimation of the fuel consumption of different design concepts and the analysis of the performance variations given by a change in a contextual or environmental variable. Finally, the demonstrator allows the visualization of how much the tested performances of a new design deviate from the original designers’ expectations.


Bertoni, Marco; Bertoni, Alessandro. Nonlinear Quality Function Deployment: an experimental analysis. 21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED). 2017.

Abstract: Quality Function Deployment (QFD) is a common model to frontload engineering design activities with, linking the characteristics of a product vs. the voice of the customer using linear relationships. This approximation is often claimed to be misleading when dealing with the design of complex engineering systems. The paper presents the results of experimental activities aimed at verifying usability and effectiveness of nonlinear functions as extension of the QFD logic. A total of 40 experiments was conducted in a given design episode, involving 139 participants, to analyse the trade-off between the benefit of introducing nonlinearity vs. effort and cost triggered by increased complexity in the modelling. The results show that nonlinear functions, while improving the granularity of the QFD mapping, keeps the method simple enough to work as ‘boundary object’ in cross-functional design teams, irrespectively from the experience of design team members. The experiments also highlight how users’ cognitive attention in the task is dependent from the format by which nonlinear merit functions are presented.


Bertoni, Marco; Panarotto, Massimo; Jonsson, Pontus. Value-driven engineering design: lessons learned from the road construction equipment industry. 21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED). 2017.

Abstract: Value models, in form of economical optimization functions, are often proposed to frontload engineering design activities. However, literature argues that, when qualitative data and assumptions prevail, a qualitative assessment of the ‘goodness’ of a design is preferable against a numerical (and monetary-based) encoding of preferences. This paper explores how a model-based approach can support deliberation about value in cross-functional design teams. Emerging from case studies in the road compaction equipment industry, the paper analyzes preferences for value modelling support when it comes to iteratively translate customer desires into terms meaningful for engineering design decision-making. It further prescribes a framework for value-driven engineering design that considers the need to update the value model definition as far as new information become available in the process, moving from qualitative to quantitative. The findings highlight the role the proposed chain of value models plays in terms of providing a shared reference to stimulate value discussions across functions and organizational roles, which is something that does not naturally happen in the organization today.

Note: The paper has received the reviewer's favorite award for being in the top 10% of the ICED conference papers.


Panarotto, Massimo; Wall, Johan; Bertoni, Marco; Larsson, Tobias; Jonsson, Pontus. Value-driven simulation: thinking together through simulation in early engineering design. 21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED). 2017.

Abstract: The topic of ‘design for value’ has lately attracted a great deal of attention within the engineering design community. ‘Predicting’ the value of a future solution is however difficult, especially in early design phases. Modelling and simulation is believed to be able to support this challenging task.

A simulation process for value-driven engineering design is presented. The performances of a design concept along the lifecycle are aggregated to a monetary system value function. The results of this multi-model simulation environment for value are displayed through a colour-coded CAD model for easier interaction.

Verification activities indicate that enabling effective design space exploration and visualization of cause-effect relationships become important elements in order to ‘think together’ using a simulation driven design approach. Furthermore, the proposed multidisciplinary ‘value model’ fosters cross-functional knowledge sharing and collective deliberation about the value, forcing stakeholders to synthetize their perceptions about the value of a design and to discuss where conclusions differ.

Note: The paper has received the reviewer's favorite award for being in the top 10% of the ICED conference papers.


Charlotte Asbjorn Sorensen; Anders Warell; Santosh Jagtap. Material selection - A qualitative case study of five design consultancies. 21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED). 2017.

Abstract: This qualitative case study aims at understanding when and how industrial designers, working in design consultancies, engage in activities that will influence material selection in the design process. While the extant literature presents material selection processes as a sequence of activities aimed at finding candidate materials, there is paucity of research on material criteria activities. Formulating material criteria is an activity that is performed during all design phases and they become clearer and more complete throughout the project. For the case studies, explorative semi-structured interviews were conducted with five industrial designers with 10 years of work experience or more. The results suggest (a) that risk management has a major influence on the material selection process, (b) that negotiations of project boundaries in the ‘fuzzy’ pre-design phase has crucial influence on the risk management aspect of the material criteria activities, and (c) a lack of awareness that design briefs usually outline material criteria expressed as sensorial characteristics, which are later translated by engineering into final material criteria used for the material selection process.


Santosh Jagtap; Andreas Larsson; Anders Warell. Design for resource-limited societies: Informational behaviour of designers. 21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED). 2017.

Abstract: There is a sharp contrast between High Resource Settings (HRSs), commonly seen in developed countries and Low Resource Settings (LRSs), typically found in the marginalised sections of societies around the world. Product design for LRSs is crucial to satisfy unmet or under-served needs of the people living in LRSs. Supporting designers to develop successful products for LRSs demands developing an in-depth understanding of their design process, including their informational behaviour. In this research, using think aloud protocol analysis, we compared the designers’ informational behaviour in designing products for LRSs and HRSs, where HRSs is considered a baseline. The findings indicate that designing products for LRSs is more information intensive, and that it influences the informational activities of designers, thus indicating potential impact of a resource-setting on the way designers deal with information.


Giana Carli Lorenzini; Annika Olsson; Andreas Larsson. User involvement in pharmaceutical packaging design – A case study. 21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED). 2017.

Abstract: Different levels of user involvement in product design range from understanding user needs to co-designing with users. Previous research shows older patients face difficulties to handle the medication packaging. Yet the participation of older patients in pharmaceutical packaging design is underexplored. The purpose of this study is to explore the role of older patients in the design and development of pharmaceutical packaging. Two empirical examples of one drug manufacturer and one pharmaceutical packaging supplier build one case study. The findings reveal new pharmaceutical packaging development starts with market research about patients’ populations. The packaging development is then led internally or with external partners. Later, patients test the packages concepts developed. These findings go in line with previous research about the involvement of users in industries with a high technology orientation. This study is aligned with the about limited resources in healthcare and contributes with a conceptual framework of user involvement, a useful tool for managers and developers to benchmark their design process.

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