Congratulations Ryan Ruvald, Doctor of Philosophy!

Congratulations Ryan Ruvald, Doctor of Philosophy!

Ryan Ruvald successfully defended his PhD thesis “Innovation in a Changing World: Exploring PSS Design through Prototyping” in front of some 50 people in the room and online. Ryan made a popular presentation of his research and took the audience through his findings and experiments and then landed in a summary of his findings. Ryan has been working within several applied projects; MD3S, VPSL and FELD.

Ryan with the presentation

Faculty opponent was Assoc. prof. Matteo Vignoli (University of Bologna, Italy) and the grading committee consisted of Assoc. prof. Tero Juuti (University of Tampere, Finland), Assoc. prof. Serena Graziosi (Politecnico di Milano, Italy) and Assoc. prof. Roland Stolt (Jönköping University, Sweden).

Professor Vignoli invited Ryan into a deep conversation around the work he had performed and by this creating a learning experience for Ryan and the audience. The grading followed up with additional questions before allowing the audience to post the final questions.

Prof Vignoli in discussion with Ryan.

The grading committee left the room for their discussion and eventually returned with the verdict; a pass!

We gratulate our newest PhD on such an important milestone in his career!

PhD thesis crew; Professor Tobias Larsson (examiner), Dr Johan Wall (head of department), Associate Professor Alessandro Bertoni (Supervisor), opponent Prof Matteo Vignoli, Ryan Ruvald, Prof Roland Stolt (Grading committee), Prof Tero Juuit (Grading committee), Associate Professor Christian Johansson Askling (supervisor), and Associate Professor Andreas Larsson (supervisor).


Customers across all sectors have increasing expectations (e.g. value, efficiency, availability, quality, etc.) and expanding needs which traditional business models fail to address simultaneously and stand-alone products cannot be expected to solve. To expand the value provided to customers, manufacturers have begun adding services to their products through servitization. Similarly, service providers have begun adding products to expand their ability to capture market capacity. The end coupled product and service solutions have been classified as Product Service System (PSS) solutions. The challenge lies in defaulting to existing products or services as the starting point since these solutions can carry forward inefficiencies or limitations of legacy solutions. There is a recent proposal to integrate PSS design into a single process, rather than using separate design flows for products, services, and systems. This approach involves intentionally designing all elements together at the same time. Ideally, this approach will allow the most efficient existing and new products or services to be combined into a solution which produces exponentially more value than the sum of the individual elements. Realigning all components of a PSS from inception towards a function provides an opportunity to escape current product limitations and explore new solutions with potentially higher value. This approach becomes an increasingly wicked challenge of having a transformative view of the future solution scenario at the conceptual start of the design process while navigating the increased ambiguity brought forth due to the nature of PSS solution variability. A core tenet of the Design Thinking (DT) mindset prescribes extensive use of physical prototypes as a means to “dance with ambiguity” encouraging generative exploration in the early conceptual phases of design. This “show don’t tell” tenet of DT is incorporated in a novel way into what this research will define as “Intentional PSS design” through physical system prototypes to accomplish two primary objectives; Enabling internal consensus in a project team through rapid design space exploration and provoking Generative Design Questions from the various potential stakeholders up and down the future value chain. These prototypes enable co-creation of conceptual solutions that may not be technically possible today, but have enough impact potential to warrant deeper exploration and refinement to enable their evolution.    

The aim of this thesis is to explore the phenomenon of creating and utilizing physical prototypes in the conceptual phase of PSS design. The initial context and case studies are within the domain of construction equipment manufacturing. The resulting work produced a functional scale prototype of a future solution yielding valuable gains in co-creation and GDQs. Generating this prototype and understanding its impacts in the conceptual phase of the PSS design process is the phenomenon in question for the first half of the research. The second half of the research focuses on how to enable other designers to replicate the observed   prototyping qualities through various experimental means delivered via workshops.  

The work was performed in collaboration with a construction equipment manufacturer, conducting an exploration into the impacts of shifting towards autonomous electric machinery at a demonstrator production site. The thesis first depicts how the prototyping around the ancillary impacts and solutions leads to greater engagement from stakeholders regarding the new concepts. The later portion explores two methodological attempts at generalizing the process behind the creation of the demonstrator scale site as a boundary object for early phase exploration that are previously not accessible through current practices. This leads to the testing of the method in a broader perspective to represent tangible and intangible elements in a way that facilitates concept design decisions in interdisciplinary team settings. The thesis concludes by exploring the potential of utilizing the new workshop-based processes to move from an ambiguous asipirational goal towards an uncertain transformative PSS solution concept anchored by physical representations aiding concept generation, refinement and selection

Download full thesis here: 

PhD presentation

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