This thesis deals with the importance and the processes of integrating work environment design when developing new production systems in international collaborative projects. During recent decades, organisations have developed systematic approaches to deal with work environment design, often as parts of management systems. This is commonly limited to a specific context, consistent of an organisation with a well-developed way of working with work environment. However, developing production systems in international collaborative projects has become more common, implying new conditions for work environment design. The qualitative study of an EU-project, conducted between 2002 and 2005, constitutes the empirical base in this thesis. This EU-project aimed to develop new ways of manufacturing large non-rigid structures through innovative production systems. Partners from five European countries participated: England, France, Germany, Spain and Sweden. The partners consisted of persons from institutes, consulting companies, universities and manufacturing enterprises. Within the study, semi-structured interviews were conducted together with observations and to some extent action research. When the companies collaborated together, the normally well-structured development procedures to integrate work environment design became unclear. The temporary structure of the project group did not have a specific overarching approach to these matters and the different perspectives from different companies both collided and reinforced each other simultaneously. The analysis, based on a socio-technical approach, showed that the organisations participating in the EU-project had major differences in handling work environment design. Some of the differences, as for example how to refer to work environment issues, are possible to derive from different discourses and different national contexts. There were also differences depending on what roles people had and were given in the project organisation. Participants generally tended to have a narrow focus where, for example, most engineers focused mainly on the technical questions and did not erect a holistic perspective in which work environment factors were included. Further, the experts on work environment factors, of which I was a part, focused mainly on these questions and not on the technical innovation aspects. This seclusion of roles and the organisation of the project is described and analysed. The analysis showed that the organisation of the project was divided, where the work package concerning the work environment became detached from the rest of the project. This thesis illuminates the problems with work environment design issues that appeared when the different companies collaborated in the international project. The solutions of the problems were quite obvious and the most important task was to grasp the need of a holistic view of the work environment and the need of a structure to handle these issues in project organisations. In this thesis, the need of a systematic approach is stressed and an outline of a conceptual design model is presented, whose main points are awareness and easily measurable goals. This awareness can include different cultures, contexts, body of knowledge, perspectives and way of speaking about these matters. A future development of the model is sketched to make it applicable for practitioners in future projects and not only for scholars.
Luleå: Luleå tekniska universitet, 2006. , 133 p.