Workspace Deisgn in an industrial company : Staging the meeting between users and designers

Publication: Research - peer-reviewArticle in proceedings – Annual report year: 2007

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Ergonomics is seldomly addressed directly in design and re-design of workspaces. Often architects, engineers and other actors design the workspaces with for example spatial, technological or financial considerations thereby making ergonomics a by-product of the design process. However, by introducing ergonomists in the role of ‘workspace designers’ early in the design process, ergonomic considerations as well as involvement of employees, can be integrated in the design process. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the use of the workspace designer-role in a case study. The case company is an industrial manufacturer undergoing a major technological change, going from labour intensive manual work to highly automated production. A team of researchers, consultants and ergonomists intervened in the change process, taking the role of ‘workspace designers’. The team introduced participatory design methods to stage the meeting between the employees, the management, and the designers. The method used was a layout design game. Embedded in this method is the notion that the employees are experts at their own work, therefore the employees’ considerations should contribute to the alterations in the workplace. The employees are co-designers of their future workspace along side the professional designers. The staging and facilitation of a participatory design process requires numeral competences such as insight in the interests and agendas of the different actors, and the ability to create a safe environment for the actors to communicate in. Also the means of communication used in the design process should be considered thoroughly. All actors should feel comfortable communicating their thoughts. Traditionally, technical plans such as AutoCAD drawings and architect plans are used in design processes, however laymen often experience difficulties deciphering these and relating them to their reality. Therefore other, more visually accessible communication tools must be developed to support the design process. In this case, the layout game - with game board and gaming pieces - formed basis for the jointed design process. The use of the ‘workspace design’ approach in this specific case resulted in some very concrete changes in the proposed design layout; the placement of the machine components were altered and the some major changes of the building interior, that had not been part of the initial project, was integrated. These changes can be traced back directly to the employees. Additionally, the participation of the employees caused an expansion of the network, involving new relevant actors. Subsequently interviews with the involved actors – designers, management and employees – were carried through with the purpose of illuminating the process from the different actors’ point of view. These interviews revealed the significance of the layout design game as a way of staging the meeting between the users and the designers. The role of ‘workspace designer’ presents new possibilities as well as new challenges for ergonomists. Initially the concepts and methods of the approach must be acquired, but also personal competences required to facilitate participatory design processes must be cultivated before the ergonomist can take a more design-oriented approach.
Original languageEnglish
TitleErgonomics for a future : NES 2007
VolumeC2d
Place of publicationLysekil, Sweden
PublisherNordic Ergonomics Society
Publication date2007
StatePublished

Conference

ConferenceNordic Ergonomics Society 2007 : Ergonomics for a future
Number39
CityLysekil, Sweden
Period01/01/07 → …

Keywords

  • Design game, Macro ergonomics, Participatory design
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