Process Mapping to Understand the Role of Human Factors in Design
Integrating human factors considerations into the design of production systems can improve productivity and quality results while reducing injury risks to system operators. The researchers are currently conducting an action research study with a Canadian electronics manufacturer to improve their production system design process (PSDP), and thereby their production systems, by integrating human factors (HF). One of the first requirements is a clear understanding of the PSDP as a means of identifying and coordinating process improvements. Since there is no accepted approach to PSDP ‘mapping’, methodological development is needed. A proposed methodology for assessment of PSDPs is described. Data collection includes a combination of interview, observational, and document sources. Analysis uses a general inductive approach to develop a process ‘map’. Mapping options to be assessed for utility include decision trees, cross-functional diagrams, actor-network analyses and concept maps. The developed map will then be verified by company personnel and subsequently used in developmental workshops to help the design team identify possible process improvements. As part of the ‘action research’ methodology, researchers will make observations and field notes to better understand how such process maps can best be created and communicated to company personnel. Challenges include gaining access to confidential company data, and experience shows that the active participation of company personnel in data collection speeds and enhances this process. The utility of the PSDP maps to support process improvement efforts remains to be studied.