The paper presents an ongoing research project on the consideration of environmental information in production development. The project brings together members from a Swedish industry network and academia with longtime experience in life cycle approaches on both sides. Insights from pre-studies are used to define the research agenda to be followed further on. This paper reports from the pre-studies.
For product development a holistic life cycle perspective from cradle to grave has been developed and is increasingly applied in practice. Production development, that is a transformation of an existing production to new operative conditions, does not cover environmental issues in the same way, particularly not global issues. Decision makers in the production development process have to consider different types of environmental information with varying scope for both the product and production perspective. They need to be supported by contributing environmental parameters that match the demand for information. To improve the situation requires (1) a thorough description of the existing organizational and operational structure for decision making related to production development to (2) identify the available knowledge and also knowledge gaps and (3) simultaneously consider local and global/life-cycle related impacts. Local and global effects are usually handled by different actors, with different frameworks and procedures.
The aim is to describe the organizational and operational structure regarding decision processes in production development for different decision making contexts. The project links Life Cycle Management with production and operations management, using a qualitative research approach. To accomplish this, three (pre-) case studies with different decision contexts covering the adaption of a production to a new product design, a re-localisation of a production site and the capacity enlargement of an existing production site have been chosen. For all three cases, experts from different fields within the companies are interviewed to understand their role in the development project, and to understand the general structure of the development. An important aspect is to learn which types of indicators are used to see whether they concern environmental information, and to which extent this is currently used. The qualitative information from interviews is complemented by evaluating documents that are used in the projects. This may also include information from life cycle assessment studies performed for products within the companies.
Among the expected results is a description of the procedures that are currently followed in development projects. The extent to which environmental information is handled in different production development stages will be described. From this, conclusions and recommendations for the environmental assessment of development projects will be derived.
To include insights from life-cycle thinking in operational practice in production development, information, methods and approaches need to be adapted to the demands made by operational practice. We hope to be able to contribute concrete recommendations on how to complement existing decision support with life cycle related information in a manner that is based on a sound methodological framework and operational.