The Development and Application of a Decision Support Methodology for Product Eco-Design: A Study of Engineering Firms in Thailand

By Boonkanit, Prin; Kengpol, Athakorn | International Journal of Management, April 2010 | Go to article overview

The Development and Application of a Decision Support Methodology for Product Eco-Design: A Study of Engineering Firms in Thailand


Boonkanit, Prin, Kengpol, Athakorn, International Journal of Management


The objective of this research is to propose a decision support methodology for the development and application of product eco-design, with special reference to engineering firms in Thailand. Its aim is to help firms develop new eco-products, by concentrating on new products which have significant 'improvement ratios' between themselves and old or existing products. Our analysis suggests that there are four main benefits from the proposed methodology: (1) a reduction in the time and cost of doing environmental analyses; (2) better quality products that are more 'friendly' to the with environmental (3) simpler solutions to problems at the design stage; and (4) improved support for eco-design decisions. The results from an air conditioner manufacturer case study demonstrate that the application of the methodology developed in this study can enhance the quality of compressor loading products, that it can lead to products (of this type) which have higher performance and energy efficiency ratios, as well as larger electricity consumption savings, higher profits per unit, and lower average development times and costs.

Introduction

Recent environmental concerns have brought about environmental product designs with lower energy consumption, less pollution, reduced end-of-life waste, and with improved energy efficiency to meet global demands. Measures to regulate the design of products so as to lessen their adverse environmental impact (eco-design) are currently in place in different parts of the world, including the European Union and Japan (Boks, 2006). Eco-design makes good business sense and has many other positive effects; for example, those of reduced material application, improved energy saving, fewer different manufacturing processes and the opportunity to make businesses more environmental responsible. This conclusion is based on the literature review of Nissen (1995) on research into product design with eco-balance aims. Relevant here are the papers by Ulrich (2000) on a methodology for cleaner product development, by Heo (2001) on a decision-making methodology for prioritizing environmental design strategies based upon the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) techniques, by Ponn et al. (2004) on the significant role of the early phases of product development in product success and the prevention of time- and money-consuming changes in the later phases; and of Hsiao (2002) on a concurrent design method for developing new products, using AHP, Quality Function Deployment (QFD), Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA), and Design for Assembly. Despite the existence of such work, many previous studies in the area have been limited by a lack of information, the absence of a robust methodology and the failure to come up with decision making tools that can support eco-design activities, particularly activities that are designed to quantify early-phase product designs ideas that have the potential to satisfy all stakeholders. By achieving ISO/TR 14062 (2002) requirements during the design process, environmental aspects can be integrated with product designs and developments whilst satisfying other criteria (quality, cost, security, time to market, etc.).

Literature Review

Literature reviews typically refer to environmental product design integration by means of either the United States term "Design for Environment" (DfE) or the European term "Eco-design" (Baumann et al., 2002). The concept of eco-design was introduced in 1980 as part of a World Conservation Strategy with a focus on sustainable development for meeting present and future needs (Charter and Tischner, 2001). The emphasis in eco-design has been on the early stages of product design and development. 'In a sense, eco-design is part of the wider concept of the product life cycle. It results from the combination of economic and ecology ideas merged with the idea of 'green designs' that are favorable for the environment (Karlsson and Luttropp, 2006). …

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