Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name



Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering

First Advisor

Urbanic, R.J.


Assembly production system, Co-design, Participants, Participatory design, Re-design, Socio-technical systems




Engineers are responsible for re-designing socio-technical systems (STSs). At the same time, the current literature on engineering re-design methodology is predominantly oriented towards technical artefacts. This methodology is not directly transferable to STSs, since STSs differ in the role of workers operating the system in collective activity. Accordingly, the central question of this dissertation is: How can engaging STS operators as participants in re-designing an assembly production system develop an approach for re-designing STSs that operationalizes human value and potential? To this aim, this dissertation develops a framework for re-designing a STS. This framework is developed with design research methodology and grounded theory, modeling the re-design of an industrial assemble-to-order production system (a sociotechnical system archetype) with 32 participants. The model consists of seven steps – ethical considerations for participation, emic problem analysis, emic system modeling, collective creativity, differentiated designs, emic problem evaluation, and emic system evaluation. The model and its supporting mechanisms make the following research contributions. (1) A developed roadmap of ethical considerations invites STS operators to take part in re-design with a basis of trust between researchers/engineers/designers and participants. (2) The developed investigative approaches for STS problem analysis and system modeling engage participants to define reference models and success criteria that guide the re-design process, including re-design foci. The reference models and success criteria before vs. after the re-design intervention are also compared to evaluate the redesign impact and experience, informing future re-design. (3) The developed model of OPEN collective creativity, from a co-design activity, engages participants in transforming the re-design foci into differentiated, contextualized designs. The nonlinear model centralizes OPEN actions (opportunities, problems, enquiries/questions, and needs) between concept and detail ideas, integrating problem solving and inquiry with collaboration. These research contributions engage STS operators as participants in operationalizing human value across the developed model for re-designing a STS. Future research is proposed to assess the limitations of the proposed re-design framework and to examine its transferability for broader research and practice in re-designing STSs.