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Integration of Ecodesign in Product Development

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Extra – OR, another example, perhaps more relevant might be as follows. An end-of-pipe approach to household waste might be to incinerate the rubbish. This is only deals with the results of the problem rather than preventing the problem. The opposite would be to prevent the production of the waste in the first place by limiting or banning packaging used in the first place.

the aim of this article is to identify the success factors presented for the integration of Ecodesign in product development and to provide a structured overview of the factors.


Today it is widely acknowledged that companies need to reduce the environmental impact of their activities.

in the early days of industrial environmental consciousness focus was set on so-called “end-of-pipe” solutions. Which means reducing the amount of harmful emmision and substances from manufacturing facilities. *in other words – reducing emision that comes out (at the end of the “pipe”)

eg. of an end-of-pipe approach might be dealing with CO2 emmissions from coal-fired power stations by capturing and storing the carbon rather than finding a different way of producing power altogether.

Recently, focus has changed towards the environmental performance of the products and consequently product development has become of great importance, because a product’s environmental performance is mainly determined during the product development process.

Ecodesign – refers to actions taken in product development aimed at minimising a product’s environmental impact during its whole life cycle, without compromising product criteria such as performance and cost.

Frame of Reference: Factors Affecting the Success of Product Development

Research on product development can be distinguished into three different streams, i.e. rational plan, communication web and disciplined problem solving.

‘The rational plan stream’ has focused on finding what determines a products financial performance. The success of a product development project is measured by the product’s profit, sales and market share. Basically, this research stream suggests that success is achieved by careful planning of a unique product having superior quality and cost advantages, directed towards an attractive market. The plans are executed by a co-ordinated and competent cross-functional team, including people from different functions, supported by senior management. Other important ingredients for success are early involvement of both customers and suppliers.

‘The rational plan stream’ – focuses on finding what determines a products financial performance. Creating a product having superior quality and cost advantage. The most “sensible” stream

Compared to the previous stream, ‘the communication web stream’ adopts a more narrow view of product development. Focus is set on how a project team’s internal and external communication affect the project performance, which is measured by team and management ratings. The results produced in this stream indicate that success in product development much depends on external communication. Gatekeepers, who encourage development teams to communicate with outsiders, and powerful project managers, who communicate externally to ensure resources, are pointed out as being of major importance for successful product development. Success is also related to cross-functional teams that communicate internally about concrete tasks and novel routines, for example.

‘the communication web stream’ – focues on how a project team’s internal and external communication affect the project performance.

The third stream is the ‘disciplined problem solving stream’. Successful product development is seen as being dependant on structured and disciplined problem solving by a relatively autonomous crossfunctional project team directed by a clear product vision. A heavyweight project manager, crossfunctional teams, extensive use of supplier networks, emphasis on pre-project activities, overlapping development stages are also seen as important ingredients for successful product development. Success is measured in terms of the development speed and the quality of the product.

‘disciplined problem solving stream’ focuses on structured and disciplined problem solving.

As has been presented above, the three research streams have tried to find out what makes product development become successful. Recognising that the findings in each stream provide complementary and sometimes overlapping insights, Brown and Eisenhardt [6] have developed a model of factors affecting success in product development. The model, illustrated in figure 1, synthesises the most prominent findings in each stream.

The heart of product development is the project team consisting of the members who are doing the actual product development work. The team composition is therefore vital for the product development performance. Cross-functional teams are important, because functional diversity increases the amount and the variety of information to develop products.

Gatekeepers, i.e. individuals that frequently obtain external information and share it with the team, also increase the amount and the variety of information available in the development process.

Team tenure is a third factor that plays a role in affecting product development performance. A moderate level of team tenure, i.e. the team
members have had neither too short nor too long a history together, is most preferable because then the team members engage in both extensive internal and external communication.

Communication within the team as well as external communication are factors that influence the success of product development. Frequent internal communication builds team cohesion and cuts misunderstandings and barriers for interchange. Frequent external communication opens the project team to new information which can be useful in the development process.

The structure of the development process affects the development performance. For stable and relatively mature products (e.g. cars) a process which is thoroughly planned and includes overlapping stages might be the most appropriate. For products associated with more uncertainty in rapidly changing industries (e.g. microcomputers) a development process based on frequent iterations, extensive testing and short milestones might be more appropriate. The underlying rationale is that under conditions of uncertainty it is less helpful to plan.

The power of the project leaders is acknowledged to be of great importance for the success of a product development project. This is due to the fact that such strong leaders are effective in acquiring resources in terms of personnel and budget for the project. A clear project leader vision is also essential and refers, among other things, to the ability to put together the suitable competencies in order to develop a product that is appreciated in the market.

Senior management support, which means provision of financial and political resources, is critical for product development success. This support is essential for obtaining the resources necessary to attract team members, to gain a go-ahead decision for the project and to provide the funding for the project. Subtle control, which includes giving the project team enough autonomy to be motivated and creative, but still work closely together with the project management to develop a successful product concept, is another essential senior management responsibility.

Involving suppliers in the development project can reduce the project’s complexity and thus contribute to an efficient project. Customer involvement has also been identified to contribute to product development success.

Success Factors for Integration of Ecodesign in Product Development

Within the Ecodesign literature, a number of factors have been presented as being essential when integrating Ecodesign in product development. These factors are in this paper denoted as “success factors”, because in general, the term “success” refers to the achievement of something that one has been trying to do. The success factors are derived from both empirical studies and conceptual discussions.

One frequently mentioned factor is management commitment and support. This refers to the provision of enough resources, for example. An essential responsibility for management is to establish clear environmental goals not only for the development organisation as a whole, but for the individual product development projects as well. This implies that environmental considerations should be addressed as a business issue, i.e. the environmental considerations must be balanced with commercial aspects. It also implies that Ecodesign should not only be treated on an operational level, but also on a strategic level. The strategic level relates to how a company wants to position itself concerning environmental issues and includes, among other things, the establishment of an environmental product development policy. The need to balance environmental considerations and commercial aspects has been underscored by Bird and Prentis, who argue that the route to long term integration of environmental considerations into the business activities is to adopt strong customer focus. Also Ritz.n mention that customer focus is essential and that, for example, market investigations should include environmental issues. Some researchers have even gone one step further and argued that companies should train their customers in environmental issues.

The environmental impact from different technologies varies. Hence, the choices made concerning which technology to use in a product is vital for the product’s environmental performance and as a product, being of reasonable complexity, includes a number of different technologies, environmental issues should be included when establishing a company’s technology strategy. It is obvious that Ecodesign does not only concern the product development phases following the establishment of the design specification, but also the phases prior to the design specification. This implies that environmental issues should be considered at the very beginning of the product development process.

It has also been described in the literature that an important source of information is the supplier network when it comes to environmental alternatives of materials, components and processes. According to McAloone, the expertise that the suppliers have in the specific issues related to their materials and components can be a valuable input when environmentally favourable product designs are searched for. Hence, this implies that close supplier relationships is an important factor when developing environmentally conscious products.

As environmental considerations are new to many companies, it is essential to establish a new mindset emphasising the importance of environmental considerations. For management the new mindset relates to which level of emphasis on environmental considerations the company should aim at, i.e. which strategic environmental position the company should adopt. Other management issues are to establish the right conditions for the operative Ecodesign work as well as the measurement systems incorporating the environmental issues. On operational level, the new mindset means that the project team members should consider the environmental issues in all of the product development activities they perform.

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