Sustainable evolution of SMEs in response to socio-technical emergence

Time: Mon 2020-06-15 10.00

Location:, http://Vid fysisk närvaro eller Du som saknar dator/ datorvana kan kontakta (English), Stockholm (English)

Subject area: Production Engineering

Doctoral student: Afifa Rahatulain , Produktionssystem

Opponent: Assoc. Professor Dario Antonelli, Politecnico di Torino, Italien

Supervisor: Professor Mauro Onori, Industriell produktion, Produktionssystem


Technological advancements such as digitalization, cloud computing, and cyber-physical systems are transforming the present-day manufacturing industry. However, striving solely on the technological shift alone is insufficient to attain a sustainable competitive advantage. Therefore, an organization has to be treated as a socio-technical system where technological development has to go hand in hand with constant evolution of organizational aspects such as human development, knowledge management, organizational capability, etc.

A manufacturing organization can also be considered as a socio-technical system of systems (SoS). It is vulnerable to the stochastic and emergent nature of the external environment, such as varying market conditions, diverse customer demands, etc. To achieve a deterministic and effective output in response to emergence, it is necessary to have an utmost awareness of the system behaviour itself. This research proposes that understanding the organizational behaviour and the interfaces that exists within the system could help the organizations in responding effectively to emergence. This in turn helps in transformation from a response mechanism based on presumptions to a fact-based approach by considering both the environmental emergence and internal organizational knowledge. The main focus of this work is on organizational capability and knowledge management within manufacturing SMEs.

The first major contribution of this work is the utilization of Viable Systems Model (VSM) for understanding the behaviour of a manufacturing organization from a holistic perspective and identification of the knowledge interfaces (KIs) within the system. The type of knowledge required at each interface is determined and a KI mapping approach has been proposed to facilitate organizations in performing system analysis. The results are analysed using the empirical data for product development process from an industrial case study.

Identification of organizational challenges for SMEs going through strategic transformations and their impact on the knowledge interfaces is the second main contribution of this work. The VSM-based KI mapping approach is used in identifying the knowledge gaps through visualization of respective KIs.

Lastly, the work addresses common pitfalls and obstacles faced by the current manufacturing companies in terms of organizational capability and provides some guidelines and improvement suggestions for achieving an effective organization.

Improved organizational capabilities of SMEs also result in enhancing regional growth through retaining competence and provision of jobs. Therefore this work can also be considered as a step towards strengthening social sustainability.