Benefits of Digital Technical Information

University dissertation from Sundsvall : Mid Sweden University

Abstract:

In our daily work life, we use a wealth of information, including a category of information produced as a part of products and their life-cycle phases, named digital technical information (DTI). Manufacturing organizations focus more often on the product than on DTI, because DTI’s impact seems almost invisible, despite its crucial role to the product and its life-cycle phases, development, production, maintenance, and destruction. Hence, the aim of this thesis is to describe DTI’s benefits and the research questions: “What are the benefits of the DTI?” and “What are the perceptions of how to measure benefits of DTI?” The thesis contains five studies related to identifying and measuring DTI’s benefits. The empirical material is based on semi-structured interviews and group interviews within five organizations and a survey among manufacturing organizations in Sweden.

I used three characteristics of the DTI and two pairs of previously known benefit categories to analyse the benefits. The analysis shows that the benefits are recognized in the particular product’s life cycle phase where the DTI is published. However, the DTI continues to offer benefits in the product’s other life cycle phases. In relationship to the product, the benefits evolve from supporting an individual product to supporting more general product lines or all products and a more complex product is said to increase DTI’s benefits. DTI’s structure adds benefits as synthesized or aggregated DTI, where the DTI is synthesized or aggregated automatically or manually. The categorization predetermined benefits related to the change are less numerous than the emerging benefits. The predetermined benefits are strategic by nature, and the emerging ones are mainly used to achieve operational goals. 

Measuring DTI’s benefits is of importance for a formal comparison of its development and is of special interest for managers. Perceptions from the initial stages on how to measure show that to establish common interpretations among the stakeholders of the measurement process is of importance, especially when it comes to what is viewed as a benefit. The benefits are viewed as intangible by the respondents, which creates difficulties when one is evaluating, using conventional measurement methods. The only perceived way to measure is when DTI reduces co-worker’s workload and efficiency is achieved. 

The thesis’s contribution to academia consists of the analysis of DTI’s benefits, showing details of the relationships between the DTI and its benefits. For practice, the contributions focus on the systematic evaluation process, which can be used for further development of the DTI and comparison of the evolvement of the DTI itself and relating to other resources. One proposal for future research is to use the analysed benefits and compare various approaches to digitizing DTI, e.g. Industry 4.0. Another proposal is to list, in detail, various ways on how to measure DTI’s benefits and their usefulness. The latter can positively impact on any intangible benefits due to the general approach we have established of how to measure those benefits.

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