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Design Thinking for Manufacturing

Do you want to innovate your manufacturing systems and processes? Use Design Thinking as it is particularly beneficial in the manufacturing sector.

But what is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is a methodology that unplugs creativity and ideas to drive business innovation. It is structured into the "Problem Stage" and the "Solution Stage."

The Problem Stage helps specify and formulate business problems and culminates in a crisp Point of View (problem statement). The Solution Stage then brainstorms ideas, initiates prototypes to solve these problems, and tests them for best user satisfaction.

Why is Design Thinking useful in manufacturing?


It is user-centric. Design Thinking centers around the end-users (your employees, your customers, your partners) and focuses on their problems and needs. User-centricity ensures that the products manufactured are more likely to meet your customers' expectations, leading to higher satisfaction and loyalty and stronger revenue.

It is innovative. Design Thinking encourages innovation on the foundation of your teams. They generate diverse ideas and challenge existing assumptions. Innovation can lead to the development of unique and better products, giving you a competitive edge in the market.

It improves processes. Design Thinking improves manufacturing processes by identifying inefficiencies and pain points along the business process. Business process analysis leads to more efficient and cost-effective processes, positively impacting productivity and cost structure.

It enforces collaboration. Design Thinking brings your employees together and fosters team collaboration across lines of business. Collaboration taps into the combined brain power of product designers, line workers, builders, and customer support associates, which leads to better understanding and alignment.

It reduces risks. Design Thinking prototypes and tests product solutions on a small scale. Feedback and changes from these test cycles will improve your product, and you will be ready to go into full production mode, confident that your innovations work.

How does Design Thinking work?

Design Thinking is an iterative methodology used on any organizational layer and with any team constellation. Typically, Design Thinking workshops run in 'teams of ten' with the team members coming from different parts of the company.

The methodology is structured into two stages: the Problem Stage and the Solution Stage.

Problem Stage

Scoping. During the first step of the methodology, the person carrying the problem is being identified. This target person is called Persona. A Persona could be your client, customer, end-user, or any other person facing a problem that needs to be solved.

During the first step of Scoping, you think about the Persona's life surrounding the problem and try to get as much information about the Persona and the specific situation. Within this first step, no generalizations and no assumptions are allowed. You need to stick to the Persona's situation as close as possible. This step requires the greatest amount of empathy.

To motivate empathy, get yourself into the Persona's shoes and provide them with a specific name, a specific family situation, and a specific work situation surrounding the problem.

Research. During the second step of the methodology, all the situational facts of the selected Persona need to be gathered. Conducting interviews and real-life observations helps to gain knowledge about the Persona. Researching the web, libraries, literature, and any available public information helps paint a picture of the Persona.

The main objective of the research step is to identify the Persona's problems and difficulties. We often investigate a Persona's day-in-a-life scenarios to get to the actual pain points. Again, putting yourself into the shoes of the Persona provides a crucial and fundamental step to understanding the problem. This step is often underestimated in its importance to the overall success of the Design Thinking methodology.

Point of View. The third step summarizes all the insights (pain points, obstacles, hurdles, etc.) learned about the Persona and provides a crisp problem statement, the Point of View. This Point of View describes the problem that needs to be solved within the Solution stage.


Solution Stage


Ideate. All creativity should be unleashed within the first step of the Solution stage, the ideation step. This step lets the 'brains storm' and generate wild ideas.

The leading assumption during this step is that there are no constraints and no limits, no boundaries exist, and no frameworks hinder. The only leading rule during this stage is to allow any idea and thought that comes to mind. Once the ideas are born and documented on Post-its, the ideas are bundled, prioritized, and summarized.

Prototype. The prototype step might take a bit longer. The main ideas gathered and produced within the previous step are put forward for realization. Quick and dirty prototypes are built and eventually evaluated with the Persona from step one.

If the prototype helps the Persona and s/he agrees with the solution, the prototype version will be used in the last step of the Design Thinking methodology.

Test. The prototype must be transformed from its 'quick and dirty' approach to the company's development process. It must be converted and developed as a full-scale product. Using short spring development cycles to create a real product version of the prototype is crucial for time-to-market.

If the solution proposal is a really complex solution, then plan for different versions or releases of the final product, still using rapid development and delivery cycles. Thorough testing of the final product is critical for long-term profitability and adoption by users and customers.



Describing the Design Thinking methodology on a theoretical level does not provide you with the real innovation power this methodology embraces. Therefore, whenever you can attend a Design Thinking workshop, we encourage you to participate.

The Design Thinking methodology can be applied and used for all industries and LoBs within enterprises. My experience with Design Thinking spans from marketing and beverage companies to wholesalers, high-tech companies, oil and gas enterprises, airport operators, consumer goods companies, banks, and of course, software companies and of course, manufacturing companies.

The innovad team employs experienced Design Thinkers. Tap into their expertise, learn how to run Design Thinking workshops, and start your innovation journey.

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