Exploring, evaluating and improving the development process for Military Load Carrying Equipment
thesisposted on 23.03.2010, 09:28 by William M. Tutton
This work sought to explore, evaluate and then improve the process of development for personal Military Load Carriage Equipment (MLCE), such as rucksacks. It was suspected that current MLCE had a number of user interaction deficiencies which should have been addressed during development. Three research questions were posed to determine: the influences on MLCE development, what needed improvement in MLCE development and how MLCE development could be improved. The work was based on eight studies conducted in three phases: the first to explore MLCE development and the observed deficiencies, the second to evaluate MLCE development, and the third to improve it. The chosen research strategy was henomenological, using a grounded theory methodology within which phenomena could emerge. Grounded theory approaches were adopted for this research because they were the best way in which to access the design domain. The research was framed within cycles of reflective action research to enable the researcher to re-orientate the enquiry to make the best use of the research opportunities that arose from the organisational context in which the research was sited. An initial investigation into the development of in-service equipment was done via a comparative case study, using documentary analysis and interviews with authorities in the field. Through this investigation it became clear that MLCE development was based on heuristics and tacit knowledge of manufacturing techniques, and collaboration between professional groups, including: materials / manufacturing, human systems, project management and military personnel. Deficiencies within MLCE development, determined through the comparative study, were validated against current practice through a further case study and additional evaluations. A comparison of outputs from these studies was then reviewed in a grounded manner to gain a holistic understanding of MLCE development. The interaction and importance of the various influences on MLCE development was then better understood, in particular the inadequate understanding of MLCE user needs, and requirement specification. To refine the possible avenues and target audience for an improvement of MLCE development stakeholder interviews were undertaken to develop a better understanding of how military user needs were gathered and applied. Following the interview survey, a tool was developed to analyse video and audio data of soldiers operating with MLCE on current operations. The tool was then reviewed by a panel of MLCE developers and stakeholders. The panel thought that the tool had a number of benefits to MLCE development: improving understanding of soldier environments, improved quality and reliability of information used in development, and as a conduit for concept evaluation. The research has provided a novel perspective on MLCE development, and provided a number of avenues upon which subsequent research could focus. The research has been able to make original contributions to understanding, albeit in a manner limited by the methodologies used.