This thesis explores the conditions under which traditional Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) can be involved in the design of sustainable Product Service Systems (PSS). The integration between design and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the context of sustainable business development was used to define the space for this exploration. The research was carried out through a case study with a group of Colombian Manufacturing SMEs. As a result of the case study a business framework was developed to guide the design of sustainable PSS.
In order to establish the basis of the research a review of the literature on sustainable business development, ICT, design, product service systems and SMEs was carried out. This review brought to light the main features of a sustainable PSS and the challenges associated with its design. These challenges were further investigated in the context of SMEs with a scoping study involving a group of 38 Colombian SMEs. Additionally, 36 PSS already on the market were analysed to identify the possible relationships between design and ICT, and to determine how they could contribute to develop sustainable PSS. The scoping study and the analysis of the 36 PSS gave structure to the case study with a second group of Colombian Manufacturing SMEs. This case study aimed to build understanding of the connection between the characteristics of these SMEs and the main features of a sustainable PSS. As a result of this case study a set of concepts, drivers and barriers to take into account to design sustainable PSS formed the basis of a business framework developed and validated in the final part of the research.
The business framework proposed can help to understand the resources and changes needed to develop a sustainable PSS, reducing the uncertainty that it may cause. The integration between product and service design and ICT is used in the framework to outline the areas of opportunity in the design of sustainable PSS. This business framework developed as a result of the research promises to be a helpful tool for organisations working to support the transformation of SMEs toward competitive and sustainable business models using as a basis the integration between product and service design and ICT. Despite the Colombian context the results and outcomes of this research are described in general terms to be applicable in other contexts around the world working with SMEs in the design of sustainable PSS.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.