Date of Award

May 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Mechanical Engineering

Committee Member

Joshua D Summers

Committee Member

Richard Pak

Committee Member

Laine Mears


The objective of this work is to identify the key differences among typical stakeholders in the adoption of automation in manufacturing. The design and integration of advanced technologies in manufacturing is collaborative, requiring inputs from individuals across disciplines, with varying levels of education, expertise, and work experience. A “design chain” was developed to describe the three main stages of automation adoption in manufacturing: 1) development, 2) procurement, and 3) implementation and use. This research is focused on elucidating how the stakeholders in each stage view automation. The first phase of the study employed surveys and focus groups to understand how individuals in the development and procurement phases of automation adoption viewed automation and its effects on their experiences with manufacturing. Focus groups used individual survey responses to stimulate group discussions with engineering students, automation firms, technical apprentices, and assembly operators. Several themes were identified among the groups, such as the specific views of "automation is improvement," "maximizing level of automation," and the organizational phenomenon of "automation culture." Building on the themes gathered in the first phase, a second phase of study employed similar methods in a multiple-case study of manufacturing firms across these United States. In three case studies, focus groups occurred with employees at various levels of each firm. These group discussions were supplemented with individual interviews with higher-level management and other decision-makers at each firm. Findings from survey data suggest that employees at lower levels of manufacturing firms tend to view automation in a personal way relative to their counterparts at higher levels, and that work experience had a significant effect on survey responses. The concept of "automation culture" is further developed to describe how firms can most effectively implement automation strategies at various levels of manufacturing. Themes found in the focus group data were used to develop a set of practices that hinder an effective automation culture, and practices that enable the effective adoption of automation.



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