Friday, February 3, 2012

Design Awareness Programme

Design Awareness Programme, DAP, the second of the three components of the Design Clinic Scheme for MSMEs, is an important component of the scheme as it provides the crucial link to connect  MSME unit/s to design through quick remedial solutions and  thereby help convince the unit owners to the benefits of design. The DAP helps convert the initial interaction at the Design Awareness Seminar, between the MSME unit owner and the designer to long term relation amongst them for taking up  design projects and further to that their regular and continuous interactions. Thereby the Design Awareness Programme developed in the form of design clinic, the design intervention model found to be one of the most appropriate design intervention models for the Indian MSME needs, provides unique character to this scheme and also differentiates it from other similar schemes of design interventions for SME industries across the world.

Design, as is normally understood, helps connect product to its users through product improvements mainly from its aesthetics, usability perspectives.  However, as majority of the MSME units would be the component manufacturing units, they demand improvements of their different processes, various activities, communication, intra department, inter department, as well as with their vendors, clients etc. Opportunities and the scope for design intervention exist in MSMEs at various levels and in different forms. It may be in the form of new design of product, redesign of existing product, product diversification, product graphics and/ or in the form of its package design etc. The opportunity may exist in the form of improvement of quality through redesign of joineries and details, redesign of tools and equipments or it may be in the form of ergonomic improvement, redesign of workstation etc.  It may be in the form of design sensitization training and/or skill up-gradation of their workers and staff members; appropriate adaptation of new materials, processes and/or machines and equipments etc.  Design as is normally perceived as a discipline that deals with the exterior/ styling or as is termed as cosmetic change of the products, the design clinic scheme and particularly the DAP offers opportunity for the designer/s to demonstrate the scope and benefits of design through remedial solutions through individual discussion and interactions at the unit level as well as through holistic design solution/s through design projects.

Design Awareness Programme is divided in two phases. The first phase of the programme involves detailed need assessment survey and individual interaction by designer at the unit level to identify design opportunities. Designer’s interaction at individual unit level would help the owner and the members of the unit better understand the process of design as well as its benefits. Through this interaction, as opportunities are identified and remedial solutions are offered, much necessary confidence gets developed. Similar interactions with other units of the same cluster would help designer gain micro as well as macro perspective and thereby holistic understanding of the design issues involved at the cluster level.

The second phase of the Design Awareness Programme comprises of workshop with the participant industry members. During this workshop, the designer will share the overall understandings, insights and opportunities identified through the survey and discuss possible remedial solutions with the participants. The participating members would also be exposed to different elements of design through case study presentations, expert discussions and hands-on exercises. The workshop, through hands-on exercise on creative problem solving methods, would train these members to solve their daily problems and issues that may arise at the unit level. Individual interaction and analysis of each unit’s product/s and/or component/s by the group of designers will also form part of the workshop. Thus the workshop will help participating MSME unit members discuss individual level issues as well as some of the common issues concerning the entire cluster.

The Design Awareness Programme brings designer to the doorsteps of the needy MSME unit to interact and identify various design opportunities that may exist.  Process based improvements calls for participatory process and thus detailed interaction and brainstorming sessions between the designer, unit owner and other unit members / workers. The members and/or the owners of MSME unit may not like to discuss their products and related issues in larger group, and in front of other unit owners who may be from the same or similar business. Detailed analysis of the entire business process and thereby identification and documentation of various opportunity areas would help the industry gain holistic understanding, further plan and develop direction for future progress. These interactions, both at the individual level as well as at the group level, would also generate remedial solutions, the ones that can be quickly implemented by the individual unit and thereby test the benefits of design. Thus each participating MSME unit/s would take back positive and implementable outcome/s in return of their participation in the programme.

Most MSMEs’ immediate focus / priorities today would be towards tackling their day to day issues and challenges.  These units may not be in a position to invest in design, both in terms of their resources as well as time. Interaction with the designer at individual level as well as quick remedial solutions would help convince the unit owner to invest and test design. It would help identify design opportunities, some of them resulting into design projects. The unit otherwise on its own may not be in a position to identify design requirements / scope for design. The Design Awareness Programme would thus help transit initial interaction during the Design Awareness Seminar, the first component of the scheme, to that of continuous and focused interaction with designer for project based intervention, the third component of the scheme. Thereby the DAP would help initiate the unit into appropriate use of design, design thinking and thus as a hole improve its products and processes to compete in today’s markets.

With the scheme targeting to reach out to 200 MSME clusters in the country, 200 Design Awareness Programmes are targeted to be organized. The scheme reimburses  75% of the expenses or maximum upto Rs. 3.0 Lakh,  for organizing  the programme.  MSME associations can come forward to take this benefit to organize the programme for its identified/ interested units. Alternatively, industry apex bodies or government organizations may also take up to organize the programme on behalf of the cluster and/or group of MSME units.  Options to decide the contribution amount has been introduced for the associations, through different band system, so that depending upon their size and interest they can select their contribution. The industry/ association contribution ( Rs. 1,0 Lakh ) is an indicative amount and the burden can be further reduced at the workshop organization level. The association may reduce the overall expenditure and thereby their contribution by organizing group meetings at different industry unit locations, thus avoiding hiring of conference facility etc. if required.   To further simplify the process, an option to arrange a Spot Design Clinic Workshop is offered to two or more than two MSME industries. These Spot Design Clinic Workshops can be organized at the participating unit/s level. Detailed guidelines and formats have been developed to assist both the designer as well as the MSME association in carrying out the survey as well as the workshop. The scheme secretariat is constantly improving the guidelines and formats, based on the experiences and feed backs received, for efficient and quick implementation of this programme in various MSME clusters, most of them largely unorganized sectors with their own internal issues and complexities.  

As of today 47 Design Awareness Programmes are in progress and are at various stages of their completion. Over 15 DAPs are in progress in the  north-eastern region, 13 programmes in eastern region and 11 programmes are currently in progress in western region of the country, while 4 programmes each are currently underway in north and south zone of the country. These programmes cover over 19 MSME industry sectors. Another 37 DAPs have been finalized and are scheduled to start soon. The reports of the need assessment survey carried out as part of these programmes as well as the workshop reports are available on   

DAP provide great opportunity to the designer to interact with the MSME unit/s, understand their needs, expectations and aspirations, build relations for further interactions and project based interventions and thereby help the individual MSME unit improve its products and processes and be part of the movement to help country’s large MSMEs move up the value chain. The MSME on the other hand would be able to test immediate benefits of design at minimum investment.