Every manufactured product has an environmental impact, a social impact, and an economic impact. As engineers, we should do our best to understand how our design decisions influence these impacts (the three pillars of sustainability), and at the same time make decisions that collectively lead to maximum positive impacts, or minimum negative impacts on the economy, environment, and society. Many times, engineers show interest and want to design for all three pillars of sustainability but are often constrained to focus on the environmental and economic aspects, leaving out social sustainability due to lack of understanding and resources. In practice, this leaves the social dimension of sustainability out of sight and reach for many engineers. So to assist engineers to consider and improve the social impacts of their products, we have created two methods. The first method is focused on meeting customers' unmet needs through the use of collaborative products (a product created by temporarily combining physical components from two or more products to perform new tasks) and the second method is to be used throughout the product development process in order to increase the potential social impacts of the product being designed. It will assist engineers to become aware of social impact categories sometimes overlooked, especially when designing for global engineering. If engineers are able to focus on all three pillars of sustainability early in the design process, including social sustainability, they can add social impact indicators along with technical performance measurements during the product development process and design a product that better meets the requirements for environment, economic, and social sustainability. This is why it is important for engineers to know how to handle the complexity and uncertainty associated with design parameters when creating products for social impacts aimed at global development. In this dissertation, the two methods are outlined and explained. The demonstration of the first method showed that by using the method of collaborative product design to create a brick press, the task-per-cost ratio was improved by 30%. The demonstration of the second method showed that a redesign of the cup seal in the India Mark II/III hand pump system (a product used by approximately 10% of the world's population) could extend the service interval with 12% by replacing the cup seals. Lastly, conclusions related to improving social impacts when engineering for global development and suggestions for future research are outlined.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





Social impact, product development, global engineering, robustness, sustainable design, collaborative products, optimization, wear, India Mark



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Engineering Commons