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Product design challenges of small to medium enterprises in the Western Cape : a design thinking approach
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The study aimed to investigate how product design SMEs in the Western Cape could be supported. The study's research questions illustrated how important SMEs are in the South African economy, brought to light the key challenges product design SMEs face and provided support criteria to promote growth within the sector. Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are seen as a vital driving force for South African economy, employment rate as well as innovation making it an important sector to support sustainable development. However South Africa SME failure rate is ranked one of the highest in the world with majority of SMEs failing to make it past their second year of operation. In illustrating and understanding the challenges product design SMEs face in Cape Town the study provided support measures to develop sustainable product design businesses. Previous literature has failed to investigate product design SMEs and the value they provide within South Africa, additionally not a lot is known about the challenges these business face. A Design Thinking (DT) approach was used within the study alongside blended research methods. These methods included; online surveys, semi-structured interviews and a design workshop. The study utilised 'Lewin's Change Management Model' as a conceptual framework as well as 'The Braun and Clarke 6 step method to Thematic Analysis" for Data analysis. The research found that, through the enterprise demographic, product design SME in Cape Town diverse into multiple fields, majority of the SMEs had been operation between 5-10 years, most generated an annual turnover of R500 000 − R 5 million and employed 1 − 20 employees as well as majority of the SMEs operated from the city bowl. The research additionally illustrated that majority of common business challenges consisted of financial resources, human resources as well as management. The research also uncovered a number of emerging themes in relation to product design SME challenges and through co-defining these challenges found that managing clients, project scope and design unknowns as the most important challenges. Ideation with participants in addressing these challenges formed possible solutions parameters such as good communication and transparency with clients, detailed definition and recognition process to manage project scope as well as systems for early identification of design unknowns within the creative process. The research also co-defined existing tool and systems currently in place within the product design SMEs sector that aid in building a sustainable business. These tools and systems consisted of; project forecasting programs, tools to streamline business workflow, project priority systems, financial forecasting tools and effective networking within the design industry.