Taking the angst out of DIY assembly

August 1, 2003

The frustration of trying and failing to assemble flat-pack furniture could become a DIY nightmare of the past, thanks to research by a PhD student at Derby University.

Miles Richardson has come up with a formula that can be used to rate self-assembly furniture kits according to how easy - or infuriatingly difficult - they are to understand and put together.

He identified seven characteristics common to all self-assembly products, then monitored people grappling with the intricacies of furniture kits to see how long they took to complete the task and how many errors they made.

The results showed how each of the characteristics affected difficulty of assembly. This could be used in a formula to distinguish easy kits from more baffling ones.

He said: "There is a general lack of understanding of the issues that affect self-assembly. Previous research has focused on the instructions, but my research looks at how the character of the object interacts with the person assembling it. If people are struggling to put the furniture together they should be blaming the product, not themselves."

An early version of the formula uses five of the characteristics: number of components (C); number of symmetrical planes each component has (SP); number of novel assemblies (NA); number of fastenings (F); and number of components groups (CG). Assembly complexity = 10 ((-0.017C) + (-0.029SP) + (0.035NA) + (0.015F) + (0.029CG) + 1.239).

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