Productivity and efficiency may be boosted significantly across the engineering and manufacturing sector, thanks to the work of a team of researchers at the University of Sunderland.
There are currently 10 PhD research projects underway within the university’s school of engineering, conducting “groundbreaking” research to improve the critical role of maintenance.
It is claimed that the advanced maintenance practices are taking the field “to the next level”. The UK manufacturing sector is beginning to embrace Industry 4.0, embedding technology within society and even the human body; the Sunderland researchers, it is said, are at the forefront of the latest practices and technologies.
Ranging from academic staff and students to international academics and industry professionals, the team is developing research to help businesses develop their products, processes and technology, and so become more productive and sustainable.
Research includes areas such as improving energy consumption in the automotive industry; ISO55000 asset management; design for maintenance; use of sensors to predict manufacturing issues; and the benefits of using virtual and augmented reality technology.
Each research project is supported by major industry players such as Bosch, FaureciaTechnip and Grindrite, offering their own time and knowledge, which then feeds back into the university’s own academic programmes, as well as industry networking forums.
Associate Professor in the school of engineering, David Baglee, said: “Maintenance is a huge area of research for us; it’s no longer seen as the use of a hammer and spanner to fix something. We are talking about the development of new information and communications technologies, which are triggering a revolution in manufacturing, and this is set to continue. The individual work of our academics and researchers are at the leading edge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, through their advancements in technology.
“The work we’re doing will offer vast opportunities for UK manufacturers to attract and develop a new generation of skilled employees, create new products and services and expand into new supply chains.
“Never before have we had such a large number of researchers dedicated to one area. This will no doubt help improve speed, efficiently and accuracy in UK manufacturing, which in turn will develop a highly skilled, technologically advanced, world-leading workforce for next year and beyond.”
Finnish researcher Dr Salla Marttonen-Arola began her two year post-doctoral research project at Sunderland in 2017, looking at transforming the way businesses operate and boost productivity, simply by examining their untapped data.
Her project, LeaD4Value, is building data decision-support tools based on careful modelling and statistical analyses. Results include a map of ways to exploit the data, a process model, and a performance measurement system for optimising the life of assets in supply chains.
Salla explained: “The tools can reveal missing or obsolete data, unnecessary data collection and maintenance, and ways to refine and optimise business value through better data maintenance.
“Using these could keep manufacturing chains productive and help industry to remain competitive. It’s getting rid of things which just don’t work or cost money. The process is not about criticising, just improving.”