Date of release: Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Professor James GaoEngineering researchers at Greenwich are leading the UK side of a €3.9 million bid to improve innovation, communications, productivity and profitability in the factories of the future.

They will work with manufacturers of high value goods such as avionic systems in fighter jets and luxury cars. Many of these companies operate across dispersed factory sites, which are often in different countries.

Greenwich has been granted nearly €400,000 from the European Union in order to lead the bid.

Professor Simeon Keates, Pro Vice Chancellor for the university's Faculty of Engineering & Science says: "This is not about mass production of standardised goods at low prices. There, for example, robots can be used for just one specific mechanical task more than 100,000 times a month. We cannot compete with low-wage economies and countries with less stringent health and safety regulations.

"Our aim is to develop new systems and innovative ways of working with people and their manufacturing equipment. We will help businesses produce the best designs and products they can in the most efficient and cost-effective ways possible.

"For example, a robot may be needed to complete a task just 1,000 times or less each month. Costs will be cut considerably if businesses use flexible robots programmed to complete a range of tasks as required."

Too often, he argues, people across dispersed company sites waste time reinventing the wheel. They lack the full communications systems they need to share best practices and develop new ideas collaboratively. Improved communications will help businesses capture the full range of cultural perspectives, creativity, knowledge and skills embedded within their work teams.

The University of Greenwich is also developing new systems to support manufacturers of high value goods.

The engineering research team is working closely with two UK project partners, the University of Exeter and Autofina Ltd, and five partners in France – CESI, BA Systèmes, IRSEEM, the Université du Havre and CERI.

Each partner is building a cluster of manufacturing businesses in their geographic area. They will liaise with their cluster businesses to develop and test new factory systems and processes.

"It is an exciting challenge," says Professor James Gao, Medway Chair of Manufacturing Engineering and the leader of Greenwich's Centre for Innovative Product Development and Manufacturing (CIPDM).

"We already co-ordinate an industrial manufacturing group in the south east which includes BAE Systems, Cummins Power Generation and Ford. This project, backed by the European Union's Interreg France (Channel) England Programme, will strengthen our collaboration with local companies and extend our industrial links in France."

The Greenwich project team includes Professor Gao, Professor Keates, Senior Lecturer Dr Caroline Tite and Senior Lecturer Dr Dele Owodunni.

Companies and services solutions providers in the high value manufacturing sector are invited to sign up as members of the university's industrial cluster.

Cluster members will take part in project activities including workshops, seminars, requirements surveys, case studies, pilot testing and training of robotic technologies.

To find out more about the University of Greenwich Design, Manufacture and Innovative Products visit: http://www.gre.ac.uk/engsci/research/research-themes/design,-manufacturing-and-innovative-products

Story by Public Relations

Picture: Professor James Gao.