Made Smarter Innovation - People-Led Digitalisation

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Mechanical Engineering


Imagine you are responsible for the digitisation journey of your company's manufacturing. You know by embedding digitisation throughout the whole manufacturing value chain will bring success. However, your manufacturing portfolio is diverse e.g. high volume fast moving white goods, novel pharmaceutical biological drugs, automotive components, chemical synthesis and aircraft avionics. You also design, manufacture and operate nuclear facilities. Each of the sectors claim they are unique; however, your experience evidences the underlying challenges are common - although often articulated in different ways!

You have learnt lessons from the 1980's where companies adopted automation because 'it was the new shiny technology" but productivity savings were not always realised, and the Made Smarter Review evidenced that in 2017 productivity challenges, still remain - even though the technology is available. You know that people are the critical element. You have seen manufacturing systems fail to deliver because of employee pushback, lack of engagement/skills/leadership as well as poor change management (Made Smarter Review 2017, Vander Luis Da Silva, et al. 2020). You recognise to create value in manufacturing through digitalisation needs investment in people. It is your view that the right combination of current technology, data and people can deliver SMART manufacturing today i.e. if we have the right people, we can be responsive, reactive, make smart decisions to maximise manufacturing value using live data and information. However, to achieve digitally engaged people, especially in manufacturing you believe there needs to be a process for manufacturing companies to follow, regardless of sector and size.

The vision of this centre is to enable 'UK Manufacturing to improve their productivity year on year by investing in their biggest assets - people"". This investment will lead to the uptake of digitalisation.

As part of our ambitious centre, Theme 4 - "Societal and cultural change: managing the disruptive impact of digital technologies." i.e. achieving digitally engaged people is core and will account for up-to 65% of our activities. Around 56% of UK manufacturing (Q2, 2019) are SMEs which are critical to UK Manufacturing. To meet our goal of digitally engaged people our research will engage the whole manufacturing value chain through Theme 3 - "connected and versatile supply chain" our second core theme

However, we recognise investing in people will 'touch' all of the themes and our networking activities will be crucial in leveraging value from the Made Smarter investments.

In summary, our hypothesis is that regardless of manufacturing sector and company size a common process leading to digitally engaged people is achievable in practice i.e. in industry. Impacts from embedding our research into aerospace manufacturing demonstrated the data/information engineers believed they needed, was not the data/information they used to make decisions. We were able to increase their productivity by 47% through a combination of manufacturing digitalisation and human factors. This was achieved through a step-by-step process, using data analytics, human factors and observing people in action. Our centre will build on this expertise and create a generic process for use across UK manufacturing - leading to increased productivity.



Linda B Newnes (Principal Investigator)
Joseph Michael Flynn (Co-Investigator)
Sarah Sharples (Co-Investigator) orcid
Vaggelis Giannikas (Co-Investigator) orcid
Evripides Loukaides (Co-Investigator)
Richard David Burke (Co-Investigator)
Brett Edwards (Co-Investigator)
Andreas Kyprianou (Co-Investigator)
Ella-Mae Hubbard (Co-Investigator)
Rebecca Grant (Co-Investigator) orcid
Philip Robert Tomlinson (Co-Investigator)
Maria Battarra (Co-Investigator) orcid
Vimal Dhokia (Co-Investigator)
Mariachiara Barzotto (Co-Investigator) orcid
Yee Mey Goh (Co-Investigator)
Robert James Houghton (Co-Investigator)
Charles James Larkin (Co-Investigator) orcid
Ulrich Hintermair (Co-Investigator)
Matthew Gwilym Davidson (Co-Investigator)
Alborz Shokrani Chaharsooghi (Co-Investigator) orcid
Paul Shepherd (Co-Investigator) orcid
Nic Zhang (Co-Investigator) orcid
Marcelle Claire McManus (Co-Investigator)
Nicholas Pearce (Co-Investigator) orcid
Felicia Miranda Fai (Co-Investigator) orcid
Chris Brace (Co-Investigator)
Beate Ehrhardt (Researcher) orcid
Susan Lattanzio (Researcher Co-Investigator) orcid


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Thomasson O (2022) Pallet location and job scheduling in a Twin-Robot system in Computers & Operations Research