Can you make it?
The role of the research community in wealth creation is being demonstrated by work going on in the Manufacturing Engineering Group. Liaison between industry and academics focused around the concept of 'manufacturing strategy' is encouraging a systems-based approach to manufacturing. 'Manufacturing is not just about making things, it is about the whole cycle from understanding the market through design, production engineering and factory operation to distribution of the product,' says Professor Mike Gregory. 'Manufacturing strategy - that is, knowing where you are in the market place, assessing your manufacturing operation and developing your new strategy - should be considered from the start, as part of the total business plan, not as an add-on extra.'
'The starting point to developing a manufacturing strategy is to carry out an audit of existing products and procedures. This tells you where you are, identifying the criteria against which you need to excel to achieve a competitive position. By assessing current performance against those criteria, the weakness in the current manufacturing system, whether it be in terms of reliability, costs or delivery times, can be identified. Alternative approaches can then be identified and implemented, together with measures to evaluate subsequent performance.'
This sounds easy enough, but the progression of manufacturing to the level where its strengths are sufficient to actively support business policy development is rare, at present, in UK companies. The Manufacturing Systems Research Group (MSRG), under the leadership of Mike Gregory, aims to change all that. The group's early work resulted in the publication of a workbook, Competitive Manufacturing. This takes managers through the stages required to understand what they need to do to bring their manufacturing more in line with the needs of their markets. It has already been used to help companies in a wide range of sectors to restructure their manufacturing. 'It is vital to present the results of research in a way that people in industry can use them,' comments Professor Gregory.
The MSRG team, many of whom have substantial industrial experience, work closely with medium-sized as well as large companies, providing immediate results for collaborators as well as enhanced methods and approaches. Current major developments include processes for:
Each theme is supported by an active industrial 'club'.
Further information can be obtained from Professor Mike Gregory, on (01223) 338195.
|number 4, spring '95|