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Digital Innovations for Niche Sector Industry Supply Chain Optimisation

The project will use the case of autonomous pods manufactured by Westfield Technology Group (WTG), a leading manufacturer of autonomous pods within the UK to highlight significance of such visibility to enhance efficiency of production with respect to lead times and costs incurred, especially within make-to-order manufacturing.

A business implementing digital technology into their supply chain management.

Researchers

Research background

This project is a collaboration of Birmingham City University with Westfield Technology Group, MTC, Ecoclassics and Cranfield University to study the processes behind supply chains in manufacturing.

Cutting-edge manufacturing systems are geared towards optimising business operations to enhance productivity whilst reducing costs and overheads such as labour, inventory, space, and throughput.

Alongside this, modern manufacturing organisations are increasingly modular, relying on a large number of suppliers (who in turn may rely on their own suppliers) to produce parts of the end product. Although benefits of such practices are remarkable, these introduce challenges with respect to quality assurance, provenance, standardisation and effective inventory management.

For instance, due to the emergence of the new driverless technology and heavy reliance on the vehicle safety systems, it is necessary to develop procedures and mechanisms to enhance safety and reliability of such products. Furthermore, as these vehicles typically adopt bespoke design, quality assurance measures are critical to customer satisfaction as well as successful just-in-time operation.

Focusing on these challenges, the project will investigate use of innovative digital solutions to enhance supply chain visibility beyond tier 1, emphasising the needs of the UK's niche manufacturing industry. 

Research aims

The project will use the case of autonomous pods manufactured by Westfield Technology Group (WTG), a leading manufacturer of autonomous pods within the UK to highlight significance of such visibility to enhance efficiency of production with respect to lead times and costs incurred, especially within make-to-order manufacturing.

How will the research be carried out?

The concepts deriving from this feasibility study will be tested by Westfield and its commercial partners in diverse test scenarios.

The testing will consist of digitising the critical parts list and certificate of conformities, the monitoring while in use and tracking of components for the build and spares of the pod systems throughout the supply chain to minimise inventory and streamline the efficiencies between partners.

The consortium has the required research and engineering skills to model, develop and analyse digital innovations outlined above.

Intended outcomes and impact

The project will explore the use of distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) to achieve parts traceability across different tiers of the supply chain as well as exploring use-cases such as digital Certificates of Conformity and critical parts. Leveraging DLT proof-of-concept, the project will analyse using smart contracts to enhance business efficiency whilst minimising errors and delays in the ordering workflow.

Furthermore, the project will investigate the use of sophisticated digital twins to model specific business processes to monitor and enhance the understanding of the barriers to efficient business performance using real time data for different scenarios.