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Loughborough University innovation enables leaner, faster manufacturing

12 October 2011

Academics at Loughborough University's Innovative Manufacturing and Construction Research Centre (IMCRC) have created a virtual engineering environment, which offers manufacturers a faster and more focused tool for the creation of their automation systems. The Business Driven Automation (BDA) system has been developed in the automotive sector in partnership with Ford Motor Company, ThyssenKrupp System Engineering Gmbh and Schneider Electric.

BDA provides a virtual engineering environment that has the potential to save manufacturing companies many millions of pounds by enabling them to validate and change automated assembly and production systems quickly and efficiently, at minimal cost and risk across multiple global locations.

The approach is highly generic and applicable to virtually all industrial automation sectors, from electronic goods assembly to the food and packaging industries.

In today’s fast-moving business environment, the ability to change automated assembly and production systems quickly and efficiently, at minimal cost and risk across multiple global locations, is vital.
Current automation systems are difficult and complex to service, reconfigure and integrate.  Moving away from these traditional, slower practices, the new software engineering tool enables rapid configuration and modification of factory automation systems.

The project’s Principal Investigator Prof Rob Harrison said: “We’ve developed innovative software to give a quick, accurate, virtual 3D prototype view of assembly machine behaviour before they are physically built.  We aim to make these tools much easier and faster, and we want to see them used throughout the machine lifecycle, not just at initial design and build.”

Les Lee, Manufacturing Engineering, Ford Motor Company Ltd, said: “Collaboration offers opportunities for reduced costs, faster time-to-market, improved customer satisfaction, strategic thinking and quicker problem solving.  The IMCRC BDA project is a fine example where measurable benefit is being delivered with shared knowledge utilisation and the creation of innovative products.’’

The commercialisation of this project received funding support from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) through the Knowledge Transfer Account (KTA) awarded to Loughborough University.
It has also received support from the Intellectual Property Commercialisation team which is part of the University’s Enterprise Office.

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