Engineering changes

A £2m research programme is to examine changes required by the engineering industry as it moves to provide more product-related services.


A £2m research programme is to examine changes required by the engineering industry as it moves to provide more product-related services, rather than just the products themselves.


Headed by Cambridge University’s Institute for Manufacturing (IfM), the new research programme, ‘Support Service Solutions: Strategy and Transition’,  is jointly funded by BAE Systems and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and involves researchers from Bath, Cranfield, Exeter, Leeds, Loughborough, Nottingham, Queens and Salford universities.


Increasing complexity and the rising cost of major engineering systems has led to a demand for ‘capability’ based services in which a supplier not only provides the original item, but is also contracted to ensure its effective running throughout its working lifetime. These new demands could require dramatic transformations across a range of sectors such as aerospace, defence, transportation, automotive and healthcare services.


‘Engineering is an incredibly diverse industry and covers projects ranging from the repair of oil rigs to the maintenance of CT scanners in hospitals,’ said Duncan McFarlane, Professor of Service and Support Engineering at the IfM. ‘The implications for industry of a move to these new models of customer service are enormous. Companies will have to reshape themselves to increase their efficiency and to sustain their specialist skills whilst coping with lower production levels’.


The study’s initial focus will be on the defence and aerospace industries as both sectors involve high purchase and maintenance costs and long periods of service provision and support. Both industries have also seen a growing demand for single suppliers to manage the support of aerospace and defence systems and for contracts based around the guarantee of a service, rather than the supply of spare parts.


BAE Systems employees will be actively involved as industrial partners, providing case material for the research, ensuring that the findings are relevant to industrial needs and implementing the results.


Further details of the research, including information on its various phases and on all the collaborators, can be found on the Service Support Solutions website.