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Title: A Study of the A.1. wet cast concrete manufacturing processes and the impact of automation on the supply chain
Author: Dean , John
ISNI:       0000 0004 2688 2822
Awarding Body: University of Teesside
Current Institution: Teesside University
Date of Award: 2007
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The research contained in this thesis addresses a major industry-threatening problem where a complete change in methodology and technology was required to replace simple manual methodology developed more than fifty years ago. The problem was solved by the implementation of a high risk and complex high technology project in two phases. The thesis describes how research into the fundamental techniques available was utilised to develop the solution following the acquisition of the knowledge required to apply the techniques in a systematic manner. An holistic study of the inbound supply chain and conversion process was necessary to achieve the depth of process change needed. It was required to achieve a step change in the now unsafe working practices that had developed over the years since the start of the wet cast industry in the Cotswolds. Starting with an ergonomic study that uncovered the priority areas for automation, the study called on the use of a wide range of research techniques from: brainstorming; structured interviews; process mapping; to the invention and innovation associated with the introduction of leading edge technology combining linear motion devices with robots and introducing emerging radio frequency identification technology to initiate product changeovers. Radio data systems were used to introduce lean, Just-in-Time (JIT) concepts to the inbound supply chain By embarking on a review of the key techniques required to achieve success, each was evaluated to enable decisions to be made on their application to the prime objective of completing an automation project that eliminated health and safety issues and achieved a major reduction in conversion costs. The major cultural change required from the existing workforce was recognised at an early stage and the thesis describes the steps that were taken to minimise the impacts of inevitable job losses and social changes required to operate an automated plant over 24 hours without stopping for breaks. With a long history of operating only dayshifts, with occasional nightshifts in peak season, it was necessary to implement a new and unique shift operating system with variable shift lengths over the year to coincide with peak and low seasons. Mitigating the harmful effects from operating rotating shift systems was researched and a strategy for the `Social Project' running in parallel with the `Technology Project' was produced. Information associated with the social changes involved was completely transparent with full consultation taking place with the workforce and the trade union representing them. The social project underpinned the high-tech project to create the success achieved from the study. High-tech complex projects are known to carry a high degree of risk associated with them. In order to combat these risks it was necessary to apply a whole range of risk management techniques and to consider risk in an holistic manner. Incorporating financial, environmental, safety and completion time risks in the risk assessment/mitigation procedures applied. Many projects include the application of risk assessment and mitigation procedures before the project starts but few employ them in the dynamic manner over all phases of the project advocated in the thesis. The evaluation of the study outcome suggests further areas of risk management improvement to aid in the execution of further projects of the nature described in the thesis. A key element in the success of the automation project was the development of a detailed specification of the Phase 2 full automation project. This was possible after completion of the smaller Phase I project and was responsible for achieving the high degree of certainty demonstrated during the execution of the second phase. Having the opportunity of devising the automation innovation from first principles using prototype development techniques helped enormously in creating the new paradigm in wet cast manufacturing processes which eliminated the major health and safety issues and produced cost savings that enabled the company to compete successfully against low-cost Far Eastern imported products.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available