Emsley, Daniel Lewis (2021) Systems Engineering Approach to the Automated Manufacture of Static Tool-Holding. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Investigation of the ‘design to delivery’ phase is critical for establishing the productivity of a small manufacturing enterprise producing small, variable product batches. Previous research indicates how productivity of small manufacturing enterprises is subject to multiple challenges including reduced utilisation of advanced technology, having limited resources and needing the correct culture. Existing studies of productivity problem-solving have used a typical structure of: 1) problem definition through existing practice analysis, 2) identification of areas to improve and 3) use of analytical tools to rank productivity losses or ‘bottlenecks’. Stakeholder input (often through interviews or group exercise) and quantitative analysis tools are key aspects of most studies, with them used in combination to determine the largest bottlenecks. While existing works have successfully identified key bottlenecks within organisations there are a lack of case studies which present the process of solution implementation and subsequent data analysis to document a full implementation cycle of changes. The implementation stage of introducing process improvements is critical in ensuring a system improvement is made and justifying the initial need for change. This research details a full implementation cycle of defining a problem through observation, identifying areas to change, selecting solutions to integrate and documenting implementation of solutions. This allows for benefits analysis over an extended time period to be conducted. A case study small manufacturing enterprise is used with a large reduction in their ‘design to delivery’ phase being the problem to address. Considerable analysis of key business functions has been completed through stakeholder input and time studies to identify all process bottlenecks. All bottlenecks identified have been scored based upon their impact to both the ‘design to delivery’ process time as well as to the stakeholder business plan. Comprehensive research was conducted on possible solutions to the key bottlenecks identified, with the most suitable solutions selected based upon a determined set of criteria unique to the company and the ‘design to delivery’ phase. In total 6 key bottlenecks were selected with 6 solutions chosen using the described methods. Significant benefits have been introduced to the case study company of a near 60% reduction in ‘design to delivery’ phase time, a new manufacturing process halving manufacturing costs and the introduction of automation. Introduction of new software packages have provided scope for further work opportunities to implement these elsewhere in the company. The research conducted has provided a unique study of implementing system improvements, building upon existing literature that typically concludes at the pre-implementation stage. Additionally, the combination of time study analysis and stakeholder input has allowed a company utilising traditional processes and typical characteristics of a small manufacturing enterprise to introduce considerable process changes, by removing any uncertainties or reluctance to do so. It is anticipated that the processes of the case study company are relatable to other small manufacturing enterprises looking to implement similar changes.

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