- Company: Oakmount Control Systems Ltd
- Location: Plymouth
- Industry Sector: Materials and Manufacturing
- Size: SME (35 Employees)
- Project Budget: £162,589
Oakmount Control Systems Ltd is a prospering engineering company specialising in the application of bespoke, automation solutions. Oakmount wanted to improve its ability to specify automation production equipment based on customer requirements more accurately and quickly at the tender stage, while integrating new technologies and Industry 4.0 solutions into the business.
The KTP aimed to develop a formalised methodology to deliver optimised smart automation solutions that integrate seamlessly with existing manufacturing systems for the SME sector.
Through the KTP with the University of Plymouth, Oakmount Control Systems Ltd recruited graduate Joe Walker to help transition the company into becoming developers of Smart Factory Solutions. The KTP helped set up a formalised analytical method for the assessment of the manufacturing system, along with specific production processes. Oakmount wanted to increase its market share by differentiating itself and offering a more efficient personalised and affordable service than its competitors.
The KTP has significantly advanced the business’ knowledge in emerging technologies, including virtual demonstrations of machine designs; collaborative robot capabilities; and AR/VR.
Oakmount Control Systems Ltd has successfully decreased overhead costs by 20% per annum, through increased efficiency and the move towards lean manufacturing and streamlining of production.
The KTP provided some direction and expertise in implementing advanced technology and business processes into the company’s strategy.
The results have contributed to the development of a research paper, which identified the opportunity for automation in the manufacturing sector'
The project has enabled Oakmount to specify automated production equipment more accurately and quickly; develop new products, such as machine feeding systems and an Autonomous Guided Vehicle (AGV), which can be marketed to increase customer awareness; and to set up a more efficient method to calculate project costs.
“It has changed the way that the management views automation and efficiency. In looking at our current processes more closely than before, we are seeing significant ways of reducing costs while improving reliability and profitability.”Phil Partridge
The hiring of a talented graduate, through the KTP, has enabled Oakmount Control Systems Ltd to dedicate time to accessing and enhancing manufacturing processes and products. This has helped increase profitability and reduce costs. The KTP has brought new viewpoints, ideas, and opinions into the business – for example VR for customer design reviews - increasing customer perception of the company as market leaders in technology. It has also been able to move from reactive to proactive in looking for business opportunities through greater awareness of emerging technologies and potential new tools such as AR and VR.
The KTP has had a lasting impact on Oakmount Control Systems Ltd and the business has appreciated contributing to the professional development of the graduate involved – so much so, that the KTP Associate, Joe, is continuing with the business to help keep the momentum in the development of new projects and delivering ongoing results.
“It has been an interesting project and a chance to work with a real company on a real problem. It was a positive experience working with a friendly business and I was also able to visit one of their customers, to understand more about their use of automated production lines.”Dr Steve Childe, Associate Professor in Business Management and Operations
“This KTP was a breath of fresh air. I’d recommend KTPs to other academics as this provided an opportunity to work in a dynamic setting and, while not that different from academic project management, the deliverable is a solution for industry.”Dr Guido Bugmann, Associate Professor in Intelligent Systems
Dr Steve Childe and Dr Guido Bugmann were particularly valuable to the project, due to their extensive background in manufacturing and engineering, robotics, production management and business process modelling. The KTP offered the academics the opportunity to be able to supervise and significantly contribute to the hands-on learning of a talented research graduate, while helping the development of the business.
Drs Childe and Bugmann found the KTP academically stimulating, by providing the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the use of production lines and the current business world challenges of a company, especially during the current unprecedented times of a global pandemic. The KTP has helped to enhance the University’s curriculum with real world business examples, contextualizing material taught in a more commercial setting at both graduate and postgraduate level.
“I would recommend the KTP Associate role to other grads/postgrads because it is an opportunity for personal development, while at the same time transferring knowledge between academia and industry and vice versa. There is also a high chance of a permanent position within the host company at the end.”Joe Walker, KTP Associate Oakmount Control Systems Ltd
The KTP offered Joe Walker, a recent University of Plymouth graduate, an invaluable chance to develop and apply his knowledge directly into the business, through a range of projects within the KTP at Oakmount. He undertook a comprehensive review of automation and the latest industry developments, as well as an analysis of customer and supply chains, to assess available technologies and customer needs.
In addition to the main aims of the KTP, Joe was able to assist with robot and vision system programming for several applications. He made informed decisions and innovative developments, which have had a direct positive impact for the business, such as the automation of processes, product development and new sales tools.
The KTP resulted in a research paper on analysing automation in the manufacturing industry
Joe also developed the confidence to pursue higher academic courses outside his specialty. He is currently in the final stages of an MPhil in Business and Management, has achieved a CMI Level 5 Certificate in Management and has passed a Six Sigma Greenbelt certification. He has also directly contributed to the development of other students at the University, through mentoring a student and delivering guest lectures on his knowledge of Industry 4.0.
The KTP Associate role is an opportunity for grads/postgrads personal development, while at the same time transferring knowledge between academia and industry and vice versa. There is also a high chance of a permanent position within the host company.