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AME: UK’s first faculty on the factory floor

The Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering (AME) is the UK’s first faculty on the factory floor.  The institute’s prime objective is “To create a center of engineering excellence for innovative teaching and research” in a real-world manufacturing environment that delivers engineers, operational leaders and real business growth that is self-sustainable within the UK’s high value manufacturing sector.  It is built upon three main pillars – education, research and business.


A few months ago, Steve Jones reported on the activities of what was pitched as ‘UK’S first faculty on the factory floor – a holistic approach to skills, research and business’ at the 2016 University-Industry Interaction Conference. Here Steve, a Professor in Joining and Advanced Manufacturing Sciences, and Ian Wilson, Manufacturing Engineering Course Director provide insights into their good practice case, its success factors and report on what they believe to be the biggest trends and challenges that lie ahead.

AMEs key educational objectives have been identified as developing an innovative teaching model that enhances student experience whilst providing industrial experience during their academic life.

Our key research objectives have been identified as developing and exploiting profitable growth in new markets by partnering with industry in research and development projects to create an impact within the manufacturing industry.  This will also extend into new research opportunities through doctoral studies and publications aligned to the needs of industrial partners.

The key business objectives have been affiliated with the challenge to generate new business and capacity for our partners in parallel to instilling conscious competence through a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programme for students, apprentices and industrial engineers.  Commercial consultancy is also part of our business development plans which run parallel with our research and educational objectives that draws upon the vast experienced team of technical subject matter experts in manufacturing, joining sciences, metrology and operations management.

The main success factors have been:

  • Under and post-grad students’ success: Three fully developed and populated under and post-graduate manufacturing degrees totaling 90 students; 15% greater than that originally predicted.
  • Students have, through the live industrial projects and summer placements, been able to implement theory into practice, developing graduate workplace competence, whilst making a contribution to Unipart by solving production issues.
  • Research success: Unipart and Coventry University have worked together on a number of projects that have seen transition from TRL3 through to TRL7, safeguarding jobs and introducing new product solutions for the automotive industry.
  • Unipart’s investment in two new production lines involving the manufacturing of an enhanced gasoline fuel rail system and five additional Unipart Prototypic manufacturing cells have now been realised, which are based on the success of our Innovate UK funded research projects completed.
  • Workforce upskilling success: over 50 Unipart employees have benefited from the partnership, through direct Coventry University training on new quality metrology equipment.  Furthermore, our new post graduate diploma management program has seen a number of Unipart group employees undertake and successfully pass the course.
  • Under and post grad students barriers: with the increasing numbers of students on site, the main barrier is how best to distribute the live industrial projects whilst ensuring that the students do not affect the production of products.
  • Research Barriers: funding opportunities for further research projects continue to be a challenge in convincing and securing both government and industrial funding.  As the need to deliver direct and accelerated impact requires a solid basis to exhibit an improved gearing of benefits from the primary investment.  Further challenges also exist from a potential metastable economic-political situation involving the UKs imminent exit from the EU (Brexit).
  • Workforce upskilling Barriers: no existing barriers have been identified within the AME model involving Unipart and Coventry University, as both parties continue to look at how the partnership can support the need for staff development.

New developments
Over the course of the past months, we have successfully developed and integrated Manufacturing Engineering Post-Graduate programmes into the AME, with 3 PhD studentships commencing within the latter part of the 2016 academic year and four others in the pipeline due to start in January and April 2017.

The extensive capability being developed within one of our anchor technologies – Metrology is now permeating into industry in support of a UK metrology academy. The addition of new engineering opportunities involving vehicle hybrid systems is a new key strand to our commitment to environmental sustainability and employment growth.

The successful Innovate UK funding proposal won by the AME applied to high-temperature exhaust capability in conjunction with Jaguar Land Rover, Unipart, Johnson Matthey, TWI and Coventry University.  Here we are targeting an annual reduction in CO2 emissions for Jaguar’s Ingenium engine family, equating to a mass reduction of 325M tonnes, reduced customer fuel bills and a 5% reduction of precious metals used within catalytic converters.

Future challenges
The level of uncertainty faced within innovative start-up businesses would seem to give the impression that it is strongly linked to finding a niche market for your product or services that can maintain a solid and stable growth within both a near and long-term timespan. However, niche products or services must be considered in parallel with financial instabilities and the demand for increased efficiency and reduced time-to-market (TTM) concepts.  This latter point means that as we continue to strive to deliver novel technological benefits the TTM from concept to completion will also shorten to maintain a competitive edge. This puts a significant strain on one’s own business and capability and as such businesses will need to forge improved technological partnerships that aid in being somewhat impervious to these significant external influences.

Education methods will need to evolve to meet the increasing demands placed on companies to acquire engineers that are truly adaptive and innovative.  Silo learning will not meet the needs of industry to accelerate the development of the next generation of ‘pracademics’ or entrepreneurs.  Manufacturing companies and training institutions which do not consider entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial skills training will fail to maximise their own potential from limited resources.    Personnel must be trained in an environment that not only adopts such pedagogy systems but encourages and nurtures such a mentality.  Recruiting talent may accelerate solutions, and in some cases a ‘shake-up’ of such systems is needed.  However, these can come at a significant cost and disruption to the business; organic talent growth breeds a winning mentality within a company to deliver sustainable improvements over a longer period with a higher probability of maintaining its effectiveness, which in turn becomes part of their DNA.   The Unipart Way is one such method developed and adopted by our partners which is permeating its benefits into several high-value manufacturing organisations.

Other similar models
The AME model is the UKs first faculty on the factory floor and we are pleased to be working closely with our Purdue Technology colleagues in Indiana – USA who have recently developed their model with Subaru of Indiana Automotive (SIA).  This collaboration between the UKs AME and USAs AIM has resulted in the AME’s first cohort of 2nd year students working within the SAI facility.  This will be reciprocated in 2017 with students from AIM attending Unipart’s UK facilities.  This is a real success story on a global scale and we are working to build further relationships in other regions around the globe.



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