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With a finger on the future

Leena Gupta |

Manufacturing and engineering are thriving sectors at the heart of any economy. They generate jobs, promote economic growth and increase global trade. Manufacturing engineers therefore play a vital role in integrating technology and management within the sector to achieve added value and deliver superior performance.

The Government of India’s Make in India initiative is encouraging domestic and international companies to make products in the country. For students wishing to forge a career in this sector enlisting on programmes that give them up-to-date skills is paramount.

In this background, it is significant that the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland, is offering a unique two-year Master’s course in advanced manufacture (technology and systems) that combines cutting-edge teaching expertise with productive industrial links. Another unique feature of the course is that students undertake an individual and group project. For group projects, students have the opportunity to work with fellow students and an industrial client to address a practical problem.

They gain direct industry experience, develop skills and manage a project through to completion. Previous students have worked with organisations such as Rolls Royce, BAE Systems and the Weir Group. On the other hand, for individual projects, students have the opportunity to combine the skills learned in other course modules and apply them to an industry-involved or funded project within a specific area of manufacturing.

During this interview, Paul Blackwell, manufacturing theme leader within the department of designing and engineering, director at the Advanced Forming Research Centre, University of Strathclyde, spoke on the programme, changes in the manufacturing sector down the years and opportunities for prospective students.


Q How is the advanced manufacture (technology and systems) course at the University, unique and one-of-a-kind?

This course is one of the few of its kind in the UK and the only one in Scotland and is based within the department of design, manufacture and engineering management — the only department in the UK combining end-to-end expertise from creative design, through engineering design, manufacture and management of the entire system. It is jointly run with the Advanced Forming Research Centre, a £35 million facility forming and forging technologies to support the development of high integrity components.

The AFRC is one of seven elite centres that form the UK High Value Manufacturing Catapult, which is the catalyst for the future growth and success of manufacturing in the UK. Students on this course are able to get hands-on experience with a range of cutting-edge technology.

The course is also distinctive because of its breadth — the syllabus covers both manufacturing, design and management topics that range from emerging technologies (like micro-manufacturing) to established process improvement techniques (like design of experiments and lean six-sigma). Consequently graduates acquire the knowledge to work in many different industry sectors.

Q With newer technologies such as 3D printing, advanced forming and increased automation being developed worldwide, how has the arena of manufacturing changed in the last decade?

The arena of manufacturing is changing quickly. We are seeing an increasing acceptance of 3D printed products even in markets that require high integrity performance such as aerospace. Automation is already wellestablished in many industries, notably automotive assembly.

However, this is now being extended into other manufacturing sectors as the push for Industry 4.0 moves forward. Another aspect of this is increased process monitoring to facilitate full traceability for parts through the entire manufacturing process.

This generates large amounts of data that are challenging to analyse — new approaches for this are currently under examination.

Q How do the advanced machinery and equipment that the students get to use at AFRC, help them to meet global industrial standards?

The AFRC contains a variety of leading manufacturing equipment. The knowledge gained from the research carried out at the AFRC working with a range of global industrial players is fed back into the subject matter of the taught course to ensure that it reflects current best practices.

Q What are the varied career options for students after pursuing this course?

There are many options for industry careers for graduates of this course from aerospace to automotive. Some of our graduates have gone on to work for leading international engineering companies, including Rolls-Royce and Babcock. The course also forms an excellent basis for further work on an engineering doctorate or for a student that then goes on to work in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership.

Q With the field of Advanced Manufacture picking up pace, what are the openings in manufacturing research?

In the UK there are many opportunities to pursue a career in manufacturing research. Jobs are available at the seven major research centres within the High Value Manufacturing Catapult of which AFRC is one. There are also opportunities at a range of universities that are working in manufacturing research like the newlyformed Royce centre at Manchester.

The job market in the main original equipment manufacturers and the supply chain is also healthy for individuals with a strong degree behind them.

Q How does the teaching staff at the University make this experience an enriching one?

Strathclyde University is one of the UK’s leading centres for manufacturing research, consequently many of the lecturers are internationallyacknowledged experts in the topics being taught (like micro-manufacturing, remanufacturing, CAD/CAM, forming and forging). This background allows the staff to illustrate theory with practical examples of the applications and the limitations of the technologies being covered.

Q How do your industrial links aid the opportunities that the students get after completion of the course?

The University works with a wide range of companies, both large and small across a considerable range of market sectors. The university is often approached to recommend students for jobs after graduation and also works hard to place students into industrial companies during the summer recess and for longer-term internships. This has proved an excellent route to job offers after graduation for those involved.

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