13th Jan 1999
For immediate release
Received wisdom now dictates that Britain is a country which 'doesn't make anything anymore', that it has become economically reliant on the services it provides rather than the goods it produces. But this perception is challenged by a team of researchers from Sussex and Brighton Universities who, together with their major industrial partners, are leading the way to a renaissance in British manufacturing thinking by illustrating the success of a little-recognised asset - our Complex Product Systems (or 'CoPS').
Closing the loop between academic research and business practice, the CoPS team works with major companies, including Ericsson, C&W, Rolls-Royce, Thomson, Oxford Instruments and BAA to develop strategies for improving the competitiveness of the UK's CoPS. These so-called CoPS are the hidden backbone of the modern economy, and they represent an important competitive asset for the UK.
CoPS are very high value products, systems, constructs, software packages, capital goods and networks, usually involving a great deal of software and information technology. Examples include flight simulators, telecommunications exchanges, virtual reality equipment, cryogenic magnets, intelligent buildings, aircraft engines, internet super-servers and many other high technology capital goods. Major CoPS producers contribute approximately 11 % of UK GDP, employing between 1.4 million and 3 million people.
CoPS production is fundamentally different from the mass-production of standard goods such as cars, camcorders or household electronics. Each CoPS is likely to be a specially designed one-off, created for a specific customer by highly skilled people often working as a temporary team. Although CoPS are vital to the UK's production base, increasingly producers must find new ways of innovating in design, manufacturing and service support to keep their place as world leaders.
To identify international 'best practices', the CoPS Innovation Centre was set up jointly by Professor Michael Hobday (Sussex) and Professor Howard Rush (Brighton). "The UK is at an internationally advanced stage and we should be looking forward to building on these strengths," says Michael Hobday, "but we need to map and measure them and see what makes these industries tick." The team has been scrutinising common pitfalls in CoPS production, including the failure to account for unpredictable 'emerging' events. "One of the biggest problems is that most management thinking and tools assume that people behave in a rational manner and the informal 'human' side is often neglected." The Centre has developed tools to reconcile official 'hard' systems with the creative 'soft' needs of people working on CoPS projects.
Building on its growing reputation, the Centre has just reached an agreement to analyse and 'capture' the management practices of the Millennium Dome and the 2002 New Commonwealth Stadium in Manchester. The teams's work is putting the UK on the high technology design and manufacturing map of the future.
For further information on the industrial partnership programme, please contact Professor Michael Hobday, SPRU, University of Sussex, tel. 01273 678177, email firstname.lastname@example.org, Professor Howard Rush, CENTRIM (Centre for Research into Innovation Management), University of Brighton, tel. 642188, email H.J.Rush@bton.ac.uk or Sally Hall, Information Office, University of Sussex, Tel. 01273 678888, Fax 01273 678335. Website: http://www.susx.ac.uk/spru/cops.