By Professor Lenny Koh, University of Sheffield
51 industry and academic experts gathered in the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in July 2014, exploring supply chain challenges during a half-day workshop that also introduced the Advanced Resource Efficiency Centre (AREC).
AREC is a facility planned by the University of Sheffield to bring together a number of existing research centres with new, dedicated people, facilities and equipment to enable collaborative work between academia and industry to create the supply chain of the future.
The brainchild of Professor Lenny Koh, AREC has been ten years in the making. It has been designed to build on the model successfully executed by the AMRC in the manufacturing space that brings together industry partners, relevant academic departments and funding to create innovative research and commercial opportunities.
Political institutions understand the risks to critical resources and the importance of supply chains
To achieve sustainability objectives industry cannot work in isolation. There is a need for collaborative planning and development that sees industry, regulators, Government and academia working together to establish and promote sustainable innovations.
The UK Government is already committed to providing support to the UK’s 4.8 million Small and Medium Sized Businesses (SMEs), developing an environment in which small companies can flourish (HM Treasury 2011).
However it is not just SMEs that require support. Large firms require support to understand unsustainable processes within their supply chains. The European Commission’s 2011 report “A Resource Efficient Europe” highlights the importance of understanding the risks to resources such as rare earths; energy; and water (Commission of the European Union 2011). The complex nature of supply chains, and the scale and spread across which they operate requires co-operation at local, regional, national, and international levels.
The 2012 “Resource Security Action Plan” from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) states: “Government’s objective is to bring better resource use criteria into the mainstream, so they are routinely included in the range of minimum and best practice product standards”
The long-term vision to achieve this objective is set out, stating:
“The Government is putting innovation and research at the heart of its growth agenda through greater investment and increased collaboration”.
Getting it right
We know from extensive research and partner feedback that there are several capabilities that businesses want including:
Better use of evidence based decision-making and mathematical modelling.
Making a step change or breakthrough in the capability of supply chains to meet future needs.
Creating a comprehensively budgeted approach to the real value of resources.
Innovation through collaboration.
Moving beyond silos and using inter-disciplinary approaches to generate innovation
The future is not about a supply chain competing against another supply chain. The future is about a resource sustainable supply chain competing against another resource sustainable supply chain. A more effective and efficient use of resources will lead to a more sustainable future. AREC will focus on the supply chain that delivers material and resources to manufacturers, developing tools, methods and processes to map and improve the management of supply chains.
AREC is leading in thematic areas where the University of Sheffield has deep expertise
The University of Sheffield has a number of departments, facilities, and respected and experienced academics in key areas including
Advanced materials and manufacturing
Energy and nuclear
AREC has a very strong track record working with Engineering and understanding industry needs. AREC partners with industry leaders such as Rolls-Royce, TATA Steel, Sheffield Forgemasters, Panalpina, and important bodies such as the Minor Metals Trade Association, The Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, Innovate UK KTN. AREC collaborates in materials and manufacturing R&D across a number of departments, notably Materials Science & Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical & Biological Engineering and Electrical & Electronic Engineering. The broad and interdisciplinary nature of our work is enriched by collaborations with science departments such as Chemistry and Physics & Astronomy delivering the highest quality fundamental research, whilst development at higher technology readiness levels includes the participation of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing, Mercury Centre, Nano Sorby Centre and the Logistics and Supply Chain Management Research Centre.
Getting involved with AREC
AREC offers a number of benefits to partners, including access to innovation, funding, facilities and world class modelling capabilities. In particular, AREC can help reduce the costs of innovating and enhancing capability through leveraging the University’s experience in obtaining matched funding, where the private sector, University and government funding bodies all contribute to project opportunities that have a clear business case and investment rationale, and are expected to create innovation and commercial opportunities.
Partners that join AREC will begin to design project opportunities to address their sectoral challenges and priorities, build partnerships with the University and other firms and agree collaborative business models.
Professor Lenny Koh, BEng (Hons), PhD, FRSA, is a Chair Professor in Operations Management, Founders and Directors of the Logistics and Supply Chain Management (LSCM) Research Centre at the Management School, the Faculty’s Centre for Energy, Environment and Sustainability (CEES) & the Advanced Resource Efficiency Centre (AREC) of The University of Sheffield, UK. She has been an Associate Dean for 5 years. She is also the co-founder of Supply Chain Management and Information Systems (SCMIS) Consortium, a global network of leading academic and practitioners driving research and knowledge exchange on supply chain and information systems. A world-leading mind recognised amongst FRSs and Nobel Laureates within the University, Professor Koh is a Senior Chair Professor and an internationally renowned and established authority in supply chain especially on low carbon and sustainability, with high H-index (World number 2) and high research income generation in her discipline internationally. She is a Cross-Cutting Chief of a 2022 Futures initiative for advancing supply chain resource sustainability, with a new translational model for connecting invention/basic science at lower TRL to higher TRL.