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Engineering Modelling Methods to Support Outsourcing Decisions


About This PhD Project

Project Description

Increasingly aerospace OEMs are system integrators rather than aircraft manufacturers, outsourcing large elements of system design and production to risk-sharing partners. Business tools exist to interact and manage an established supply chain however these lack engineering models which are predictive of the core design and manufacturing activities, focusing more on supply chain logistics and economics. The benefit of predictive modelling is to gain better understanding of the cost and risk implications of outsourcing decisions. Opportunity therefore exists to improve outsourcing decisions by incorporating predictive engineering models which can simulate the influence of design on manufacture and the resultant impact on production time and cost.

The aim of this project is to create and demonstrate engineering modelling methods which can support outsourcing decisions, by simulating potential supply chain engineering activities, integrated with logistic and economic models.

To use engineering tools to capture an actual supply chain, with real complexity and full connectivity between elements, is non-trivial and requires a focused research effort. Open questions remain on modelling fidelity, how best to represent production processes, how to model with limited data, time and resource? By answering these challenging questions and creating efficient modelling tools valuable business knowledge can be gained; How does design influence supply chain performance? How should a supply chain be constructed to achieve best cost, maximise flexibility or resilience?

The project will be undertaken in partnership will Bombardier Aerospace, Belfast (BAB). BAB is a recognised leader in the design, manufacture and certification of advanced composite components, and has been developed as Bombardier's global centre of excellence for composite technologies. BAB manufacture the primary structural components of the C Series aircraft composite wing. Directly BAB is a major manufacturing employer and a considerable UK exporter, and indirectly the company has an extensive national and international manufacturing supply chain. The student will work closely with BAB, embedded within its core functions as required by the project phases. The student will regularly present their research progress to a Vice President and when appropriate to the BAB Board. The student will also be expected to visit national and international BAB suppliers and participate in the international technical community by attending relevant conferences in North America, Europe and Asia. It is also expected that the student will develop technical papers for leading journals within the research field.

This PhD project is one of several fully-funded studentships which are available within the Doctoral Training Centre in Simulation Intent. The Centre brings together complementary expertise to provide a training programme to develop technical knowledge and professional skills, aimed at preparing the students for their career as future engineering leaders. It also provides a supportive, team environment to undertake research and a wide network of industrial and academic collaborators, enabling students to understand how industry foresees its future engineering and technology needs.

Key skills required for the post:
Applicants must have a degree in mechanical or aerospace engineering, or an equivalent qualification at
Masters level. Candidates should be able to demonstrate that they are highly motivated, have excellent communication skills, be able to work in a team and undertake challenging tasks using their own initiative. Any experience relevant to manufacturing, engineering modelling or programming would be advantageous, but is not essential.

Key transferable skills that will be developed during the PhD:
This research project will enable the successful student to acquire valuable experience of aerospace procurement and manufacturing, state-of-the-art knowledge on process modelling and advanced skills in aircraft design. All of which are highly sought after within the aerospace industry and beyond. The project will use a combination of advanced commercial simulation tools, validating their predictive capability against real industrial data.

The training approach utilised in the Doctoral Training Centre is specifically targeted to enable PhD graduates to secure very high quality employment in leading companies. Training areas will include four domains encompassing; knowledge & intellectual abilities, personal effectiveness, research governance & organisation, engagement influence & impact.

First/Lead Supervisor and their contact details : Dr Adrian Murphy, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 4095, Email
Second Supervisor and their contact details: Dr Joe Butterfield, Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 4878, Email

Top up available for this project? Yes, The studentship covers the full university fees and includes an income of up to £18,500 per annum (comprising a £17,000 stipend and the opportunity to undertake teaching and demonstration duties to earn a further 1,500 GBP per annum).

Linked to DTC? Yes, Doctoral Training Centre in Simulation Intent.

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