Category Archives: Summer 2017 issue


Continuous Improvement in Industry

Organisations which prioritise the continual improvement and innovation of their existing practices often use Lean[1] processes such as Continuous Improvement (CI) cells[2].

Continuous Improvement cells are a work improvement technique, which originated from the concept of Quality Circles[3]. The main benefits of adopting this approach can include productivity improvement, cost savings, safety improvements, workforce engagement and work quality improvement, all of which can lead to significant benefits for industry.

Working with industry


The Innovative Design Lab Research Centre (IDL) at the University of Huddersfield focuses on solving real world problems by working with organisations to develop solutions to design challenges and project based problems.

In 2016 IDL researched the benefits and challenges of Continuous Improvement cells with four organisations: Highways England, a design service supplier, a construction service supplier from the highways supply chain and Network Rail. The research was funded by Highways England.

Impact of CI cells

The research identified many benefits of CI cells at Highways England, in the highways supply chain and at Network Rail. These include improvements in team and supply chain coordination; team building and coaching; and task and resource management.  Particularly significant statistics include 165% improvement in the mean staff engagement scores when comparing Highways England’s outstations which use CI cells with those that do not.  A 14% productivity increase in one team was estimated based on their planning reliability records after their CI cell implementation.

Buyuk takim celli 2

The research also revealed a number of challenges, in the area of systematic data recording prior to adoption of the technique, knowledge about what to measure, standardisation and implementing continuous improvement.

Improving CI cells in the Highways Supply Chain

The research team developed a series of suggestions based mainly on the challenges they identified with current practices:

CI cell training: basic Lean training was recommended in order to raise awareness as well as introducing standard terminology and practices.

CI cell execution: in order to improve this particular aspect a number of suggestions were made, including systematic problem solving and standardising CI cell board design and execution.

CI cell benefit recording: a set of measures can be introduced so that teams know exactly what to record and measure and a better comparison is made across the board

CI cell incentivisation: in order to keep teams’ focus on continuous improvement it was suggested that an incentivisation programme between and within teams could be introduced.

Future CI cell research

Continuous Improvement cells by their very nature are always looking for new ways to improve processes and remove constraints to delivery. As part of this research IDL recommended further research, which included identifying the critical success factors by investigating why some teams are successful and others are not. Further understanding of which factors lead to better job satisfaction and evaluating how the programme could be improved were also recommended. Comparison of the performance over a period of six months of at least two similar teams, one using CI cells and the other not and evaluating the impact on their KPIs (key performance indicators) and team engagement is a future research opportunity, along with investigating where teams are allocating their saved resources through their CI cell practices and how they are being used.

Lucia Fullalove, Lean Collaborative Research Manager at Highways England who funded the research, commented:

“It is important to ensure that results from the Lean Collaborative Research are tried and incorporated into the work practices so that benefits identified by the research work can be fully realised. This will reinforce the usefulness of the research in supporting delivery of the Lean contribution to the RIS (Roads Investment Savings) at Highways England.

“Indeed, it is my experience with work in the HE Supply Chain (e.g. Manchester Smart Motorway) that all areas where I witnessed CI cells deployment have demonstrated improvements in the areas identified in the research. In addition, team members felt empowered and as a result were more pro-active in taking necessary actions to remove constraints identified in their work activities to improve or allow timely work delivery.”

[1] Alarcón, L. (1997). Lean construction. CRC Press.

[2] Miron, Luciana, Talebi, Saeed, Koskela, Lauri and Tezel, Algan (2016) Evaluation of Continuous Improvement Programmes. In: 24th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction, 18th – 24th July 2016, Boston, USA. (


Mega construction projects of scales of this nature will undoubtedly benefit my mainstreaming DRR in their construction processes

Disaster Resilience in Construction Education and Research

The past decade has seen a concentration of disaster events causing major social, economic and financial impacts. In order to tackle these increasing losses, the Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction 2015–2030[1], endorsed by 187 UN states in 2015, promotes disaster risk reduction practices.

There has been growing recognition that the construction industry and associated built environment professions are a vital component of this capacity. The scale, size and impact of the built environment cannot be ignored. In the UK for example, construction is one of the largest sectors of the economy. It contributes almost £90 billion to the UK economy (or 6.7%) in value added, comprises over 280,000 businesses covering some 2.93 million jobs, which is equivalent to about 10% of total UK employment[2]. It generates about 9% of gross domestic product (GDP) in the European Union and provides 18 million direct jobs.

Mega construction projects of scales of this nature will undoubtedly benefit my mainstreaming DRR in their construction processes
Mega construction projects of scales of this nature will undoubtedly benefit my mainstreaming DRR in their construction processes

The United Nations has issued a stark warning to the world’s business community that economic losses linked to disasters are “out of control” and will continue to escalate unless disaster risk management becomes a core part of business investment strategies.


In recognition of these challenges, an EU funded project entitled CADRE (Collaborative Action towards Disaster Resilience Education), was launched in 2014 and was funded by the European Commission, to identify mechanisms to mainstream disaster resilience in the construction process.

CADRE has been successful in capturing labour market requirements for disaster resilience; its interface with the construction industry and its professionals and identifying stakeholder requirements helping to mainstream disaster resilience within the construction process and thereby to identify how to integrate disaster risk reduction in construction practices.

Words into action

From left Professor Dilanthi Amaratunga and Professor Richard Haigh
From left Professor Dilanthi Amaratunga and Professor Richard Haigh

Professor Dilanthi Amaratunga and Professor Richard Haigh have been appointed to Chair a ‘Words into Action’ working group who will develop a UN guidebook on Construction Policy and Practice targeting governments, construction industry bodies and construction firms around the world to help prevent and recover from natural and man-made disasters. The guidebook will incorporate the results of the CADRE study, including thirteen key knowledge gaps and key themes identified among construction professionals as part of CADRE, and a series of recommendations to key actors in the built environment on how to more effectively mainstream disaster resilience in the construction process.

The guide will be published in early 2018 and copies will be supplied to all 187 countries that were signatories to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.  The guide is being developed in conjunction with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and with input from other construction professional bodies.

In addition, CADRE is also providing the basis for an innovative professional doctoral programme (DProf) that integrates professional and academic knowledge in the construction industry to develop societal resilience to disasters.

[1] United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (2015). Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction 2015–2030. Geneva: UNISDR.

[2] Department for Business Innovation & Skills (2013) UK Construction: An economic analysis of the sector, July 2013.


MIAMI-2 – a leading centre for the study of radiation damage in materials

MIAMI-2 has established the University of Huddersfield as one of the world’s leading centres for the use of ion beams as a tool for the investigation of issues ranging from nuclear technology and nanoparticles to semiconductors and the effects of radiation exposure on materials in space.

Hitachi engineer assembling the MIAMI-2 microscope
Hitachi engineer assembling the MIAMI-2 microscope

Europe has three transmission electron microscopes with in-situ ion beam research facilities and two of them are in Huddersfield. The first of which was MIAMI-1 – standing for Microscope and Ion Accelerator for Materials Investigations – designed and built by Professor Steve Donnelly, Professor Jakob van den Berg and Dr Jonathan Hinks.

From left Dr Jonathan Hinks and Professor Steve Donnelly
From left Dr Jonathan Hinks and Professor Steve Donnelly
Professor Jakob Van den Berg
Professor Jakob Van den Berg

MIAMI-1 is a bespoke combination of a 100 keV ion accelerator with a 200 keV electron microscope enabling nanoscale investigation of radiation damage. Now it has now been joined by the more powerful, versatile and much larger MIAMI-2 which has dual ion-beams and greatly-enhanced analytical capabilities.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) awarded £3.5 million for the development and construction of MIAMI-2, which has required the construction of a new storey at the laboratory complex in which it is now housed on campus.

Designed and constructed in collaboration with major companies such as, Hitachi and National Electrostatics Corporation – which have contributed major components – MIAMI-2 is already operational and will have its official launch in 2018.

Demand is high to use MIAMI-2 and will increase even further now that the University of Huddersfield has become one of the three UK universities to form the UK National Ion Beam Centre (UKNIBC) funded to the tune of £8.8 million – again by EPSRC.

The MIAMI-2 team consists of six members of academic staff plus two PhD researchers – rising to four in September with more studentships being advertised – and is currently mastering the complex new facility and its exceptional potential.

MIAMI-1 allows researchers to observe radiation damage on the nanoscale as it is happening but now MIAMI-2 brings additional capabilities in terms of analytical techniques. This means that they can irradiate, observe and analyse all at the same time generating a huge volume of invaluable scientific data in a very efficient manner.

Although scientists from elsewhere in the UK and overseas are already making extensive use of MIAMI-2, the University of Huddersfield’s own researchers will also take full advantage of the facility.

Currently, the largest area of activity at Huddersfield is nuclear technology with projects and international collaborations on both structural materials for reactors and solutions for waste storage. However, this group of researchers have historically worked with semiconductors and among the range of projects in which they are currently engaged are two PhD students studying nanowires and other types of nanoparticles. A further area of research is materials that have been in space or which are going into space; the hope is to understand the impact of the radiation they are exposed to and to develop a greater understanding of the history of the cosmos.


Celebrating the Brontӫs

In Victorian Britain the writing of the Brontӫs was considered by some to be scandalous, uncouth and coarse. Over the years their writing has become sanitised and Dr Michael Stewart is re-engaging with their legacy in order to shed new light on their life and work. He is focussing on what is wild and savage about their writing and exploring the world outside of Wuthering Heights.

Ill Will

Ill Will book cover

Dr Michael Stewart’s creative writing has received many awards and accolades and his latest work is inspired by the Brontӫs. Wuthering Heights was originally published in 1848 and Dr Stewart’s latest novel Ill Will considers what happens when Heathcliff runs off in the storm. It explains the missing years and how he turned from an uncouth stable boy to a gentleman psychopath.

Dr Stewart’s research for Ill Will included consulting various archives, such as The Liverpool Maritime Museum and the slavery archives at Liverpool City Library, as well as speaking with historians from the Liverpool Record Office, the Peel Group and Chetham’s Library in Manchester.

During the writing of the book, Dr Stewart walked hundreds of miles across the Yorkshire Moors and from Top Withens, the inspiration for the location of Wuthering Heights, to Liverpool docks. He re-enacted the walk that Mr Earnshaw took in 1771, which resulted in him returning with Heathcliff.

As part of the book launch Dr Stewart shared proof copies at the Bradford Literature Festival on 8 July 2017. HarperCollins is publishing the hardback in early 2018 and the paperback later in the year and Dr Stewart is currently negotiating film and television rights.

The Brontӫ Stones

Funding has been secured from the Arts Council and Bradford Council for a trail of engraved stones commemorating the bicentenaries of the birth of the Brontӫs. Dr Stewart is leading on this project called the ‘Brontӫ Stones’, which will see a stone each for Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell Brontӫ. The Charlotte Stone will be placed in the wall of the birthplace in Thornton; the Emily Stone will be placed in the middle of Thornton Moor overlooking Oxenhope; the Anne Stone will be placed in the meadow at the back of the Parsonage in Haworth and the fourth stone will be a hidden stone.

The stones will be carved with specially commissioned writing from some of the most prestigious writers in the country, including Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay and Jeanette Winterson. The stones will be in place in 2018 and there will be a series of walks, events, and talks organised around the stones. These events will be aimed at readers, writers and walkers and there will be school and college projects to engage with young people.

The Brontӫ Stones and the book Ill Will, will both be part of a focussed marketing strategy by HarperCollins to coincide with the bicentenary of the birth of Emily Bronte in 2018.