Professor Rajat Roy has played an important role in the growth of WMG after joining the group from Birmingham University in 1981 as a research fellow tasked with setting up a team to develop simulation within industry.
To this day, simulation remains a central part of his focus, with everything from the automotive to the housing and healthcare sectors benefiting from his expertise. Initially, his team worked with Rover Group to develop a policy by which every major decision on a new product would first have to go through a simulation process.
He says: “We started to raise the profile of simulation with other companies so that we became fairly well established in the simulation world. Most manufacturing companies now have some simulation capability which did not exist in those days.”
When Professor Roy achieved his lectureship in 1989 the remit was already being widened to look at simulation within operational planning and control and general operational management. He says: “We were looking at simulation as a design tool rather than as a problem-solving technique.”
This is the key to a current simulation project under the Premium Automotive Research and Development (PARD) programme where, as a principal investigator, Professor Roy is working with Jaguar Land Rover and supply companies. The project also includes work in the area of complexity management. “In the premium sector we have to be able to personalise cars and produce a variety, but in an efficient manner. We can’t just apply lean principles, because we need to produce what different customers want.”
Over the years it has become apparent to Professor Roy that that many industries could learn from the best practices of the manufacturing sector. In the 1990s, with backing from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, he embarked on a major project with Westbury Homes aimed at improving quality, build-times and customer choice. “The industry was very traditional and producer-focused rather than customer-focused, with no real concept of quality, “ he says. The result was a panel system of building called Space4, based at a new factory in Castle Bromwich which was capable of producing more than 5,000 houses a year.
More recently, Professor Roy has added the health service to his portfolio, with projects at Warwick Hospital looking at patient throughput, and in Birmingham, looking at organisation of pathology services. The new Digital Laboratory at WMG, enabling customers to be involved in the design of a huge range of products and processes, will boost Professor Roy’s work further.
Professor Roy was a member of the EPSRC College of Peers for many years, and has served on EPSRC and DTI’s Technology Programme panels. Indian-born Professor Roy came to Birmingham University in 1973, where he met Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya. He was the first director of the WMG Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre, set up in 2001.