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Ian Riggs: Self-Assessment Tools for Supplier Selection in Automotive Industry

Ian was sponsored by his employers during his time on the EngD programme. He had joined Northampton-based Cosworth Technology, a supplier of engine services to the automotive industry and which had recently been taken over by Volkswagen, in 1999. The potential benefits of the EngD programmes were two-fold: As with many other European companies, employees were expected to have high-level academic qualifications in order to further their career, and the doctorate allowed Ian, Cosworth's Quality Director, to tackle a continuing problem - standards within the supply chain.

For Ian, who approached WMG to discuss doctorate opportunities, the EngD seemed ideal because it was "something I could line up with my day job". He says: "A doctorate is a four year commitment. Within that time a lot happens in business and you don't know how your own position is going to change. Also a traditional PhD is just one piece of work. The advantage of the EngD was that it was flexible enough to allow me to carry out a series of smaller projects and gain a qualification even while things were changing in the business".

The title of Ian's doctorate project was 'Supplier Selection Using Performance Self Selection Reporting in the Automotive Industry'. At the time, firms within the automotive industry were looking increasingly to China and Eastern Europe for suppliers. However they did not always have the resources to send employees to audit or assess potential suppliers. Despite an effort by the industry to raise standards, he felt that "this was not guaranteeing quality products and was also costing the industry a lot of money". He says: "The aim therefore was to come up with a process for evaluating suppliers to the organisation that would be more effective than current industrial practice. We needed to look at what else we could do to assess and more effectively measure a supplier's potential in terms of quality but not add more cost to the supply-chain".

The outcome of Ian's EngD was a self-assessment tool which enabled suppliers to give real performance data. This meant that the initial work of assessing potential suppliers oculd be done by email rather than sending staff abroadd. Such time-consuming and expensive trips would only be necessary once a shortlist was made best on the assessments. The tool was used very successfully within Cosworth and other companies within the automotive and aerospace industries have since adopted it.

Ian worked for several companies in the automotive industry before joining Cosworth and later joined Rolls-Royce in Derby where he is now Quality Director for gas turbine operations. He says the experience of the module son the EngD and the acquisition of research skills has had a continued influence on his work. "If you have a problem and you are thinkging: 'How am I going to fix this?', you are better equipped to justify your approach". He says: "I feel that people who already have industrial experience get the most out of it and also have so much to contribute".

"In some ways a PhD can be a bit lonely, but with an EngD you are working with people from different enviromnents and there are many networking opportunities. It is very challenging and there is lots of synergy".

Ian Riggs