Supporting the supermarkets to ‘smooth the spike’
"The current issues facing UK grocery supply chains, is not one of supply, but one of demand. The UK grocery retailers have sophisticated planning systems that seek to balance demand and supply. Over time, they learn seasonal patterns, the impact of promotions and other events and automatically adjust. The systems are so sophisticated that in the shorter term, they can adjust to changes in weather, for instance making sure we have the right food for our BBQs on hot days.
Need to smooth out the spike…
"The one type of demand that these systems really don’t like is unpredicted spikes in demand. Most grocery products have a relatively stable, and predictable rate of demand that the retailers can plan for. If this suddenly increases, it can take time for the supply chain to react, and move the stock that is further upstream to the shelf.
The problem at the moment is that whilst there is stock upstream in the supply chain, it is hard for the retailers to replenish it to shelf at the rate consumers are taking it. It also means that rather having stock in a warehouse, that could be used by all, the stock gets isolated in our homes, where it can only benefit an individual or their family.
Grocery retailers are taking the really sensible step of ‘rationing’ to try and smooth out these spikes. This is a really responsible reaction, and one to be commended as it will help to ensure that everyone gets the essential items they need.
Need to protect the vulnerable…
"Many in the UK have to budget carefully and only have the financial resources to buy what they need, when they need it. They can’t afford to stock pile.
Rationing should improve availability of products to all, and encourage everyone to buy at the rate that they consume. In that way we should all have access to the essential items we need.
Further measures by grocery retailers to prioritise delivery slots, and have dedicated in-store shopping slots for the elderly and vulnerable are be commended too.
What else could be done?
"Whilst UK retailers have started rationing, some are still offering promotions. Buy-one-get one-free, 3 for 2, or buy 2 for a fixed amount, all encourage consumers to buy more than they actually need.
Perhaps now is the time to stop such promotions, move to fixed pricing, to discourage purchasing more than required.
The Italian retailers are a number of weeks ahead of the UK retailers in understanding the impact of the virus on demand. It would be expected that once initial panic buying is over, when cupboards are full, replenishment will return to a more normal rate. There may be some uplift as we stay at home, and consume more in our domestic environment. Insight from the Italians, shared with UK retailers and their suppliers could help us to prepare.
With more consumers shopping online, and rationing in place, donations to food banks have fallen at a time when they are needed more than ever. Perhaps it is time to consider, how we can move food banks on-line too. Donate food, as part of our on-line shop or as a direct donation. With digital food bank vouchers, enabling the most vulnerable to get direct supply from a retailer.
These are unprecedented times. The basic principle of good supply chain management is to balance demand and supply. The UK retailers are working really hard to ensure that we have all the essential items that we need. We can help too, by buying responsibly and supporting the more vulnerable."
An Autonomous Guided Vehicle is being designed by researchers at WMG, University of Warwick in a bid to help the horticultural sector tackle a labour shortage.
The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) launched the SmartHort project in 2018 in a bid to help the sector’s economy by reducing labour requirements in horticulture through new technology and automation.
Leading automation experts from the WMG, University of Warwick are creating the model alongside three horticultural businesses; Crystal Heart Salad (lettuce propagators, Yorkshire), Valefresco (salads, Worcestershire), and WD Smith & Son (bedding plants, Essex).
The model will have the potential to work in both glasshouse and outdoor environments to automate the movement of trays and boxes around the production area, speeding up production.
Professor Robert Harrison from WMG, University of Warwick comments:
“We’ve been able to apply the cutting-edge technology developed in the automotive industry to the challenging environment of horticultural production.
“We reviewed existing AGVs to ensure there wasn’t an available product that could meet the growers’ needs, and have run a full analysis on the potential prototype to ensure the investment could be repaid through offsetting future labour costs.”
Our research teams is working on a solution to specifically address needs within the horticulture sector. Having captured the requirements, we have produced a configurable solution, which we are now progressing via prototype designs. Key aspects of the solution include the ability to work both indoors and outdoors and for it to be usable in conjunction with application-specific attachments of different types.
Grace Emeny, Knowledge Exchange Manager at AHDB, said: “With the lack of available labour an increasing pressure for many businesses, there is a growing need to automate more routine tasks to enable staff to be reallocated to more skilled jobs.
“There are two main barriers that prevent the uptake of automation. Many off-the shelf solutions don’t work for diverse horticulture production systems and often the return on investment doesn’t stack up in the current trading climate. WMG were tasked with addressing both of these challenges, which we believe they are well on their way to achieving.”
The overall goal is for the prototype to be developed commercially and is likely to cost around £30,000 to £50,000 depending on its configuration. So it’s available to all kinds of businesses in the sector.
James Bean, Crystal Heart Salad Co. comments:
“WMG have made several visits to our nursery. They have carried out a study of our logistics and have identified a design of autonomous vehicle which can improve efficiency and remove low-skilled manual tasks.
“We are excited to see this move to the next stage, to conduct real-life tests of the technology. If it fulfils expectations, it will make a fundamental change to our business.”
Grace added: “We know horticulture is at the forefront of a digital revolution in farming and our SmartHort programme is designed to help connect growers with automation and robotics experts to help accelerate innovation. This project demonstrates the potential opportunities available from matching skills outside horticulture to meet the needs of the industry.”
The project is being funded by AHDB and match-funded by Innovate-UK-backed High Value Manufacturing Catapult.
To find out more about the SmartHort Automation Challenge, visit www.ahdb.org.uk/smarthort
WMG was delighted to support STEM for Britain 2020 earlier this week for the fourth consecutive year.
STEM for Britain is a poster competition with five categories including Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Engineering, Mathematical Sciences and Physics. It took place at the Houses of Parliament bringing together early career researchers and MPs from across the UK.
This prestigious annual event is an important date in the parliamentary calendar because it gives MPs an opportunity to speak directly to some of the UK’s brightest young researchers.
Professor David Mullins, WMG Head of Department (interim) said: “This is the only event in the year that brings together really creative, really intelligent and passionate, young PhD and early career research students.
“We are delighted and honoured that WMG was able to sponsor the engineering element along with the Royal Academy of Engineering.”
He added: “For MPs it’s a really inspiring event. They get the chance to see the work coming out and how issues including climate change and healthy aging are being addressed. These young people are our future.”
Stephen Metcalfe MP and Chairman - Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, said: “These early career engineers, mathematicians and scientists are the architects of our future and STEM for BRITAIN is politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work.”
Greg Clark MP, Chair of Science and Technology Select Committee, explained: “It is a growing field that will have a huge impact on millions of people. STEM research will change the lives of our generation and of generations to come.”
Four University of Warwick students Jake Brooks (School of Engineering), Fabienne Bachtiger (Computational Chemistry), Robert Richardson (School of Chemistry) and Jonathan Harrison (Mathematics Institute) presented posters at the event.
- Current Physiotherapy techniques require patients to complete exercises at home, which doesn’t include much guidance
- Virtual reality (VR) combined with 3D Motion capture could allow movements to be translated onto an avatar the patient can follow, thanks to researchers at WMG, University of Warwick
- Consumer VR technologies can be used for both providing guidance to physiotherapy exercises, but also to make the exercises more interesting and encourage people to complete the course they need Virtual reality could help physiotherapy patients complete their exercises at home successfully thanks to researchers at WMG, University of Warwick, who managed to combine VR technology with 3D motion capture.
Currently prescribed physiotherapy often requires patients to complete regular exercises at home. Outside of the clinic, patients rarely receive any guidance other than a leaflet of sketches or static photographs to instruct them how to complete their exercises. This leads to poor adherence, with patients becoming anxious about not getting the exercise right, or simply getting bored by the repetitiveness of the movements.
The advent of consumer virtual reality technology combined with 3D motion capture allows real movements to be accurately translated onto an avatar that can be viewed in a virtual environment. Researchers at the Institute of Digital Healthcare, WMG, University of Warwick are investigating whether this technology can be used to provide guidance to physiotherapy patients, by providing a virtual physiotherapist in the home to demonstrate the prescribed exercises.
Their paper, ‘Timing and correction of stepping movements with a virtual reality avatar’ published today the 28th of February, in the Journal PLOS ONE, has focused on whether people are able to accurately follow the movements of a virtual avatar.
Researchers had to investigate whether people were able to accurately coordinate and follow the movements of an avatar in a virtual environment. They asked participants to step in time with an avatar viewed through a VR headset.
Unknown to the participants, the researchers subtly slowed down or sped up one of the avatar’s steps, such that the participants would have to correct their own stepping movement to stay in time. The effect this correction had on their step timing and synchronisation with the avatar was measured.
Lead author, Omar Khan from WMG, University of Warwick commented:
“If participants were observed to correct their own stepping to stay in time with the avatar, we knew they were able to accurately follow the movements they were observing.
“We found that participants struggled to keep in time if only visual information was present. However, when we added realistic footstep sounds in addition to the visual information, the more realistic multisensory information allowed participants to accurately follow the avatar.”
Dr Mark Elliott, Principal investigator on the project at WMG, University of Warwick added:
“There is huge potential for consumer VR technologies to be used for both providing guidance to physiotherapy exercises, but also to make the exercises more interesting. This study has focused on the crucial question of how well people can follow a virtual guide.”
Prof. Theo Arvanitis, co-author and Director of the Institute of Digital Healthcare, said:
“Our work and digitally-enabled technological solution can underpin transformative health innovations to impact the field of physiotherapy, and have a direct benefit to patients’ rehabilitation.
“We now plan to investigate other types of movements working closely in partnership with physiotherapists, to establish the areas of physiotherapy that will benefit most from this technology.”
Autonomous pods born in Coventry are now able to swarm together in a world first, thanks to research by WMG at the University of Warwick in partnership with Aurrigo and Milton Keynes council.
With the concept of driverless pods now more realistic than futuristic, the vehicles are one step closer to being put to use, as they can now help each other to drive and navigate through pedestrian areas around people.
The concept of Swarming pods was well received by the public, with the ultimate idea of using an app to hail a pod, or a platoon of pods if travelling in a group, seen as the next evolution of personal and public transport.
The pods are designed for pedestrian areas and shared spaces, so public transport can be used on highways and the pods can be used as a “first and last mile service”.
Researchers at WMG integrated Swarm intelligence into the Pods by implementing swarming skills typically used by birds and insects.
The success of ‘swarming’ means that Pods can now schedule themselves to form a ‘platoon’, following each other when possible, to minimise the number of individual vehicle movements and the need for a supervisor per pod. In the future, it’s expected that a supervisor can watch several pods and report any unexpected behaviour.
The technology also enables the Pods, working within a fleet, to automatically optimise their behaviour to meet future passenger demand by distributing themselves within a city to the areas where they will most likely be requested.
“The SWARM algorithm has been tested and is proven to be effective and reliable. The ability to make pods ‘swarm’ together like a group of bees or birds, means they can coordinate with each other, bringing them one step closer to our streets.”
Simon Brewerton, Chief Technology Officer at Aurrigo, continued:
“The collaborative SWARM algorithms have been developed to enable our autonomous vehicles to optimise their own trip schedules, so they deliver the optimum efficiency from a fleet of vehicles.
“The swarming technology is very exciting and has the potential to operate large fleets of remotely supervised autonomous vehicles in a safe and scalable way. Interest in this will be huge.”
30 JANUARY 2020
NOTES TO EDITORS
About WMG, University of Warwick
WMG is a world leading research and education group, transforming organisations and driving innovation through a unique combination of collaborative research and development, and pioneering education programmes.
As an international role model for successful partnerships between academia and the private and public sectors, WMG develops advancements nationally and globally, in applied science, technology and engineering, to deliver real impact to economic growth, society and the environment.
WMG’s education programmes focus on lifelong learning of the brightest talent, from the WMG Academies for Young Engineers, degree apprenticeships, undergraduate and postgraduate, through to professional programmes.
An academic department of the University of Warwick, and a centre for the HVM Catapult, WMG was founded by the late Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya in 1980 to help reinvigorate UK manufacturing and improve competitiveness through innovation and skills development.
Aurrigo, which created ten new jobs over the last twelve months, has seen demand for its driverless pods soar following the successful completion of major trials in the UK and across the world proved that its technology can deliver safe and efficient ‘first and last mile’ transport solutions.
Sales have come from customers in Australia, Canada, Finland, Singapore and the US, with the latest deal seeing one of its ‘Pod Zeros’ heading to China, a potential landmark moment for the Coventry-based business.
This growth takes its annual sales up to £4.2m and, with a strong pipeline of future orders in place, the company is predicting a further £6m of contracts between now and the end of 2020.
High-res images available credit to WMG, University of Warwick at: https://warwick.ac.uk/services/communications/medialibrary/images/january2020/xt2a0013.jpg
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:
Media Relations Manager – Science
University of Warwick
Tel: +44 (0) 2476 574 255 or +44 (0) 7920 531 221
Professor Carsten Maple will be presenting at the Facial Recognition and Biometrics - Technology and Ethics conference at the Royal Society on Wednesday (29 January).
Professor Maple joins an inspiring line-up of speakers including Elizabeth Denham CBE, UK Information Commissioner, Matthew Ryder QC, Matrix Chambers and Carly Kind, Director, Ada Lovelace Institute, to present to guests from parliament, industry and the research community.
Facial recognition, and other forms of biometric technologies, are being rapidly developed, and deployed by both the public and private sectors. These technologies promise significant benefits for individuals and institutions, but may also be increasing used in policing and forensics. Questions arise about standards, ethics, privacy, and public acceptability of these technologies across different potential applications.
Find more information and register to attend here.
As a result of the Cybersecurity Feasibility Studies competition WMG has been named as a partner in three key government-funded cybersecurity projects.
The Competition was launched in August 2019 and called for the automotive industry to submit their ideas on how to create a robust cybersecurity solution to support the mainstream rollout of CAVs across the UK and ensure a solution that both addresses and informs the expectations of significant emerging cybersecurity industry standards. It has been spearheaded by government-led entities including Zenzic, Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Department for Transport (DfT). Some £2million will now be invested in the seven separate projects.
WMG at the University of Warwick will be part of the project consortiums for ResiCAV, BearCAT and PNT Cyber Resilience.
ResiCAV looks at how the mobility industry will detect, understand and respond to emerging cybersecurity threats in real-time.
The ResiCAV consortium will receive a grant to help CAVs develop real-time responsiveness to cybersecurity threats. The consortium will set out the requirements and specifications for Vehicle Security Operations Centres (VSOCs) that support the monitoring demands of the forthcoming ISO/SAE 21434, plus extend the application of artificial intelligence and data visualisation techniques. Finally, ResiCAV will deliver the requirements for a UK road transport Cybersecurity Centre of Excellence to support the UK’s position of meeting the global challenge of automotive cybersecurity head on.
Combining cross-sector expertise, it will be delivered by a consortium led by HORIBA MIRA, Thales and BT, with further support from WMG at the University of Warwick, the Centre for Modelling & Simulation (CFMS), Oxfordshire County Council, AESIN Techworks, plus the University of South Wales, the University of Bristol, Coventry University and the National Digital Exploitation Centre (NDEC).
Professor Carsten Maple said: "We are delighted to be the academic partner in the ResiCAV consortium. The project will make a real difference to ensuring the cyber resilience of connected and autonomous vehicles both in engineering and operation. We will bring our academic rigour to the project, helping to formalise the methodology, and developing the requirements and advancing the technology in machine learning to support monitoring of vehicles in operation."
"BeARCAT brings together a strong consortium of WMG, Telefonica, Millbrook and the lead, Cisco. The project will investigate the feasibility of a coherent, holistic approach to cybersecurity testing for connected vehicle networks. Our main contribution to this work will be the development of a Security Assessment Framework for the testing of connected vehicles, taking advantage of our vast experience and knowledge acquired over a number of recent projects in the area," explains Professor Maple.
PNT Cyber Resilience
For PNT Cyber Resilience WMG researchers, led by Dr Matthew Higgins, Professor Paul Jennings and Professor Tim Watson, will be working alongside Spirent Communications investigating positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) products and services to demonstrate and determine the feasibility of a new observer-based technique to 'attack' and test CAV PNT-related functions in both controlled and real-world scenarios.
Find more information about WMG’s Intelligent Vehicles research here.
The ability to reuse high numbers of Electric Vehicle Lithium Ion batteries for domestic and industrial use is becoming a reality for Nissan thanks to a new grading system developed by researchers at WMG, University of Warwick.
Once EV batteries have fulfilled their life-span for automotive applications, they are usually recycled by the manufacturer. However many automotive Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries have enough life left in them after the car is scrapped for ‘second-life’ uses both domestically and industrially.
To do this, it is necessary to “grade” the used batteries – identifying those suitable for use as spare parts, those suitable for “second life”, and those suitable for recycling of materials. This grading process is traditionally a long and expensive process.
Car company Nissan were keen to explore ways to make a much faster grading process for their used Li-ion batteries from the Nissan LEAF – allowing re-use of old battery packs or modules instead of disposing or recycling them.
They were challenged to demonstrate 1MWh of energy storage by the end of 2019.
Part-funded by BEIS (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) the ‘UK Energy Storage Laboratory’ project was launched, where 50 Nissan LEAF batteries were used to develop the existing grading process led by Nissan, WMG at the University of Warwick, AMETEK and Element Energy.
WMG’s battery technology experts in the Energy Innovation Centre developed a safe, robust and fast methodology for used automotive Lithium-ion batteries, at pack level. This methodology, which was initially developed in WMG, was successfully transferred to a pilot second-life facility, where the target of 1MWh of second-life energy storage was achieved.
In addition, the team at WMG developed ways of grading modules – the sub-components of battery packs in as little as 3 minutes – a process which previously took over 3 hours.
Graded second-life battery packs can provide reliable and convenient energy storage options to a range of customers: from electric roaming products – providing electricity for customers on the move, to home storage products – enabling customers with solar panels to store their energy generated. More crucially, the packs can be used for storage allowing increased intermittent renewable energy sources on the grid, without putting security of supply at risk.
Professor David Greenwood from WMG, University of Warwick comments:
“Automotive batteries deliver some great environmental benefits, but they consume a lot of resources in doing so. Opening up a second life for batteries improves both the environmental and the economic value we draw from those resources before they need recycling. I’m delighted that by working with the partners in this project, we’ve been able to make it much easier to access those second life applications.”
Business and Climate Change Minister, Lord Ian Duncan, said:
“It’s great to hear that the University of Warwick and Nissan are collaborating in pursuit of a greener, cleaner future. Reusing the batteries from electric cars could provide a valuable contribution to the UK’s green revolution - helping us lead more efficient and smarter lives as we end our contribution to climate change by 2050.
“We’ve part-funded this project to help give manufacturers more options than recycling – meaning a battery that helped a driver get from A to B could then be used to help store energy used to power a home.”
Ametek developed specialist equipment, and worked with WMG to embed the algorithms developed into a robust and industrialised machine that can be used by Nissan and other companies to grade second life batteries.
Andrew Williams, AMETEK Advanced Measurement Technology Business Unit Manager comments:
“The algorithm was developed with assistance from AMETEK EIS analyzers. We are currently implementing the algorithm in our new family of Solartron Analytical Battery Analyzer products, including our flagship SI-9300R model, which we expect will reduce market barriers for second life applications.”
The novel process is now being trialled for grading of battery modules at the second-life pilot facility, through these two processes, Nissan hopes to be able to re-use the vast majority of packs currently assembled in EVs in Europe.
Francisco Carranza, Managing Director from Nissan Energy comments:
“The number of electric vehicle batteries reaching end-of-service is set to increase from thousands to tens of thousands per annum by 2025. These batteries typically retain significant capacity and power delivery capability, and their re-use in so-called ‘second-life’ applications has been proposed as a mean to extend the battery value chain and minimise waste by deferring recycling.”
Project managers Element Energy commented:
“Reconditioning car batteries has to become business as usual - it makes sense environmentally and commercially. This project has proven a scalable process to deploy reconditioning and represents a significant milestone in the UK pathway to net zero emissions.”
For more information on this project, please see the UKESL Public Report at: http://www.element-energy.co.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/UKESL-Non-technical-Public-Report_2020.pdf
21 JANUARY 2020
NOTES TO EDITORS
High-res images available credit to the University of Warwick at:
Caption: Two engineers with a battery pack at WMG, University of Warwick
Caption: A battery pack in the lab
Caption: From left to right: Dr John Harper Senior Development Manager – Ametek, Priya Raju Project Support Officer – WMG University of Warwick, Djovana Dantas Manzi Head Of Operations at Nissan Energy Service (Europe), Dr Maria Tsiamtsouri Research Fellow at WMG Univeristy of Warwick, and Dr Jonathan Sansom Lead Engineer WMG University of Warwick.
Caption: From left to right: Dr Maria Tsiamtsouri Research Fellow at WMG Univeristy of Warwick, Djovana Dantas Manzi Head Of Operations at Nissan Energy Service (Europe), Dr Jonathan Sansom Lead Engineer WMG University of Warwick and Priya Raju Project Support Officer – WMG University of Warwick.
Caption: From left to right: Dr John Harper Senior Development Manager – Ametek, Djovana Dantas Manzi Head Of Operations at Nissan Energy Service (Europe) and Dr Jonathan Sansom Lead Engineer WMG University of Warwick.
For further information please contact:
Media Relations Manager – Science
University of Warwick
Tel: +44 (0) 2476 574 255 or +44 (0) 7920 531 221
WMG is delighted to welcome Naomi Brookes as its first Professor of Complex Programme Management.
Naomi brings a wealth of expertise in project and programme management to WMG. She began her career in the aerospace industry with Rolls-Royce plc. Since then she has worked in academia in both business and engineering faculties (where she has held a prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering professorship) and has founded her own consultancy practice.
She has authored over 130 peer-reviewed journal papers, book chapters and articles in project and innovation management and has conducted research projects funded by a wide variety of organisations including the UK Research Councils and the European Science foundation. Naomi's work has been used by organisations such as the OECD, the European Commission, the European Investment Bank and the World Economic Forum, and she has been an invited to speaker by organisations as diverse as Dubai’s International Project Management Forum and the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
Most recently Naomi has chaired the MEGAPROJECT network, an EU funded initiative bringing together over 90 researchers from 25 countries promoting learning across large infrastructure projects. She has also worked on reducing the UK’s annual spend of over £3bn on its nuclear decommissioning programme.
Naomi has been recruited to WMG to develop a brand new research capability to complement its existing expertise in Project and Programme Management taught programmes. At WMG, Naomi will be developing her work on complex performance to identify ways to make projects and programmes more sustainable, more responsible and more cost-effective.
WMG PhD student Chris Ellingford has been selected to attend the 8th Global Young Scientists Summit (GYSS) in Singapore from 14 to 17 January 2020.
Chris was one of only 300 participants, from across the world, and one of only five from the University of Warwick invited to attend.
GYSS gathers young researchers and scientists from across the world to encourage them to pursue their scientific ambitions. They have the chance to network with peers, as well as distinguished scientists and researchers.
The theme for this year’s event is "Advancing Science, Creating Technologies for a Better World,” with an impressive line-up of speakers including recipients of the Nobel Prize, Fields Medal, Millennium Technology Prize and Turing Award.
At GYSS Chris, as one of only 100 participants selected, will present at the poster session, and take part in lectures and panel discussions, and have the opportunity to interact with speakers in informal small group sessions. Outside of the Summit, Chris will also have the chance to visit local universities and research centres to learn more about Singapore’s research and innovation ecosystem.
Chris is currently in the 4th year of his Research Degree at WMG. He is based within the Nanocomposites team investigating "Self-healing Elastomeric Nanocomposites for Actuation and Energy Harvesting."