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Helping business by sharing knowledge

10 June 2010 @TeessideUni


Graduates Michael Boyce and Robert Lee have been helping one of the leading manufacturing companies in the North East transform its business processes in preparation for economic recovery in the oil and gas industry.

They have done so through a national scheme designed to encourage businesses and universities to work closely together, sharing knowledge and expertise, with the clear goal of making UK companies more competitive in the tough global marketplace.

Key to the Knowledge Transfer Partnership, (KTP), has been the availability of talented graduates to work with companies for up to two years under joint supervision from university academics and business managers.

In the case of this KTP, managed the University with leading oil and gas pipeline manufacturer Wellstream International, all the right ingredients were in place. And now the partnership has been awarded an ‘A’ grade from the Technology Strategy Board for the excellent way it has been helping to transform the business.

The Newcastle-based company realised it needed to radically overhaul some of its business processes after a management buy-out several years ago and turned to the Teesside Manufacturing Centre, based at Teesside University. They wanted assistance in trying to introduce a single IT solution to help run the business better and agreed to set up a joint KTP in 2007.

They wanted one single IT solution Michael Boyce, who joined the KTP after graduating with a First Class honours degree in Manufacturing Management, said: ‘Wellstream wanted to embed the management of best practices by using an integrated IT system across all areas of business, covering everything from planning and manufacturing to warehousing, stock control and financial reporting. They wanted one single IT solution - what we call Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).’

Universities UK WeekHis fellow associate on the Wellstream KTP was Robert Lee, 29, who graduated from Newcastle University with a Master’s degree in e-Business and Information Systems.

Both Michael and Robert now have permanent jobs with the company, as Wellstream was anxious not to lose their skills and expertise. Robert described their new full-time positions as ‘dream jobs’ which enable them to complete the implementation of ERP and continue with other improvements to the business.

For Michael it also means the opportunity to help roll out the ERP solution at Wellstream’s Brazilian manufacturing site in Niteroi, Rio De Janeiro in the autumn.

We needed something better Caroline Capper, Global ERP Manager, said: ‘Wellstream grew rapidly after the management buy-out in 2003 and subsequent flotation on the London Stock Exchange in 2007, but our business systems relied on a series of spreadsheets and we knew we needed something better to grow the company.

‘Robert focussed on improvements in the business areas of engineering projects, document control and commercial sales, while Michael handled manufacturing, planning, warehousing and stock control. Together, they’re a great team, with an excellent mix of skills and experience which are a real asset to Wellstream.

‘The KTP also allowed us to draw on a much wider network of support and expertise from Teesside University. This was key to the success of the program and ERP project. The great thing about Michael and Robert and the whole KTP was that people were coming to us with a fresh pair of eyes, allowing them to make a significant contribution to improving the way we run our business.’

Several academic supervisors, led by Dr Ahmed Abbas, head of the Teesside Manufacturing Centre, visited Wellstream’s Walker headquarters on a weekly or fortnightly basis throughout the project and continue to provide assistance when required.

A wonderful achievement Dr Nasreddin Dhafr, from the University’s School of Science & Engineering, was Michael’s lead supervisor on the KTP.

He said: ‘Receiving the ‘Grade A – Outstanding’ award from the Technology Strategy Board is a wonderful achievement and reflects all the hard work and commitment shown by the company and everyone involved in this project.

‘The University benefits a lot from such partnerships. Michael and Robert have already presented two academic papers on this KTP with Wellstream at the FAIM conference held at Teesside University last year and we’re using the case study in teaching our engineering students about the value of ERP.

‘Michael and Robert have also given guest lectures to our master’s students. It’s been great for their personal development and demonstrates the value of a university and business working so closely together. We’ve both got a great deal out of it.’

For Middlesbrough-born Michael, who graduates this autumn with an MSc in Advanced Manufacturing Systems from Teesside, the KTP has been another stage in an incredible journey since he decided to change his life around by returning to his native North East after the birth of his son.

In the News

Helping business by sharing knowledge
Evening Gazette (Teesside), 15/06/2010, p.10
Teesside University is helping to boost and support the local region's economy through initiatives such as Knowledge Transfer Partnerships.