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Re-Distributed Manufacturing for Resilient, Sustainable Cities

Implications of new manufacturing technologies for small-scale, distributed manufacturing in Bristol.

Professor Mohamed Naim, Deputy Dean and Professor in Logistics and Operations Management at Cardiff Business School, has been awarded a grant from the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) to carry out research as part of a network on re-distributed manufacturing.

The research is being led by the University of Bristol with teams based at the Universities of Bath, Cardiff, Exeter and University of the West of England. In addition to Professor Naim, the Cardiff team consists of:

Highly adaptable manufacturing processes capable of operating at small scales offer the possibility of a new understanding of where and how design, manufacture and services should be carried out to achieve the most appropriate mix of capability and employment but also to minimise environmental costs and to ensure resilience of provision.

The RDM|RSC network is one of six networks funded by the EPSRC which are performing research on redistributed manufacturing and involves researchers and collaborators from across the south-west of the UK and beyond. The network will bring together experts in areas such as manufacturing, design, logistics, operations management, infrastructure, resilience, sustainability, systems, geographical sciences, policy studies and economics.

The focus of the RDM|RSC network is on the move to smaller-scale and local manufacturing for a particular city – Bristol – and its hinterland. It will also explore the inter-relationship with neighbouring regions – in particular, Cardiff Capital region.

The network is approaching distributed manufacturing from multiple perspectives:

  • The resilience and sustainability of Bristol and its hinterland
  • Engineering technology, skills and knowledge
  • Social sciences (social capital)
  • Physical infrastructure such as transport systems and energy supplies
  • Business infrastructure, including markets and globalisation
  • Geography and local resources
  • Integration of local manufacturing with local, national and international supply chains

Project outcomes

Amongst the activities conducted by the network were a “Maker Walk” conducted within the BS3 area of Bristol and the development of new logistics models to help support the smaller business operating within the area.

The Maker Walker involved an on-foot survey of manufacturing businesses within the area, including micro and small enterprises, the maker community and maker spaces – with the goal of finding the manufacturing hidden within urban areas.

As a follow-on from the Maker Walker Cardiff led the development of three new logistics business models based upon a STEEPLE study of the BS3 area. The models proposed were:

  • a logistics co-operative based around shared economy technologies
  • network of urban logistics consolidation centres
  • public-transport integrated logistics.

In addition to this Cardiff produced several papers examining the financial vulnerability of manufacturing businesses in the Cardiff area; resilience of rail freight infrastructure in the Bristol and Cardiff regions; new logistics business models to support redistributed manufacturing.