Transformative, data-driven opportunities at Babcock
EPSRC IAA secondment of Dr Nick Brown to Babcock International Group.
Babcock International, a leading provider of complex engineering services, had already established a relationship with the University of Edinburgh, primarily through the College of Science & Engineering.
But when Dr Nick Brown, Research Fellow and data architect at the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre, gave a talk on the importance of leveraging big data at the EI-hosted event Fast Forward Manufacturing of the Future, Babcock’s Director of Innovation, Neil Young, recognised an opportunity for the company to extend the partnership to cover data-driven opportunities within the Advanced Manufacturing element of its Innovation Hub.
After the pair discussed the potential benefits of implementing data science techniques at Babcock, a proposal was put together for Dr Brown’s EPSRC IAA secondment.
At the outset of the secondment, Babcock’s manufacturing facility in Rosyth was accumulating data, but it had limited in-house skills and toolsets with which to achieve more than superficial data analysis. Dr Brown’s aim was to convey to Babcock the value of the vast amount of data it held and to demonstrate how data science techniques could utilise it to give greater insight, enhance decision-making capabilities and drive forward new business opportunities.
Proving the transformative impact of data was vital to securing Babcock’s full support for future larger-scale projects, so the challenge for Dr Brown was to analyse and present the data in a meaningful way to prove its potential for furthering the company’s competitive advantage.
Key to this was Dr Brown’s recreation of an oil and gas ship’s control system using both historical and current data from the LG Kairos ship. This visual “playback” system mimicked the ship’s bridge, and enabled Babcock staff to rewind through its data to access the system temperatures, pressures and motor power consumption of the ship at any particular date or time.
This allowed Babcock staff to activate previously idle data and use the knowledge gained from such re-enactment exercises to optimise existing processes.
While the benefits to Babcock are clear, the experience was equally positive for Dr Brown. The IAA secondment gave him the rare opportunity to operate within an industrial setting, to witness the instant and positive impact of his research, and the gratification of being a catalyst for integrating data exploitation in all areas of a global company.
Art of the possible
Dr Brown’s secondment succeeded in demonstrating a clear benefit of taking a data science approach to the information that Babcock processes and handles on a daily basis, and his work at the company has served to secure further attention and investment in that area of the business.
Dr Brown’s secondment was a valuable primer for the Rosyth site into the role data science/scientists could play within our organisation. Babcock Group have this capability, but Dr Brown’s secondment was the real first time some of our teams have had the chance to see what can be done first-hand.
Since the IAA project was completed, Babcock has begun planning the launch of a digital transformation programme to update many of the outdated processes and procedures the company uses across its engineering, manufacturing and support operations on-site in Rosyth.
Data Culture is one of the core themes of the programme and this has largely been inspired by Dr Brown’s work during his IAA secondment.
The company has also started working closely with the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service to develop a digital skills programme for the staff in Rosyth. In combination with its existing assets, Babcock can utilise its burgeoning data know-how to drive business strategy and cement its competitive advantage.
EPSRC IAA funding
EPSRC IAA funding is for University of Edinburgh researchers and academics at all career stages to support activities that accelerate or amplify the impact arising from EPSRC-funded research. The funds are managed by Edinburgh Innovations on behalf of the College of Science & Engineering. Please contact the EPSRC IAA team EPSRCIAA@ei.ed.ac.uk with any questions.