Research Projects

Helping organisations be more effective in their operations

Workers in an office

Current research projects

Future Engineering System: Data visualisation and usability evaluation

Project staff: Alice Buckley and Dr Des Leach

Funding: Rolls-Royce Plc & Innovate UK

Project dates: April 2016February 2019

Overview: The Future Engineering System (FES) is being developed in collaboration with numerous strategic partners including Rolls-Royce, Siemens, University of Sheffield, eQ Technologic, Sysemia and CFMS.The overarching objective of the research is to advance design engineering for the benefit of the engineering industry and UK economy.

The FES aims to reduce the cost and improve efficiency of design engineering by integrating design data and a) computationally testing how different design parameters for parts of an engine, will affect the engine as a whole and b) presenting engineers with simulated views of an engine and integrated data sets.

By doing these two things, engineering organisations can more quickly and accurately evaluate whether an engine design is worth progressing to manufacturing, thus saving time and money. This desired future state contrasts with the current situation wherein engineers do not know whether an engine design will work as expected until it is manufactured and physically tested which is extremely time-intensive and costly, particularly when a design fails. 

The role of the Socio-Technical Centre in this project is twofold. Using our research skills and knowledge of socio-technical systems, we will:

  • Conduct research with subject matter experts to understand what data people need to perform their job effectively, and in what format they want this data.
  • Conduct usability testing of the different FES interfaces developed by our strategic partners and provide feedback and guidance to them so that usability is maximised.    

Key topics: Usability, data visualisation, human-computer interaction, technology implementation, change management, process improvement, decision-making.

Organisational resilience: protecting and improving operational performance

Project staff:Rebecca PieniazekDr Mark Robinson, Dr Matthew Davis and previously the late Professor Chris Clegg 

Project dates: 2013 - Ongoing 

Background: Organisations face a plethora of internal and external threats (from natural disasters, regulatory changes, economic changes, to climate change etc.) which can disrupt operational performance. Under situations of disruption, resilient organisations however, bounce back to normal functioning as quickly and as smoothly as possible, and can even capitalise on adversities and thrive. They do this through demonstrating proactive and responsive behavioural capabilities. We define organisational resilience as “the ability of an organisation to deal with potential threats and uncertainty, and also actual disruptions, such that changes in its operational, regulatory, and/or economic environments do not cause operational down-time and threaten its ability to achieve its purpose” (Pieniazek, 2017).

Research aims:
First, to consider how organisational resilience is different to strategic management, risk management, crisis management, business continuity management, quality management etc. Second, to create a metric for reliable and valid measurement of organisational resilience. Third, to create a business case for how organisational resilience capability drives operational performance, and financial efficiency. Fourth, to consider other internal organisational resources can be used to enable the benefits of organisational resilience capability.

Participants:
The project has sampled quantitative data from hundreds of organisations within the UK, and Africa, and has worked with two UK city councils.
Why get involved?
To learn about a framework for understanding, measuring, and improving organisational resilience, in order to reduce operational down-time in a climate of risk and uncertainty.
To benchmark resilience behaviours and resource-use against desired levels and against other organisations.
To identify cheaper (e.g., social instead of technical) ways of making business functions/operations more robust.
Please email Dr Rebecca Pieniazek: R.Pieniazek@leeds.ac.uk.

Investigating job crafting from a prosocial perspective

Project staff:Rebecca PieniazekDr Mark Robinson, Dr Matthew Davis and previously the late Professor Chris Clegg 

Project dates: 2013 - Ongoing 

Background: Organisations face a plethora of internal and external threats (from natural disasters, regulatory changes, economic changes, to climate change etc.) which can disrupt operational performance. Under situations of disruption, resilient organisations however, bounce back to normal functioning as quickly and as smoothly as possible, and can even capitalise on adversities and thrive. They do this through demonstrating proactive and responsive behavioural capabilities. We define organisational resilience as “the ability of an organisation to deal with potential threats and uncertainty, and also actual disruptions, such that changes in its operational, regulatory, and/or economic environments do not cause operational down-time and threaten its ability to achieve its purpose” (Pieniazek, 2017).

Research aims:
First, to consider how organisational resilience is different to strategic management, risk management, crisis management, business continuity management, quality management etc. Second, to create a metric for reliable and valid measurement of organisational resilience. Third, to create a business case for how organisational resilience capability drives operational performance, and financial efficiency. Fourth, to consider other internal organisational resources can be used to enable the benefits of organisational resilience capability.

Participants:
The project has sampled quantitative data from hundreds of organisations within the UK, and Africa, and has worked with two UK city councils.
Why get involved?
To learn about a framework for understanding, measuring, and improving organisational resilience, in order to reduce operational down-time in a climate of risk and uncertainty.
To benchmark resilience behaviours and resource-use against desired levels and against other organisations.
To identify cheaper (e.g., social instead of technical) ways of making business functions/operations more robust.
Please email Dr Rebecca Pieniazek: R.Pieniazek@leeds.ac.uk.

Past Projects

EU Horizon 2020 IMPACT Project

Impact of Cultural Aspects in the Management of Emergencies in Public Transport

Project staff:Dr Mark Robinson, Katarzyna Cichomska, Dr Matthew Davis

Funding: European Commission

Project dates: May 2015 – October 2017

Overview: EU Horizon 2020 IMPACT Project investigates influence of cross-cultural aspects on the behaviour and management of crowds during emergencies in transport terminals. The project focuses on three major transport domains: aviation, rail and maritime.

The IMPACT Project Consortium comprises eight partners from six countries, including University of Leeds (UK), VU University Amsterdam (NL), Varna University of Management (BG), Anadolu University (TR), Deep Blue (IT), PROPRS Ltd. (UK), Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori (IT), and Maritime Office in Gdynia (PL).

Within the IMPACT Project, University of Leeds is leading Work Package 1 (WP1) which focuses on the development of a psycho-social and cross-cultural theoretical framework of crowd behaviour and management in transport terminals, and is also contributing to the work conducted as part of other work packages.

Key topics: Crowd behaviour, crowd management, cross-cultural, cultural differences, emergencies, transport

Objectives: The main objectives of the EU Horizon 2020 IMPACT project are to:

  • Develop a theoretical framework of cross-cultural and psycho-social crowd behaviour and management in transport terminals (WP1).
  • Develop a computational agent-based simulation model incorporating cultural aspects of human behaviour into crowd simulations and validating other project outputs (e.g., the theoretical framework and the communication solutions) (WP2).
  • Produce a cultural risk assessment methodology and mitigation actions (WP3). 
  • Develop multi-lingual Computer-Based Training (CBT) framework for public transport operators and first respondents, incorporating cultural aspects into risk assessment materials and procedures (WP3).
  • Design culture-specific emergency communication solutions to support effective communication between public transport operators and passengers (WP4).
  • Design a cultural-based multi-media training framework supporting management of emergencies in a multicultural site (WP5).
  • Disseminate best practices and policy recommendations to relevant stakeholders (WP6).
  • Promote communication, dissemination and exploitation of the IMPACT Project results in industrial and scientific domains (WP7).

The above tasks are based on the review of current best practice and academic literature, primary and secondary data collection and analyses, and validation activities, with input from passengers, IMPACT Project end-users, security and safety officials, public transport operators, and other stakeholders throughout all research stages.

Results and dissemination: Research conducted as part of WP1 led to the development of a theoretical framework describing various aspects of staff and passenger behaviour within a transport terminal in routine and emergency situations. The framework is based upon the integration of findings from the state-of-the-art literature review of crowd behaviour and management (Deliverable 1.1), data collection activities within Task 1.2 (Deliverable 1.2), and additional research activities forming part of Task 1.3 (reported in Deliverable 1.3). The framework considers both social and technical aspects of human behaviour in complex transport environments including elements such as the terminal profile and human characteristics, the physical environment of a transport terminal, staff and passenger activities within a terminal, passenger and staff behaviour and response during emergencies, and psycho-social and cross-cultural characteristics and their impact on human behaviour in transport terminals.

Three deliverables were completed as part of WP1:

  • Robinson, M. A., Cichomska, K., Davis, M., Minkov, M., Blagoev, V., van der Wal, N., Turhan, U., Karbownik, A., Giuricin, A., Rozzi, S., & Tedeschi, A. (2015). D1.1 – Review and Critical Analysis of Multi-Cultural Crowd Behaviour in Emergencies. IMPACT Project, report for the European Commission.  
  • Minkov, M., Cichomska, K., Robinson, M., Davis, M., Blagoev, V., Turhan, U., Giuricin, A., Dambra, C., Rozzi, S., Tedeschi, A., Golfetti, A. (2016). D1.2 – Empirical dataset and results. IMPACT Project, report for the European Commission.
  • Cichomska, K., Robinson, M., Minkov, M., Davis, M., Blagoev, V., van der Wal., N., Karbownik, A., Sengur, F., Turhan, U., Giuricin, A., Dambra, C., Rozzi, S., Tedeschi, A., & Golfetti, A. (2016). D1.3 – Theoretical framework of cross-cultural and psycho-social crowd behaviour and management in transport terminals. IMPACT Project, report for the European Commission.

Within the wider IMPACT Project, WP1 forms the theoretical foundation for all other work packages contributing to the development of a computational agent-based simulation model (WP2), cultural risk assessment methodology (WP3), cultural-based emergency communication framework (WP4), and cultural-based training framework (WP5).

For more information, visit the IMPACT Project website: http://www.impact-csa.eu/

Embedding design structures in engineering information

Project Staff:Professor Alison McKayDr Mark RobinsonProfessor David HoggProfessor Christopher Earl, Dr Amar BeheraDr Hau Hing Chau 

Funding:  Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council, a Design the Future project

Project dates: October 2015 – June 2017

Overview: Engineers use design structures, such as Bills of Materials (BoMs), to tailor product definitions, including shape, for particular activities. For example, an engineering BoM defines the as-designed product whereas a manufacturing BoM defines the as-built state of the same product. Both of these BoMs relate to the same designed product. However in practice, because of restrictions arising from current computer aided design technologies and associated business systems, different BoMs are often related to separate digital definitions of the same product. This creates significant data management problems that add cost, time and rework into product development processes. If resolved, substantial business benefits, through improved productivity of product development processes, could be achieved.

Key challenges for engineers lie in (a) understanding how the range of BoMs and other design structures of a given product relate to each other and the product itself, and (b) ensuring they have the best design structure(s) for specific tasks. For example, a BoM is a hierarchy of part-whole relationships that are useful when a product breakdown structure is needed whereas engineering design tasks typically need design structures that capture how the part being designed relates to the parts to which it must interface. In this second type of [lattice] structure, assembly mating relationships are needed. These and other kinds of connection relationship are fundamentally different to the part-whole relationships of a BoM.

The project team brings together researchers from engineering design and associated information systems, organisational psychology, mathematics and computing. We are working with industrial and other end user partners to define case studies and use them to support demonstrations of how embedding might be implemented and used to enhance real-world engineering design, manufacturing and through life support processes.

Energy Efficient Behaviour Change in Schools

Project staff: Dr Matthew Davis, Lauren Machon, Prof. Kerrie Unsworth & Dr Mark Robinson

Project dates: March 2016 – October 2016

Funding:  British Gas

Overview: The project was commissioned to evaluate the effectiveness of recent technology and engagement initiatives for reducing energy consumption within UK schools. Two complementary research phases were designed to help understand the effectiveness of the different initiatives, to learn lessons and to make recommendations for future initiatives.

The first research phase involved qualitative case studies with nine schools, both primary and secondary, located across England, Scotland and Wales. Data were gathered using interviews with parents and staff, together with focus groups with children to gain insights into perceptions of the initiatives, barriers and facilitators to energy reduction, together with children’s levels of energy literacy.

The second research phase involved quantitative data collection and analysis to examine whether there were significant differences in energy consumption and performance between the different groups of schools. Demographic and educational information was gathered on the national sample of schools that had participated in one of the initiatives, this was combined with data on energy consumption, building characteristics and performance. A control group of schools was selected to compare against. Statistical analyses were then conducted to test for differences in energy consumption across the groups. In total, 313 schools were included within the sample.

Key topics: Socio-Technical Systems, Energy Reduction, Schools, Behaviour Change, CSR

Objectives:

  1. To evaluate the effectiveness of energy saving technologies installed with low levels of energy education in schools, versus those with accompanying education strategies.
  2. To examine potential barriers and facilitators to changing end-user energy behaviours in the school environment, focussing on both social and technical aspects.
  3. To explore whether spill-over from school to home energy-related behaviour occurs and to identify barriers and facilitators to children applying energy saving knowledge at home.

Results and Dissemination:

Schools could cut thousands of pounds from their electricity bills each year by installing energy-efficient technology and the changing behaviour of staff and pupils.

The research found that schools using energy-saving technology and an accompanying engagement programme (a socio-technical approach) saved an average of more than approximately £2,161.66 (18459.94 kWh) on average in the 12 months following their technology installations. There was no difference found between the electricity consumption of the technology only, engagement only or control groups.

The research also identified the key role that energy champions (staff in the school that promote and engage others on energy issues) in helping to support behaviour change within schools, inspire those around them and help reduce energy use. Children were also found to share environmental information that they have learnt at school with others in their household and to reinforce environmental messages with teachers and parents.

Dr Davis, Lecturer in Socio-Technical Systems, said: “This research underlined the importance of taking socio-technical approach to this issue - where technology is combined with an understanding of human behaviour.

“The research highlights the need to think beyond just technology as the solution to reducing energy use. More efficient technologies have a huge role to play, but they are likely to be much more successful in practice if we understand how people will use these in the real-world and ensure that they have the knowledge to get the most out of them.”

“Children have an important role to play in helping to educate and inform their parents and wider family about how to save energy. They are also well placed to drive changes in their teachers’ energy behaviours at school.”

Mainstreaming assisted living technology

Mainstreaming Assisted Living Technology (MALT)

Project Staff: Lauren Machon, Helen Hughes, Chris Clegg, Ciara Kelly and Duncan Ross

Funding: Technology Strategy Board

Project Dates: 2011 - 2014

Overview: This project is sponsored by the TSB and ESRC. Our work aims to understand the business models and systems required to mainstream telehealth in the NHS.

More information about the project can be found here

Advice behaviours: A social network approach

This project was a multi-disciplinary collaboration, sponsored by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), Rolls-Royce and Jaguar Land Rover. In our part of the project we worked collaboratively with computer scientists at the University of Southampton, and used agent based (computer) modelling and simulation to understand and explain team working behaviours amongst concurrent design teams. The project aimed to develop long-term capability in order to better understand organizational behaviours, and to reduce the risks associated with organizational change.

High-performing and robust systems (HIPARSYS)

This project was a multi-disciplinary collaboration, sponsored by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), Rolls-Royce and Jaguar Land Rover. In our part of the project we worked collaboratively with computer scientists at the University of Southampton, and used agent based (computer) modelling and simulation to understand and explain team working behaviours amongst concurrent design teams. The project aimed to develop long-term capability in order to better understand organizational behaviours, and to reduce the risks associated with organizational change.