Case study: Eliminating Uncertainties and Improving Productivity in Mega Projects using Big Data and Artificial Intelligence

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Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some case studies of our academic research from across the Bristol Business School. This case study looks at Professor Lukumon Oyedele and the power of big data in relation to Mega Projects. 

Written by Jeremy Allen:

A series of projects at the Bristol Business School combining cutting-edge digital technologies could potentially revolutionise the way industry tackles management of Mega Projects at the bidding stage. These innovative technologies include Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, Virtual Reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

Professor Lukumon Oyedele and his team of developers have created software that harnesses the power of big data and artificial intelligence to help companies accurately plan and execute Mega Projects (large-scale, complex ventures that typically cost hundreds of millions of pounds).

The software uses advanced analytics to predict a whole range of complex project parameters such as three-points estimates, tender summaries, cash flow, project plans, risks, innovations, opportunities, as well as health and safety incidents.

The project, whose flagship simulation tool is called Big-Data-BIM, is part of a partnership with leading UK construction contractor Balfour Beatty, to help it plan better power infrastructure projects involving the construction of overhead lines, substations and underground cabling. By using the software, the company is able to improve productivity and maximise profit margins.

“When planning a tender for a project, companies often plan for a profit of 10 to 15 percent, but on finishing the project, many struggle to make two percent profit margin,” says Professor Oyedele, who is Assistant Vice-Chancellor and Chair Professor of Enterprise and Project Management.

“The reason is that there are many unseen activities, which are hard to capture during the early design stage. Besides, the design process itself is non-deterministic. This is why when you ask two quantity surveyors how much a project is likely to cost; they often produce different figures.

“With Big-Data-BIM, we are bringing in objectivity to plan the projects and taking care of uncertainties by engaging advanced digital technologies, so that a tender estimate remains accurate until project completion, with minimal deviation from what was planned at the beginning.”

The tool taps into 20 years of Balfour Beatty’s data on power infrastructure projects and learns predictive models that inform the most optimal decisions for executing the given work. The tool informs the business development team at the beginning of the project whether it is likely to succeed or fail.

One of the functions of the software is to create a 3D visual representation of project routes to understand complexity, associated risks (like road and river crossings) and opportunities (such as shared yards and local suppliers). For this purpose, the software taps into Google Maps data and integrates data from the British Geological Survey and Ordnance Survey to discover automatically the number of roads, rivers, and rail crossings.

The tool performs extensive geospatial analysis to find out the optimal construction route and measure distances between route elements with a high degree of accuracy. “This all happens within a twinkle of an eye. Without leaving your office, you can determine the obstacles on the planned route of the cables, or whether there is a river in the way,” says Professor Oyedele.

By mining the huge datasets of health and safety incidents, the software can also determine what kind of injuries might occur on a project, and even produce a detailed analysis of the most probable body parts that could be prone to injury. This can help prepare an accurate health and safety risk assessment before the work begins.

The software provides an intuitive dashboard called “Opportunity on a page” where all predictions are visualised to facilitate data-driven insights for designers to make critical planning decisions.

As a contractor, Balfour Beatty uses the tool to enable it to submit the best bids to clients so that it can have a high chance of winning them. The software is also set to be provided for other industries carrying out linear projects. These are to include water distribution networks, and the rail, roads, as well as oil and gas sectors.

 

Case study: Shaping minimum wage policy

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Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some case studies of our academic research from across the Bristol Business School. This case study looks at Professor Felix Ritchie’s research on the minimum wage.

Written by Jeremy Allen: 

Research conducted at Bristol Business School on the UK’s minimum wage has significantly influenced how the government sets its rates for entry-level pay. By helping shape policy decisions, and redesigning some national surveys about pay, the work has led to direct impact on the wider community.

“Wage levels are extremely important – the difference of a few pence on a wage may be negligible to an employer, but for someone on the breadline working 40 hours per week, this can make a big difference,” says Dr Felix Ritchie who leads the research.

Dr Ritchie is Director of the University’s Bristol Centre for Economics and Finance (BCEF) and is an authority on non-compliance with the minimum wage in the UK and on the quality and use of labour market data.

He and UWE Bristol colleagues Dr Hilary Drew and Dr Helen Mortimore (both Human Resource Management experts) have worked extensively with the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and the Low Pay Commission (LPC). Their work has looked to establish whether results from national surveys on minimum wage paint a true picture of the minimum wage landscape. This in turn allows governments to monitor more accurately how the rate affects employment.

The team has discovered that survey results on minimum wage often do not tell the whole story. Based on statistical analysis and interviews, they have found that both employers and employees tend to round up or reduce rates to the nearest whole number when answering survey questions about pay.

This means that a wage set at, say, £7.05 can lead employees to report it as £7 on a survey, which inaccurately implies employer non-compliance. And if the wage level is below a whole number (e.g. £6.93), the employer tends to round up the figure, meaning statistics inaccurately show a higher number of employers paying over the minimum wage.

Based on these findings, Dr Ritchie and his colleagues have made a recommendation to set a rate that is easier to use in calculations. In 2014, this directly influenced the government’s decision to set the wage at £6.50, which subsequently had a direct impact on how employers reported their pay in surveys, and led to more accurate statistics.

The researchers have also found that employers who are non-compliant in paying the minimum wage – especially when remunerating apprentices – often do so unintentionally because of a lack of knowledge about wage structure. For instance, minimum wages are usually based on age, but employers are sometimes unaware that apprentices over 18 are eligible for a higher wage once they complete their first year of training.

“Apprentices trust Employers, who think they are doing the right thing but many don’t know or understand the rules. This means that if something goes wrong, there may be no mechanism for correcting errors,” explains Dr Ritchie.

The experts also found that while surveys indicated that up to 40% of apprentices appeared to be underpaid, the true figure was closer to 10-15%. Based on interviews with apprentices, the team attributed this inaccuracy to the poor survey wording. Dr Hilary Drew explains: “We found that the apprentices had problems filling information in, and we wouldn’t have known this just by looking at the statistics.”

The team therefore suggested ways to modify the questionnaire with more accessible questions so results would better represent apprentices’ knowledge of hours and pay. This was implemented in a brand new survey.

Overall, the team has developed an excellent reputation in the area of wage level statistical analysis. As a result, the LPC and other organisations often call on Dr Ritchie and colleagues as experts to comment on minimum wage policy.

 

Case study: Healthcare manufacture brought closer to home

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Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some case studies of our academic research from across the Bristol Business School. The first case study looks at Professor Wendy Philips research on redistributed manufacturing. Written by Jeremy Allen: 

Health services around the world are under pressure to deliver affordable healthcare while addressing the needs of an aging population and deliver cost-effective, right-first-time treatments close to the point-of-need.

Fortunately, innovative manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing and advanced robotics mean that in the not-too-distant future, we may be able to make medical products in our home, or have print-on-demand personalised medicines made at the supermarket while we shop. Bespoke devices such as prosthetics and orthotics could even be ordered online and delivered to our door the next day.

Paving the way for such a future is a research network called ‘Redistributed Manufacturing in Healthcare Network’ (RiHN). Led by Professor Wendy Phillips at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), RiHN has been investigating the implications and challenges involved in the Redistributed Manufacturing (RDM) of customised healthcare.

RDM is defined as technology, systems and strategies that change the economics and organisation of manufacturing, particularly in relation to location and scale. It supports smaller-scale precision manufacturing, enabling more efficient use of resources, reduced environmental impact and more resilient supply chains that are less susceptible to global shocks.

“The RiHN aims to deliver a collective vision of the research needed to position the UK at the forefront of healthcare manufacturing,” says Professor Phillips.

RiHN is the first dedicated study of RDM in healthcare and the findings have been of particular value to policy-makers and funders seeking to specify action and to direct attention where it is needed.

The team includes researchers involved in manufacturing, healthcare technologies, management and human factors from the Universities of Loughborough, Cambridge, Cranfield, Nottingham, Newcastle and UWE Bristol.

Professor Phillips and her team have produced a White Paper that explores applications in promising areas of healthcare that could benefit from RDM. The UK has a strong network of pro-active research-orientated universities, especially in the fields of medical research and manufacturing engineering, and the UK is well-positioned to become a world leader in this type of manufacturing.

One practical application for this type of manufacturing is likely to be in locations where there is an acute and urgent need for medical supplies, for example during humanitarian crises, natural disasters or even in conflict zones. The first hours are critical for saving lives or reducing the chances of debilitating conditions; this new model of manufacturing could enable rapid diagnosis, production and testing in remote conditions.

As advocated by the 2017 Industrial Strategy Fund, RDM presents an opportunity to shape new industrial capabilities, attract international talent, and advance new science and manufacturing capability. It can also incentivise investments in infrastructure and exploit the potential of digital innovation. Future research and investment in RDM is likely to improve health outcomes for patients and ultimately benefit the UK economy.

 

Case study: Claiming back our data

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Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some case studies of our academic research from across the Bristol Business School. The first case study looks at Professor Glenn Parry’s research on personal data. Written by Jeremy Allen: 

In a world where we are generating more and more data using online maps, on social media and soon in our homes through the Internet of Things (IoT), Professor Glenn Parry wants to help individuals take control of their personal data.

“Our goal is a lofty one: we are trying to revolutionise the world of personal data and change global data business models from company-controlled to personal controlled data,” he says.

The information we give out on a daily basis creates a stream of personal statistics that subsequently becomes an asset for big corporations like Apple or Facebook.

Professor Parry argues that we should at least be able to retain a copy of our data and be in a position to make it work for us. By collating all our data sets in one place, he and other partners have developed the Hub of All Things (HAT). The digital platform can capture a cross-section of all our activities in cyberspace pertaining to shopping habits, photographs, travel modes etc. that can be linked to specific points in time.

“The HAT helps you manage and organise your data, combine it how you want and decide how to share it with others,” says Parry. “HAT will give you back some control of your own data, letting you decide what to share, with whom and how much detail they receive.”

Increasingly, individuals will produce more data due to the IoT, whereby our household appliances are likely to be connected to the internet.

To determine some of the data that the IoT could generate and re-enforce why it is increasingly important for us to control our own information, Professor Parry and colleagues have conducted experiments in their homes, as part of their research.

Taking bathrooms as a place where there are lots of ‘things’ that can generate data, the researchers set up humidity sensors, movement sensors in towels, motion and light sensors, and scanned shampoo bottles regularly to determine how much of its contents had been consumed.

Experiments helped indicate when we shower, for how long, how much water we consume, how often we use towels and how external factors affect all this data.

One area of Professor Parry’s ongoing research with the HAT involves examining how individuals perceive their vulnerability in cyberspace. By analysing how people perceive risk, he has been able to create a measure of this perception. “People give away quite a lot: a large group tends to underestimate the risk, while many others are aware of the risk yet embrace it,” says the academic.

He advises that there are ways to stop giving away our data and that we can therefore turn off a lot of what is broadcast out. One option is to turn off the location setting on our smartphone. Another is to be vigilant when downloading free apps, as by agreeing to terms and conditions we often open up our contacts list or divulge our location to third parties.

“Following the Cambridge Analytica revelations, people are starting to understand how data can be misused but many are still unaware of the dangers. Our research highlights that our information should be in the hands of individuals, and by working together we can create better e-business models,” says Professor Parry.

He and his colleagues are also working on other business models that could bring good to society. For instance, they are looking at how the technology behind cryptocurrencies – the Block Chain – might be used to help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“The future doesn’t have to be like Blade Runner, it could be more of a utopian future where technology works with us and could perhaps even stop us polluting the seas and help us live a cleaner, healthier life,” says Professor Parry.

Professor Peter Case’s work on addressing organisational challenges to improve malaria health care in southern Africa

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Article taken from the Chartered Association of Business Schools:

Work conducted by Professor Peter Case on organisational systems in malaria zones has had a significant impact on international efforts to eradicate the disease.

Backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Malaria Elimination Initiative, Professor Peter Case’s work has introduced a new approach to tackling malaria in Zimbabwe and eSwatini.

Professor Case’s work, in partnership with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), provides methods to identify, analyse, and resolve context-specific challenges. Through a series of workshops taking place in the country where malaria poses a threat, members of staff (from the most junior front-line staff to the most senior medics and administrators) are able to meet in the same space and communicate the challenges they face when tackling malaria.

Together, they can then generate collective solutions and trace necessary changes that need to be made within the delivery system to improve prevention and treatment.

“While all the workshop participants play a crucial role in the process, hands-on expertise lies at the front line, because these are the people who see others with the disease day in day out, or who go in to spray homesteads,” says Professor Case.

This exercise of generating a list of shared challenges leads to a practical work plan with a dedicated group of people who take responsibility for implementing solutions. It has helped instil self-confidence and assertiveness within individuals who work on the front line, helping staff to realise that they can rely on themselves and colleagues to problem solve.

Professor Case’s work has had significant impact in southern Africa. Implementing this methodology across eSwatini has led to improvements in the reporting of malaria cases by health facilities and increased collaboration between the malaria programme, schools, and community organisations. It has also led to improved communication between leaders within the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP).

For the full article please see the Chartered Association of Business Schools.

Bristol Distinguished Address Series announces autumn speakers

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UWE Bristol is pleased to announce the latest programme of speakers for the forthcoming Bristol Distinguished Address Series. The lecture series has now been certified for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) purposes by the CPD Certification Service*.

Now in its ninth year, the Bristol Distinguished Address Series is well regarded by the City’s business community as the leading place to hear about the challenges, issues and decisions being made at the highest level of strategic leadership.

The Bristol Distinguished Address Series is free to attend and open to members of the business community.

The line up of speakers for the Autumn is:

Wednesday 03 October 2018 : Ashok Vaswani, CEO of Barclays Bank UK, will deliver the University’s prestigious Annual Bolland Lecture entitled, ‘Digital Transformation of Banking’.

Wednesday 17 October 2018: Kevin Ellis, Chair and Senior Partner of PwC UK, will deliver a lecture entitled, ‘The Role of Business in a Disrupted World. Why Business Needs to Work Harder to Show its Positive Contribution to Society’.

Wednesday 7 November 2018: Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive of Stonewall, will deliver a lecture entitled ‘Achieving Social Change’.

Please contact the Media Relations office if you would like to request a media seat or have a media query about this event, email pressoffice@uwe.ac.uk

The series is delivered by the Bristol Business School in partnership with ACCABristol City CouncilBristol Junior ChamberBristol Law SocietyBristol MediaBusiness LeaderBusiness WestCBICIPDCIPFACMIFSBIoDICAEW and the West of England Combined Authority.

Following the talk, there will be an opportunity for the audience to put forward their issues and questions at this event.

Series organiser, Professor Nicholas O’Regan says, “We are delighted to announce that the series is now CPD accredited. The series is an excellent opportunity for members of the business community in Bristol, as well as our own students, alumni and staff to hear directly from inspirational figures in industry with a wealth of strategic experience and leadership skills at the highest level.”

Find podcasts, video interviews, photos galleries and media coverage from past Bristol Distinguished Address Series events. Follow the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #BristolLectures

To register for the first address please click here.

*For delegates who wish to obtain a CPD Certificate of Attendance, it is the responsibility of delegates to register their details with a member of the events team at the end of the event.

Bristol Business School shortlisted for Times Higher ‘Business School of the Year’ award

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The Bristol Business School has been shortlisted for ‘Business School of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education awards.

This is the 2nd year in a row the Business School has been shortlisted for the prestigious award.

The shortlisted submission was build around impactful research, engagement with business and innovation in entrepreneurship.

The submission showcases the success of two students from the Team Entrepreneurship programme who secured national awards: Jamie Rawsthorne, named IoD Student Director of the Year and Oliver Haddon, TARGETjobs Future Leader in Business Undergraduate of the Year, as well as highlighting the opening of the purpose built £55 million building. Reflecting the strong links to industry and the growing reputation of the business school as a hub for knowledge exchange, last year saw the milestone 100th speaker in the Bristol Distinguished Address Series.

The Business School is not alone in receiving recognition for a success over the last year, the Centre for Fine Print Research has also made the shortlist for Most Innovative Contribution to Business within the University Collaboration Category for their Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Burleigh Pottery.

Thanks to AHRC-funded research, the Centre for Fine Print Research was able to use innovative digital technologies to rescue the traditional engraving techniques which are used to create Burleighware’s distinctive designs. These techniques, developed in the late 18th century, have been vanishing and Burleigh is the only company in the world to keep them alive.

Vice-Chancellor Steve West, said, “I’m sure the whole University community will join me in wishing the best of luck to everyone involved in both submissions. We’re extremely proud of the successes made by the Bristol Business School in the first year in their new building, and delighted that our links with industry and the opportunities they open for students are being recognised by the shortlisting of the Burleigh project.”

The winners will be announced on Thursday 29 November at a gala event at Grosvenor House Hotel, London.

Introducing the Trailblazer programme: Free CPD for Bristol Business School alumni

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Bristol Business School are offering our alumni a pioneering and exclusive complimentary professional development programme, relevant across disciplines, regardless of when you graduated.

Launching in September 2018, our Trailblazer Programme will blend face-to-face sessions with webinars and social events. You will be motivated to maximise personal impact, boost effectiveness and develop leadership skills.

Facilitated by experienced academics, seasoned practitioners, and inspirational speakers, this programme echoes the mantra of learning by doing what is integral to our Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School.

Who is it for?

Offered exclusively to UWE Bristol alumni on a complimentary basis, this is a chance to continue the learning that you began when you were a student. The programme enables you to take advantage of your lifelong connection to our expertise and community.

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements for this programme, however places will be offered exclusively to UWE Bristol alumni from our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

Content

The programme incorporates four face-to-face sessions alongside online learning through webinars and two social events per a cohort.

Session 1 – Leading Self for Personal Effectiveness: Learn how to adapt your behaviour and actions when dealing with different individuals, tasks and situations. Acquire the skills to deliver exceptional performance, authentically.

Session 2 – Leading Others for Impact: Practical tips on creating high performing teams focusing on; healthy team dynamics, influencing and communicating.

Session 3 – Coaching and Mentoring: Transform your personal management style in this practical session by developing your coaching and mentoring skills to enhance performance and encourage self-exploration.

Session 4 – Design Thinking: Experience the creative process of finding new and transformative solutions to problems whilst also generating innovative ideas and opportunities.

Webinars: Webinar topics will be decided at the start of the programme to ensure these are relevant to the current business environment.They will be available live or pre-recorded.

Graduation: Graduation event for the year’s cohorts.

Professional accreditation

We are seeking to get this programme approved by the CPD Certification Service, meaning you will receive a certificate to demonstrate your CPD hours through completion of this programme*.

The growing network of participants will benefit from lasting relationships with likeminded professionals.

*subject to approval being granted.

Places for the course are limited to 40 participants per cohort. For more information and to apply for your free place, please see here.

 

Tenth Developing Leadership Capacity Conference (DLCC)

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In mid July, the Bristol Business School hosted the tenth Developing Leadership Capacity Conference (DLCC). The two day conference was attended by around 70 participants who all came to present ideas and share knowledge.

The DLCC was originally developed with the aim of having a combination of those interested in researching the area of leadership learning and development and those interested in new ideas for practice. This year the conference had a healthy mix of both.

Keynotes were given by Professor Carole Elliot (Roehampton University) on Women’s Leadership Development, Dr Kevin Flinn (Hertfordshire University) presenting on a complexity approach to leadership learning and Professor Paul Hibbert (St Andrews University) who presented on an aesthetic approach to understanding leadership experiences.

Alongside the keynotes, delegates could attend streamed sessions across the categories of case studies, theory and workshops.

This year the conference was particularly interested in innovative and creative approaches to learning and developing leadership. There was stimulating conversation across all the streamed session over the two days around this theme.

The 70 plus delegates came from as far afield as Canada, Ghana, Saudi Arabia and Australia.

The keynotes are pictured below with the conference hosts and founders Dr Doris Schedlitzki and Dr Gareth Edwards and the Director of the Bristol Leadership and Change Centre, Professor Richard Bolden.

Starting the conversation: what to say to your potential online mentor

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It can seem daunting to be the person that makes the first move – even when we’re talking about online mentoring.

Relax, you’ve already got at least one thing in common with the people who’ve volunteered to be mentors on Alumni Connect – UWE Bristol. But where do you go from there?

First impressions count online, and you want your potential mentor to want to help you. Here’s some tips on what to include in your opening gambit.

  1. Introduce yourself

This is about writing a short summary that will help your mentor understand what you need. Tell them what you study/have studied and the main reason you’re looking for a mentor right now. You don’t have to send your CV straight away (or at all), and you might feel more comfortable doing this after someone has replied to your first question. Short and sweet will do just fine here.

  1. Explain why you’ve picked them

Even mentors like to feel special! There’s a reason you’ve considered this mentor, so don’t be shy to let them know.

  1. Ask a question that Google can’t answer

You don’t need to go in with a question straight away, but if you do make sure you don’t ask something could find on the first page of a search engine. Alumni Connect gives you the chance to make unique connections and learn from others’ experiences. So ask your potential mentor something only they can answer.

Example:

I’ve just graduated in Marketing Communications and I’m looking for someone to help me get my first job in Social Media Marketing.

I notice that you worked in Marketing for the Olympic Park, and I’d be really interested to know more about what that involved.

What do you love most about your job?

Or

I’m in my final year studying Graphic Design. It would be brilliant if you could take a look at my website and let me know if there are any areas I could work on to help me get work experience with your company.

I think your approach is really unique and I love the project you did for Santander.

What do you think was the most important factor in getting your job?

Once the conversation has started, it’s up to you and your mentor when it stops!

With the right introduction you can grab their attention and they’ll be able to see how they can help you. Explaining who you are, what help you need and why you think they might be the right mentor to assist you creates an instant confidence.

You might have just established a valuable connection and a helpful stepping stone in your career.

Leanne Newton, Careers Consultant

 

 

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