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$1.3 million grant bolsters aerospace research in Montreal

Project led by Concordia's Nadia Bhuiyan will apply ‘lean’ principles from the automotive sector to increase efficiency
November 25, 2014
By Laurence Miall and Cléa Desjardins

“I’m particularly interested in how lean principles can be applied to the design process,” says Concordia’s Nadia Bhuiyan, who is helming the project. “I’m particularly interested in how lean principles can be applied to the design process,” says Concordia’s Nadia Bhuiyan, who is helming the project. | Photos courtesy of Bombardier

Did you know that more than 170,000 Canadians work in the aerospace sector? Universities graduate around 3,000 qualified aerospace workers every year. Harnessing this know-how is crucial. That’s where a $1.3 million grant for Concordia and its academic and industry partners comes into play.

Thanks to $680,000 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and a matching amount from collaborating companies Bombardier and Bell Helicopter, a new project, Lean Aerospace Value Streams, is set to keep Canada at the forefront of aerospace research and development.

At the project’s helm is Nadia Bhuiyan, a Concordia professor leading a team of researchers from École de technologie supérieure and Polytechnique Montreal, with the collaboration of the Consortium de Recherche et innovation synergétiques en aérospatiale (CRIAQ).

Helping Canada take off

Ten years ago, consulting firm KPMG ranked Canada’s aerospace industry number one in the world for cost effectiveness. With new emerging rivals, among them China and India, Canadian companies must find ways to become even more efficient. 

Nadia Bhuiyan | Photo by David Ward Nadia Bhuiyan | Photo by David Ward

Bhuiyan and her colleagues are proposing an innovative approach to keep Canada among the world leaders: go “lean.” That is, use lean principles — a manufacturing method that can be applied through the lifecycle of the product, from concept to delivery, to create more value for customers with fewer resources.

Bhuiyan plans to apply lean principles, originally adopted by automotive companies, to the aerospace sector, where they have not yet been widely implemented.

It’s not easy being lean — but it’s worthwhile

Being lean means taking a systematic approach to eliminating waste — anything that does not add value to the customer. It’s estimated that only about five per cent of work in a company actually adds value; 35 per cent of work is considered necessary; and a staggering 60 per cent is waste, defined as things such as excess inventory, redundant tasks and rework.

“I’m particularly interested in how lean principles can be applied to the design process,” says Bhuiyan. “Engineers formulate an idea or concept, design it, build a prototype and test it and it typically takes many years to get the final product or service to market. A lot of waste is generated during this process, including engineers’ time, for example, and we want to see how to remove such waste and speed up this process while still delivering the best possible product to the customer.”

Further collaborations

Research will also be conducted in lean management, the supply chain, human resources and the manufacturing process itself. Several of Bhuiyan’s colleagues in Concordia’s Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science are participating in the various investigations, including Yong Zeng and Kudret Demirli.

Beyond the potential applications of Lean Aerospace Value Streams, Bhuiyan is also happy that Concordia students will receive highly relevant new training under the project. 

“Graduate and undergraduate students will be learning how to apply lean principles in local aerospace companies,” she says. “It’s a win-win situation: improved efficiency in industry and unparalleled experience for our future graduates.”

Learn more about the research going on at the Concordia Institute of Aerospace Design & Innovation

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