An international research project being developed in Sunderland could transform the way businesses operate and boost productivity simply by examining their untapped data.

Finnish researcher Salla Marttonen-Arola has begun a two year post-doctoral research project, based at the University of Sunderland, using lean management techniques, studying how smarter practices can be used to tackle the mountains of data, and increase business value.

Her project, LeaD4Value, is building data decision-support tools based on careful modelling and statistical analyses. Results include a map of ways to exploit the data, a process model, and a performance measurement system for optimising the life of physical and other industrial assets (for example machines, equipment, and inventories) in supply chains.

Two regionally based companies have agreed to work with the University and put their data under the spotlight. Greencore, an international convenience food producer, will work with Salla as she sifts through selected data to see where key information is missing, what’s unnecessary or what needs improvement.

Salla explained: “The tools can reveal missing or obsolete data, unnecessary data collection and maintenance, and ways to refine and optimise business value through better data maintenance.

“Using these could keep manufacturing chains productive and help industry to remain competitive. It’s getting rid of things which just don’t work or costs money. The process is not about criticising, just improving.”

Salla, who is based at Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland, has been collaborating with Sunderland’sDr David Baglee on a number of research papers in the area of maintenance over the last five years, and added: “I am very much looking forward to leading this collaboration at Sunderland, hopefully the results will support productivity for all sized businesses across the region, which are operating in an ever more growing competitive global market.”

The results of the collaboration will be shared through various North East maintenance forums which it’s hoped will help support and improve productivity, especially for resource-strapped businesses.

Dr Baglee, a Reader in Advanced Maintenance, explained: “This is another example of the collaborative partnerships that we have with the region’s employers, which will hopefully make a significant economic contribution. Our global reputation continues to grow and this opportunity to work with Salla on campus further develops our international connections that benefit our staff, students and the wider economy.”

Craig Fenwick, Engineering Controller for Greencore’s Consett site commented: “This is an exciting opportunity for our business to work with Dr Marttonen-Arola, Dr Baglee and the University of Sunderland.

“Their expertise, by considering lean philosophies and best practice recognised in the world of academia, will aid development of our data analysis. It is particularly valuable for Greencore to evaluate the benefits of transferring best practice into our industry.”

Salla is leading the project as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow in the UK, part of the Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.

This year the European Union celebrates the 100,000 fellows funded from the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action. Salla was one of the 30 researchers with the highest scores in the 2016 call, and was invited to an Awards Ceremony in Brussels in September 2017 to present her work in the Parlamentarium