UGent campus Kortrijk and Designregio Kortrijk guide SMEs in their search for more efficient assembly

For SMEs with a large range of manually assembled products, efficiency is the big challenge. In order to help such SMEs, the research group at the UGent Campus Kortrijk and Designregio Kortrijk are joining forces. Companies that want to can join a project or workshop to make the assembly of their products more efficient.

"As soon as it's allowed again, we'll have to go out for another pint! The virtual reunion between Davy Parmentier of research group and Dominiek Callewier of Designregio Kortrijk proves that both parties are satisfied with the collaboration. It is not only pleasant, but also highly necessary.

Dominiek: "Without this kind of collaboration, there would be no industry 4.0. Davy: "If we want to do applied research at UGent, we have no choice but to include the business context. What else are we doing?"

What does that collaboration look like in concrete terms for a company? Via a technology transfer project or TETRA project, you will be guided step by step for two years. A team of analyses the specific needs of the company and looks at what can be optimised in the design in function of the assembly process. In time, a short course will also be launched, which will consist of inspiring workshops. In these workshops, the theory will be provided and explained on the basis of previously implemented example cases. Companies can then use this knowledge to set to work independently.

Operators not overloaded with instructions

The driving force behind these projects is Davy Parmentier. During his eight years as a product developer at AVC, he noticed the need to limit the number of instructions for operators.

Davy: "Products are becoming increasingly complex. Assembly operators are therefore increasingly highly skilled profiles, who are motivated by finding solutions autonomously rather than by following complicated instructions. A product that can be assembled intuitively promotes efficiency and the well-being of the operator. However, assembly is often only taken into account in the production phase, whereas it would be better to start with the product development.

Students work on first case at Delta Light

Davy's insight resulted in a doctorate at the UGent Campus Kortrijk, within the research group He immediately applied the theory through a student project at the regional company Delta Light, specialised in light fittings. Davy: "The programme Industrial Design Engineering at Campus Kortrijk is very practice-oriented; we really want to make a contribution to the business world. Our students are still uninhibited, their fresh look can provide new insights for the industry.

"At Delta Light, the students analysed the assembly process, the tools used and the product itself. They formulated recommendations for optimisations, such as adjusting the order of assembly, providing the right tools or placing them within easy reach, adding an icon that makes the connection between two components clear, or joining components together."

Like Delta Light, several more projects will follow soon. There is already interest from many companies in the region, both in the construction and agro-industry and in the decoration and supply sector.

Necessary cross-fertilisation

Design region Kortrijk joins the story as a bridge builder between research and industry. Chairman Dominiek Callewier: "The future belongs to the network economy: by bringing together everyone's knowledge and talents, you can achieve more than on your own. Designregio Kortrijk (the partnership of Voka West-Vlaanderen, Stad Kortrijk, Intercommunale Leiedal, Biënnale Interieur and Howest) joins the forces of the government, the academic and entrepreneurial world in the region. Certainly for the manufacturing industry, this cross-fertilisation is necessary."

"South-West Flanders is a region of problem-solving, creative doers. For example, the Kortrijk region has been recognised as a UNESCO Creative City since 2017. Since its creation in 2005, Designregio Kortrijk has built up a great deal of expertise in matching the manufacturing industry with design thinking experts. Many SMEs are fully committed to this, but often lack the resources for large-scale research. Designregio Kortrijk and UGent Campus Kortrijk are therefore going to cooperate. Thanks to our proximity to the creative industry, companies will be able to gather new insights even more efficiently," says Dominiek Callewier.

Want to collaborate?

Companies interested in cooperating with the research group, can contact