INDUSTRY NEWS – Birmingham Assay Office teams up with Aston University to improve operational efficiency

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  • Aston University and Birmingham Assay Office enter 24-month Knowledge Transfer Partnership to implement new intelligent scheduling system
  • The system will enhance productivity by using data to improve processes and eliminate hold ups
  • The collaboration is expected to enhance company performance and improve customer experience.

Aston University has teamed up with hallmarking specialists Birmingham Assay Office (BAO) through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) to develop a sophisticated intelligent business system.

The system will improve operational efficiency and increase BAO’s competitiveness, leading to significant improvements in customer experience.

A KTP is a three-way collaboration between a business, an academic partner and a highly qualified researcher, known as a KTP associate.

BAO, based in Birmingham in the West Midlands, provides hallmarking and testing of precious metals (gold, silver, platinum, and palladium), non-precious metals testing, laser engraving, jewellery valuations, diamond grading, research and development services and educational training. The company has a broad customer base ranging from individual artisan jewellers making single items to retail jewellers manufacturing high volumes of products.

Aston University and Birmingham

Hallmarking volumes in the UK are declining due to changes in the retail market, including a growth in purchases of smart watches and jewellery in non-precious metals. This KTP will enable the business to increase productivity, freeing capacity to develop other jewellery sector-related services and enter new markets.

This will be achieved by developing a new intelligent business system which is expected to incorporate customer relationship management, scheduling, self-service for placing orders and order tracking. The system will utilise operational and customer data to plan operations, identify hold-ups and deliver improved levels of service to customers.

The Aston University team will be led by Dr Anna Ackfeldt, senior lecturer in marketing and strategy, whose research interests lie in services management and service strategy. Anna has spent over 15 years gaining experience in services management in public sector, hospitality and travel service organisations.

She will be supported by Dr Victoria Uren, senior lecturer in operations and information management, whose current research concerns applications of information systems in businesses and the organisational challenges of developing and deploying AI systems at different technology readiness levels.

Completing the team will be Dr David Ernesto Salinas-Navarro, senior teaching fellow in operations management, whose principal interest is applying lean manufacturing, six sigma and systems thinking methods for problem-solving in manufacturing and service processes to achieve high-performance results in cost, time, quality, safety and sustainability terms.

Doug Henry, chief executive and assay master of Birmingham Assay Office, said: “This partnership will allow us to harness Aston University’s expertise in service management and information management systems to strengthen our market position in the precious metals and non-precious jewellery market by offering improved service levels, extended services and more efficient processes.”

Dr Anna Ackfeldt, senior lecturer in marketing and strategy at Aston University, said: “We are excited to be involved in this KTP with Birmingham Assay Office. By enabling the office to develop a sustainable competitive advantage, this project will protect the several hundred businesses in and around the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter that rely on its services and therefore benefit the local economy.”