“A brief note to thank you and Ken for the wonderful work you did with my maintenance team last year. [The department manager] has expressly asked that I write and thank you for the way that you have created the environment for change that he is now being able to bring about. … the Trust, as we seek to modernise our service systems, our management systems and achieve financial recovery all at once… Having your work to guide us in achieving this triple feat in the maintenance service gives us the confidence to proceed that we might not otherwise have had…”


Director of Planning



























The organisation of maintenance (1)

A two-year project on Integrated Maintenance Systems was jointly funded by the Department of Trade and Industry and Lucas Corporate. It was led by Lucas Engineering and Systems and Monition Ltd, and the demonstrator sites were Lucas Bryce and Motor Panels Ltd, a Coventry-based engineering firm specialising in the production of pressings and assemblies for the motor trade.

The two projects were linked, the Institute's main engagement being at Motor Panels. Here we carried out a qualitative research study of the introduction of First Line Maintenance, as a part of Total Productive Maintenance, in the Door Section. As is often the case, what started out as being labelled "personnel issues" evolved into looking at organisational aspects, for example: the different time horizons of different levels of the organisation; the implications of three models of maintenance: decentralised, centralised and contracted-out; and the evolution of maintenance systems alongside the evolution of manufacturing methods.

Guidelines, supported by case studies of maintenance events, were formulated.  

The organisation of maintenance (2) and (3)

Commissioned by Monition Ltd, the Institute carried out two diagnostic studies:

  • With CarnaudMetalbox Bevcan, at Botcherby. The aims were: to identify issues that were experienced associated with change initiatives that were being implemented - Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), Continuous Improvement (CI), and World Class Manufacturing (WCM); to identify experienced and anticipated organisational implications of the change initiatives; and to identify factors which helped or hindered these changes.
  • At the Trebor Bassett manufacturing plant of Cadbury Schweppes in Maidstone. The aims were: to examine the communications in the company...; evaluate the implications of any change management programme; and examine relationships between functional areas and people levels...

The organisation of maintenance (4)

A public seminar led to a request to look at the maintenance department of a large psychiatric hospital. We carried out a diagnostic study with interviews, observation of the work in the maintenance office, and tracking maintenance requests from when a request docket was created to when the completed docket was returned after a tradesman had finished a job.

Where the company’s manual was in terms of the procedures to be gone through, our analysis was in terms of people’s roles. An unexpected by-product was discovering that a laboriously collated report was in fact not used or needed by anyone, and could be abandoned

Four issues were highlighted which seemed to need attention. A feedback meeting with the whole department substantiated this, and joint management-tradespeople working parties were set up to work on three of them.

Sustainable development: Policy Influence of Indicators (POINT)  

Funded by the European Commission, the POINT project examined the impact that sustainable development indicators, (such as CO2 emissions) had on policy making in the countries of the European Union. Nine partners from countries across the European Union examined the history of the development and use of indicators in, for example, the Transport Sector and the Energy Sector to determine how indicators derived from scientific research influenced the policies adopted by politicians and government officials. The results revealed complex processes in which not only did indicators influence policy but, in a reversal of the process, local political factors influenced the indicators that were developed and used. The Institute played a specialist role in the project by developing group activities in which stakeholders concerned with particular local sustainable development issues could come together to share and debate the obstacles to using indicators.

" Capturing organisational reality"

A major study tracking patients through a hospital before and after the introduction of an information system (see below, Consultancy) led to smaller tracer studies of patients through hospital experiences in two other hospitals. One of them was a study of two mothers through their outpatient appointments in a maternity hospital, in order to write scenarios that helped the Outpatiant Department to reorganise. In turn that led to the joint publication, with the NHS, of a booklet on 'Scenarios as an aid to reviewing organisations'.

Action research in the construction industry: European Commission project ProCure (ICT in the construction industry)

A method we have long favoured is to accompany technical development programmes longitudinally, making contributions on human and organisational aspects along the way, in order to prevent or work with problems arising. This project was our first major opportunity of this kind.

Taylor Woodrow Construction Ltd led a consortium of partner organisations in the construction industry in the UK, Germany and Finland. Funded by the European Commission, they wanted to test and apply new technologies – eventually a simulation tool, three-dimensional working, and a project website. The Institute accompanied this process along complex paths and in changing circumstances affecting all the partners, making different kinds of input. Industrial partners in Germany were: Daimler-Chrysler (who build manufacturing plants and research facilities as well as making cars); and in Finland, Fortum Engineering Ltd. Workshops on the on the human and organisational aspects of the technologies involved were held jointly with the technical teams in each of the three countries. Two practical outcomes were:

  • In Germany,  the Construction Division of Daimler-Chrysler decided to make it a condition of awarding building contracts that their contractors should systematically review human and organisational aspects of their work.
  • In Finland, i) the IT staff decided to take the “messy realities” of implementation seriously and test their plans in real field situations rather than on historical data from completed projects, and ii) the senior management members attending the social science workshop said the most valuable thing for them had been to meet each other in a relaxed way they were not used to.


Action research with Hammersmith and Fulham's "Safer Cities" Programme

The adoption of Electronic Patient Records in the NHS

During the NPfIT (National Programme for Information Technology) the Institute worked with IT staff and healthcare staff In the South West London and St. George’s Mental Health Trust on sociotechnical systems design: a series of patient scenarios was developed, followed by workshops to explore how the new electronic record system RiO could be exploited to improve patient care.