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Alan Combes

Alan Combes obtained an honours degree in Mathematics and Physics before moving into automotive engineering with the Ford Motor Company. Having moved through a number of positions in both Manufacturing and Product Development, at 26 he became one of the youngest engineering supervisors in Europe. His focus of expertise has centered upon Quality including positions in Powertrain Manufacturing Quality, European Quality Strategy - where he was part of an advisory team to Ford’s European Director of Quality - and Quality Manager for the development of a new sports car programme.

In 1993 Alan was seconded from his engineering responsibility and given the role of Internal Quality Consultant to key projects. In particular with his background in mathematics, he became an expert resource in applied statistical methods such as experimental design and Taguchi Methods.

Alan has recently completed a two-year post as a visiting research fellow at the University of Bradford Engineering Department and has been part of the management team responsible for the development of a research based Master of Science Degree in Engineering Quality.


Dan Grove


Fields of Expertise

Engineering Statistics; Six Sigma; Statistical Methods for

Process Improvement; Experimental Design; Taguchi Methods;

Response Surface Modelling; Robust Engineering Design;

Design for Six Sigma; Optimization



BSc Mathematics and Statistics, Birmingham University

MA Operational Research , Lancaster University

PhD Statistics, Birmingham University

Chartered Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society


Professional Experience

A former university teacher, Dan has worked as a consultant since 1989, assisting a wide range of clients in fields including Aerospace, Automotive and Pharmaceuticals. He has written and/or delivered training courses for about 20 companies on a wide variety of topics including process control and improvement methods, Six Sigma, designed experiments, Taguchi methods, engineering statistics and robust engineering design. With Tim Davis, Dan wrote the book ‘Engineering, Quality and Experimental Design’ for which they were awarded the Greenfield Medal by the Royal Statistical Society. He has maintained his links with universities through part-time teaching, supervision and research projects at the Universities of Bradford and Southampton.


In industry he has specialised in coaching individuals as internal consultants and supporting groups of engineers in their use of designed experiments and other statistical methods. His work with a leading automotive company played a major part in delivering substantial process improvements with large financial benefits.


Adrian Cole


Professor Cole has over 25 years experience in both the automotive consultancy and higher education sectors. Formerly  Technical Director at ERA Ltd and then Powertrain Manager at MIRA (Motor Industry Research Association), he is now both a Senior Technologist Consultant at the Technology Innovation Centre (part of the University of Central England) and founder partner of the Problem Solving Business a small but growing technology transfer consultancy.


Prof Cole’s technical background expertise lies within powertrain R&D. Having been involved in industrial programmes in both the USA and Germany, he has covered subjects as diverse as; thermally insulated (adiabatic) diesels, transient behaviour of turbocharger turbines, piston gallery cooling, in-cylinder gas activity, combustion analysis, biofuels and engine system simulation codes.  Recently Prof Cole’s interests have broadened to include studies in design innovation and is currently heavily involved in such techniques as structured innovation, axiomatic design and multi-disciplinary optimisation.


Professionally  Prof Cole has been a past Director of the Society of Automotive Engineers, chair of the UK SAE Section,  a member of the IMechE Automotive Division board and the IMechE’s Part D editorial board and a member of the Foresight Vehicle (DTI) powertrain expert group. Prof Cole has been on the organising committees of numerous international conferences and symposia for both SAE and IMechE including most recently the IMechE Integrated Powertrain and Driveline Systems conference.


Tim Nicholls


Fields of Expertise

Statistical Analysis; Statistical Process Control; Experimental Design;

Taguchi Methods; RISE and G8D Special Cause Problem Solving;

Six Sigma; FMEA



Cert Ed, University of London

BA Mathematics, Open University

MSc Engineering Quality Improvement, University of Bradford


Member of the City and Guilds of London Institute


Professional Experience

6 years as a school teacher followed by 27 years with the Ford Motor Company. Tim has had a variety of roles in manufacturing engineering, production management, quality control, supplier support and education training and development management and delivery.


As an experienced engineer in the automotive industry Tim has a strong understand of the principles and problems of manufacturing processes and the role of statistical techniques in the control and improvement of quality.


His work in the area of quality improvement was recognised by the City and Guilds of London with the award of their Gold Medal for Excellence in 1999.



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