Dr Robert Ian Whitfield's research interests include: design co-ordination, collaborative design, integration, resource management, process modelling and optimisation, product data and product lifecycle management, engineering risk management, and modular design. These research interests come under the general umbrella of Systems Engineering. He has developed a number of different tools and techniques relating to these research areas that have been used by industry including:
- a modular design tool that models different types of interactions between components or systems of a product which can then be used to optimise the product structure providing a hierarchical structure that can facilitate assembly (implemented within complex system development industries);
- a design process optimisation tool that models the flow of information within engineering design processes which can then be used for business process re-engineering to reduce rework and management concurrency (used within defence industries);
- a collaborative design environment that integrates product information, design and analysis tools, and expertise and supports distributed collaborative design, version management, product data management, consistency management, and optimisation (used within shipbuilding industries);
- resource management and optimisation tools and techniques that improve decision making within resource constrained, multi-project environments; and (used within New Product Development industries),
- an approach to support organisational decision making within large complex engineering design programmes which manages the entire decision process from inception through to reuse (used within defence industries).
He has published this research within over 60 peer-reviewed articles. He has been involved with both the proposal writing, management and conducting of research within a number of large FP5, FP6 and FP7 integrated projects within the shipbuilding industry – typically with between 30 and 50 partners, and has garnered significant knowledge in how to achieve collaboration between a large number of partners for successful project completion. These projects have each focussed upon the development of collaborative tools and techniques for the integration of distributed design expertise across Europe
As Chair of MarRI-UK's Academic Group, Ian facilitites vital coordination between MarRI-UK's academic members and the Core Team as well as providing leadership at the quarterly MarRI-UK Academic Group meetings.