Photo of Prof David Zhang

Prof David Zhang

Professor of Manufacturing Systems


Telephone: 01392 723641

Extension: (Streatham) 3641

Professor David Zhang, born in 1965, obtained BSc in Mechanical Engineering in 1983, MSc in CAD/CAM in 1986, and PhD in Manufacturing and Engineering Systems in 1996. From 1986 to 1989, he worked briefly in China as a University Lecturer. From 1989 to 2000, he was Research Associate, Project Leader, and Lecturer at the Universities of Durham, Brunel and Liverpool. He joined the University of Exeter as Chair of Manufacturing Systems in 2000 and served as Director of Postgraduate Studies for the School of Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science, Head of Advanced Technologies Research Institute, and head and acadmic lead of the Materials and Manufacturing group. He founded and led as the founding director the Agile Manufacturing and Enterprise Centre at Liverpool (the agility centre), and since 2001 founded and led as Director the Exeter Manufacturing and Enterprise Centre (XMEC).

Professor Zhang’s research interest, over a period of 30 years, has covered many areas of research in design and manufacturing, including CAD/CAM, Robotics/Automation, Advanced Composites Manufacturing, Computer Vision, Manufacturing Systems, Multi-agent Technology, Agile Manufacturing, and Supply Chain Optimisation. His current research focuses on supply chain modelling and optimisation, manufacturing strategies and agility, distributed systems, socialised innovation and manufaturing, dynamically integrated manufacturing systems, sustainable low-carbon manufacturing, additive manufacturing and strategies,systems and product design methoologies to support its adoption.

Professor Zhang has published over 190 articles in refereed international journals and conference proceedings. His research in the last 15 years has been supported by over £10 million research grants from the EPSRC, EU, DTI/TSB and industry. His contribution to research/industry has been recognised by various regional, national, and international awards, including the 1998 Merseyside Innovation Award, the 2001 IMechE Thatcher Brothers Prize, the 2002 MCB Press Highly Commended Award, and TCS/KTP Certificates of Excellence from DTI/TSB (1998, 2005). As an inernational expert in his field, he frequently serves on programme committees or as keynote speakers of major international conferences, and as grant reviewer for various UK and overseas research funding bodies (e.g., EPSRC, Canada, Singapore, Sweden, etc) and programme reviewer and external examiner for UK and overseas postgraduate/undergraduate programmes (e.g. Cranfield, Hong Kong University), as well as as senior corporate strategy advisors for large multinational companies. Regionally, he served as a founding Director of Southwest Manufacturing Advisory Service (SWMAS) from 2001-2009. Prof Zhang is a Senior Member of IEEE, and a Member of Technical Committee of IASTED.

Research Interests

Professor David Zhang's research interests are in the areas of design and manufacturing, involving both technology and management aspects of product development and manufacturing. Current work is focused on:

  • Dynamically Integrated Manufacturing Systems (DIMS) and Products: DIMS refers to manufacturing systems (within an enterprise or a supply chain) that are dynamically configured, adapted, and integrated in response to changes. Work is carried out to investigate how to model, simulate, and optimise the operations and structures of complex, often distributed, heterogeneous systems dynamically in response to changes, and the use of multi-agent systems in this context. I am also interested in ways to model and optimise the designs/evolutions of platform products, considering manufacturing/supply-chain problems.
  • Supply Chain Optimisation, Design for Optimised Supply Chains: The interest is on methodologies/tools to support the analysis/improvement of complex supply chains. I am also investigating ways for optimising supply chain configurations based on Multi-agent and Ant-Colony technology. A recent work concerns how to optimise product design and supply chain configurations simultaneously, for complex products.
  • Agile Product Development/Manufacturing and Innovation Road-mapping: This interest concerns business models and techniques to enable companies to become agile. Recent work has resulted in a taxonomical theory of agility strategies where three basic types of strategies were identified, along with business cases for, and ways to deliver the strategies. Current work is developing models to support continuous innovation and technology road-mapping in UK industry.
  • Multi-agent systems (MAS), complexity science and consumer dynamics modelling: MAS are systems consisting of autonomous, distributed, intelligent units. Research is concerned with how to coordinate the behaviour of individual units such that global system objectives are achieved while each unit attempts to achieve its local objectives. I am also interested in agent-based modelling and simulation of complex systems involving socially interacting elements, such as consumer interactions in response to an action of marketing or new product introduction in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry.

Teaching Interests

Professor David Zhang shares the following teaching modules with colleagues:

  • Manufacturing Systems (Undergraduate)
  • Operational Research and Industrial Systems Modelling (Postgraduate)
  • Agile, Lean and Competitive Enterprise (Postgraduate)
  • Engineering Management Science (Postgraduate)

Other Relevant Information

Due to the nature of my research, I work closely with industry. My collaborators have included both large multi-national companies and small to medium size enterprises (SMEs). In particular, in the last 15 years, I have helped over 20 companies to develop and implement innovative new business strategies, systems, and techniques through the DTI sponsored TCS/KTP programme and other initiatives.