Daryl Powell: A Journey from Student to Honorary Professor of Practice at UWTSD


Daryl Powell is Chief Scientist at SINTEF Manufacturing and adjunct professor at both the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the University of South-Eastern Norway. He’s also an award-winning lean author, having won the prestigious Shingo Research Award for The Routledge Companion to Lean Management in 2017, and the Shingo Publication Award for the Lean Sensei in 2020. Daryl is a University of Wales Trinity Saint David graduate and has just been awarded with the honorary distinction of Professor of Practice in Digital Lean Manufacturing. He’s recently been working very closely with the MADE Cymru team at UWTSD, so we caught up with Daryl to find out about his tremendous achievements.

The beginning

I studied BEng. Motorsport Engineering and Design (2002-2005) and then an MSc. Lean and Agile Manufacturing (2005-2008). As soon as I started the Lean MSc at what was then Swansea Metropolitan University, I immediately became curious to understand this alternative way of thinking about manufacturing. At face value, it is far too easy to understand lean as a set of best practices for operational excellence. However, to truly succeed, organisations must embrace these practices as learning frames to discover gaps in knowledge and realise growth opportunities. 

Lean and learning

I think combining the MSc part-time at UWTSD with a full-time position as Continuous Improvement Champion at Schaeffler (UK) in Llanelli set me on the path to ‘lean and learning’ early on, even if it took me many more years to realise the fundamental importance of personal and organisational learning in successful lean transformations. Back then, Plant Manager Roger Evans and Engineering Manager Brian Fox spoke a lot about “L > C” (the rate of learning must be greater than the rate of change). It was about a decade later (during my research into lean supplier development programs) that I stumbled over the source of L>C in the work of Reg Revans and his theories of Action Learning and realised that lean is a learning system rather than a production system. I co-authored an article about this called ‘Rethinking lean supplier development as a learning system.’ 

UWTSD, a lifelong network

I have kept in contact with Richard Thomas, Owen Williams, Kelvin Donne and Tyra Oseng-Rees (we published an interesting conference paper together at the 13th MITIP Conference in Trondheim in 2011 titled ‘The application of lean thinking to prototype design and manufacture of motorsport composite structures’), and also Richard Morgan and Graham Howe. In fact, Graham, Rich and I just presented a paper together at the Advances in Production Management Systems (APMS) Conference in Nantes called ‘Lean First … Then Digitalize: A Standard Approach for Industry 4.0 Implementation in SMEs’. This was also the theme of our round-table discussion at the MADE Cymru Summit in 2021.

Learning in action

I think UWTSD has a very practical, application-focused approach to R&D. This was apparent both in my undergraduate (Motorsport Engineering) and postgraduate studies (Lean Manufacturing). The fact that the university engages in solving problems that are firmly rooted in practice – together with its industry partners – highlights the importance of learning in action. In this respect I think there is a great synergy to be realized between the Welsh approach to practical problem solving and the long Norwegian tradition for action research – a synergy which I look forward to help realising as I join UWTSD as a Professor of Practice.

Daryl will be delivering a lecture to both UWTSD Degree Apprenticeship and MADE Cymru students on 15th October. The title of the lecture is ‘Digital Lean Manufacturing – the Future of Lean Thinking and Practice’.

Graham Howe, Executive Head at MADE Cymru said, “Daryl is a true inspiration to us all. His passion for lean manufacturing and the economic impact this has on industry is nothing short of incredible. I know that the students are excited about his lecture on Friday and are looking forward to applying lean thinking to their own organisations. Daryl is deeply involved in the MADE Cymru project and has spoken at several our events. Collaboration and continuous improvement are key to boosting manufacturers in Wales – this is what motivates us every day.”

You can read more about lean as a learning system in the Shingo Publication Award winner, The Lean Sensei 

MADE Cymru is an initiative designed to support Welsh manufacturers via collaborative research & development and upskilling. Part/Fully Funded by the European Social Fund/European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government. Delivered by University of Wales Trinity Saint David.