Cranfield University's Manufacturing Management Centre (MMC) has joined forces with book distributors Books for Students (BfS) as part of a pioneering management development programme.
The deal comes on the back of a successful work placement, where Debra Green, now a Cranfield Fellow in manufacturing management, completed a 12-month attachment with BfS. She will take over as operations manager at the end of the month.
BfS managing director Paul Proctor said: "Debra came to us with a lot of skills learned at Cranfield, which she was able to apply with immediate benefit, and I thought we should follow this through by sending other managers there."
Eight BfS middle managers have already embarked on a year-long, broadly based management course. Covering seven modules, with 19 days of lectures, the rest of the programme is devoted to a company-specific project.
Course administrator Marion Walls believes that this element makes Cranfield's programme unique. "BfS will have eight individual projects going on at one time, which is quite a task for a small company. They will be losing almost half of their management while they are at Cranfield. But these managers will bring something active back to the company."
Lead tutor Melanie Armstrong agrees that the most attractive aspect of the course for interested companies is the prospect of a tangible outcome. "These projects will make an incredible difference to the levels of service offered to customers, the company's ability to handle a greater turnover and its overall profitability."
This is the first time Cranfield has run such a programme and Ms Armstrong hopes that it will form a template for future relationships with companies of a similar size. "This is a very modern way for Cranfield to maintain its links with industry and to offer an even better service. It is also another product for us to market."
The real results will be evident by the end of the academic year, when all eight projects are completed and installed. Ranging from production planning to distribution, they will test the effectiveness of the programme. "Our reputation is really on the line," said Ms Walls. "If the managers don't perform or improve the company's overall performance at the end of the course, then we will have failed."