School of Engineering


Dr Ganiyat Salawu with her children, from left: AbdulMalik, Toyeeb, AbdulHazeem and Waliyullahi.

Graduate Aiming for a Career in Building Bridges

The impact of disruptive technology on the manufacturing process and productivity in an advanced-manufacturing environment was the focus of a study which secured Dr Ganiyat Salawu a PhD in Engineering.

Salawu – who wants to be a bridge builder – completed most of her school and tertiary education in Nigeria where she attained a Higher Diploma in Mechanical Engineering, a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Education in 2010.

She started work in 2013 as a lecturer at the Federal Polytechnic Offa in Kwara, Nigeria, continuing her studies and being awarded a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2015.

The desire to gain more knowledge led to her starting doctoral studies at UKZN in 2018 under the supervision of Professor Glen Bright.

‘Studying at UKZN gave me the rare opportunity to develop highly valued skills and get experience with new equipment and new research methods. UKZN has a reputation for cutting-edge research and learning,’ said Salawu.

Her research focused on Advanced Manufacturing, with the spotlight on the impact of robots as a disruptive technology in an advanced manufacturing environment.

Robots were used in her study to carry out a “pick and place” task in a virtual manufacturing environment. Salawu said if managed appropriately the “pick and place” strategy assists manufacturers obtain an efficient system with a higher throughput rate.

The selected manufacturing scenario studied used classical mathematical models. ‘These models were analysed using related mathematical expressions, and simulated using MATLAB to obtain results that were represented graphically. Outcomes from the graphical presentation showed the suggested models can be useful and implemented when the throughput rate of a manufacturing process is required to be improved,’ she said.

‘Suitable equations were developed to obtain an efficient throughput rate. Furthermore, the design parameters of a conveyor system were modelled and simulated to determine the best working parameters to be considered when designing a conveyor system for optimal throughput.

‘Further research was conducted to manipulate the robotic arm to determine the best angle of pick and place giving the highest throughput rate. From the studies, it was discovered that when the robot arm (manipulator) is allowed to be at an angle of 88 degrees, the efficiency would be higher and the throughput rate increased.’

Salawu’s research will help companies to find suitable solutions to manufacturing problems in terms of quality and efficiency. Disruptive technologies can be optimised to benefit both the business world and society, enabling business and technology leaders to build new markets for technologies and products.

With motivation and support from Bright, Salawu was able to publish five journal papers between July 2018 and November 2020 and presented at four conferences. Additionally, she tutored in the Discipline of Mechanical Engineering at UKZN.

Salawu faced many challenges, including being a widow and a mother of four children at the age of 30, meaning that she had to cope with the challenges of bringing up her young ones on very little income with the help of their aged grandmother.

Life was hard but she managed to achieve her goal of graduating with a PhD and is now proud to be working full-time in Nigeria. She says she knows her family are also proud of her achievements.

Said Bright. ‘Ganiyat has been amazing and has grown so much as a researcher. Her family and country can be very proud of her.’

Salawu – who thanked Bright for providing her with all the guidance and support she needed to succeed in the PhD programme – is now working in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Federal Polytechnic Offa in Nigeria.

She hopes to become a ‘bridge builder, and an academic-cum-industrialist par excellence’!

Words: Leena Rajpal

Photograph: Olanrewaju-OluwaToyin