Department of Mechanical Engineering

Processing unstructured data in naval engineering records

Department of Mechanical Engineering in collaboration with Babcock International Group Plc.

Learn more about our research collaboration with Babcock International Group.


The maintenance costs for naval assets run to hundreds of millions pounds sterling each year. A one per cent improvement in efficiency can be swiftly translated into more than £1 million.

Having determined that the methods for classifying and interrogating data in an engineering project often constrained the thinking that followed and impacted on efficiency, staff from Babcock Marine & Technology wanted to determine whether it was possible to revisit data already gathered to reclassify and reinvestigate it to find hidden connections.


The Innovative design and Manufacturing Centre (IdMRC) has leading expertise in faceted classification; that is, assigning multiple classifications to an object so that a database of such objects can be interrogated flexibly in many different ways.

To assist Babcock, a sophisticated classification scheme was used on components in naval submarines and surface ships, drawing upon both structured and unstructured data.


Benefits and outcomes

As a result of the project, a faceted classification scheme was created for text descriptions of naval vessel engineering concessions and applied to Babcock’s database systems. Through analysing and classifying free text used to describe concessions, further breadth and depth was added to the classification scheme.

Concession records can now be browsed and searched to reveal previously hidden patterns and to prompt and answer new questions. The University is now carrying out follow-up studies with Babcock on data criticality for through-life support of naval vessels.