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Mr Aslam Farikullah: oration

Read Professor James Turner's oration on Mr Aslam Farikullah for the honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering in May 2017.


Pro-Vice-Chancellor, it is my pleasure to introduce Mr Aslam Farikullah, an industrial leader of the highest renown.

Aslam Farikullah studied at the School of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath, graduating with a a BSc in Mechanical Engineering in 1984. After this, he continued in academia as an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. In 1986, he joined the corporate world as a Quality Engineer with Airod, an aircraft engineering company. Three years later, Aslam joined the Associated Engineering Group and then moved to Denso Marston, part of the Denso Group, in 1991. Within this major automotive organisation, he became part of its technical management team, which was responsible for growth of business in the UK, EU and North America. This team specialised in automotive heat exchangers and covered all aspects of product engineering, including design, simulation, testing, manufacturing and quality.

After sixteen years with Denso, Aslam joined DRB-HICOM, a major Malaysian industrial conglomerate, as Chief Operating Officer of its HICOM Automotive division. DRB-HICOM manufactures and assembles vehicles on behalf of international car makers. It can be said that the reputation for the quality of the products of a number of famous companies was effectively in his hands. In this period, he improved production efficiencies within key manufacturing contracts for clients. In 2009, he became Head of Manufacturing and Engineering for the Automotive Group, a role which, in addition to automotive manufacturing, included sub-assembly, Body-in-White manufacturing, vehicle painting, as well as final assembly and testing. One year later, he became Head of Vehicle Manufacturing Projects, preparing clients’ vehicles for production in DRB-HICOM’s facilities and the subsequent commercialisation of these products for sale.

In 2012, he moved to become Chief Operating Officer of Group Lotus, now a wholly owned subsidiary of DRB-HICOM. At this time, Lotus was in a very challenging state and in need of drastic management action to begin a major strategic turnaround. In this role, Aslam decided to bring to bear all of his experience with the aim of improving the quality of the product and increasing production efficiency, whilst trying to maximise revenue and implement substantial reductions in costs in order to focus on the customer-relevant characteristics of the cars.

For Aslam, this means the rigorous exploitation of Lotus technology, including lightweight construction and the benefits that this can bring to vehicle performance, efficiency, and ride and handling. These are all true to Lotus’s engineering philosophies, which, through thirteen Formula One World Championships and some of the most innovative and revered sports and racing cars of the last 70 years, have resulted in Lotus continuing to set the benchmark for sports cars today.

In any conversation with Aslam, it immediately becomes apparent that his appreciation of the importance of an engineering-led approach to providing these attributes is very much a result of the education he received at the University of Bath. He continually cites personal examples of inspiration from many important figures in the history of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University. As a result, he insists that it is futile to attempt to solve complex engineering problems without understanding the underlying science. This will, no doubt, resonate with many here present.

His belief in a team-led approach in all aspects of vehicle manufacturing and to stay ahead in the hugely competitive automotive industry has resulted in Lotus producing higher quality, better performing and more efficient sports cars than ever. All are still handbuilt in Norfolk.

His association with the Lotus philosophy extends further back than his current role. In 1984, during his final year project at the University, Aslam was part of a team designing a microlight aircraft and his research investigated using perforated structures for strength with light weight. Twenty-eight years later he joined Lotus, a technology company synonymous with performance, light weight and simplicity and, with these, the appreciation of engineering purity that the company holds so dear.

It could be said that with this experience and the engineering philosophies engendered at the University of Bath, his career has gone full-circle to being COO of Group Lotus, a meteoric company with a history of innovation and engineering flair.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor, I present to you Mr Aslam Farikullah, who is eminently worthy to receive the Degree of Doctor of Engineering, honoris causa.

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