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Posted by APM on 1st Jun 2009

An ambitious plan to redevelop its Defence Aerospace Operations Facility saw 2008 APM Project of the Year winner, Rolls-Royce, revolutionise its business proposition with a three-point strategy focusing on Lean working practices.

The vision of Rolls-Royce during the last decade has been focused on reviewing and renewing the general infrastructure of its existing facilities in order to create world class capabilities.

The focal point of the investment programme was the companys new Defence Aerospace Operations Facility (DAOF) located in Bristol.

The 25,000m2 building part of a massive regeneration project valued at 75 million set out to consolidate all key activities onto one site and, in the process, make available 65 acres of land to be sold for redevelopment.

On the surface this looked like a pure construction project but it rapidly became clear in the scoping phase that what the business really wanted was to integrate much more streamlined production processes into the new building.

In effect, the project was primarily a change programme for which the new facility was a vital catalyst.

This point was reiterated in the strategic aims of the DAOF programme which, alongside the construction of the new facilities, also sought to promote new Lean working practices. These would seek to reduce product lead times by 20 per cent and increase operator efficiency by 13 per cent.

However, to achieve this, the project team had to work to a tight budget and exploit limited management reserves. The total amount including funds allocated to constructing and fitting-out the new building was 25m.

The project also had to comply with a number of planning regulations which set about limiting its impact on the local community. Among these were restrictions on noise and lighting levels, and a requirement to achieve a very good Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) rating, which looks at environmental best practice in construction projects.

To successfully deliver the project aims, designing and implementing a robust organisational structure was key. This not only applied to the team dynamic, which carefully knitted together the skills of existing employees, but also the way each aspect of the project fitted together. The design of the DAOF, for example, was organised around a series of milestones that ensured that relevant teams were all working to a common goal. This in turn, triggered the next phase of development and ensured that any initial momentum was maintained.

This principle applied throughout the planning stages and continued into the construction phase, where resources were concentrated on preparing the business for the move. This involved familiarisation with new Value Stream working processes in order to minimise the risk of disruption to customer deliveries.

Once the facility was available for occupation the project team had to ensure that the DAOF was delivered to the agreed standard for the transfer of associated equipment. Working closely with the building contractor, all equipment was moved to plan and production lines assessed against the equivalent in the old facility to ensure a consistency of approach and quality.

As each stage was completed, or was nearing completion, the emphasis shifted to another aspect of the project. In this case, with the transition phase running smoothly, the focus turned to the decommissioning of the old site. Again this was approached in a very structured way with teams moving systematically through the old facility to clean and empty it one step at a time.

The working environment of the new facility was also subject to strict controls. Based on feedback from early consultation sessions, the workforce indicated a clear preference for as much natural light as possible. This was in direct contrast to existing facilities, which were universally acknowledged as dark and humid. With this in mind, senior management and the project team set about tackling the issue in two distinct ways. Firstly, the provision of roof lights down the centre of the facility and secondly, by installing large four metre windows from floor to ceiling. Both measures had an immediate and lasting impact, resulting in a positive effect on the well-being of occupants and acting as a template for all future Rolls-Royce building designs.

Another area of concern was the heating and ventilation. With no real way of regulating temperature, employees complained that working conditions were either too hot or too cold. To remedy the situation, large ventilation tubes were installed at regular intervals along the ceiling to distribute air more evenly.

On the shop floor careful planning enabled the building to meet one of its key business aims; the reduction of the facility footprint by 47 per cent. To achieve this, a number of rationalisation activities were undertaken including changes to logistics and tooling methods. In support of this, a 40 per cent reduction in machine use was achieved by careful mapping of operational efficiencies.

Further cost savings were realised by focusing on lead-time reduction. By adopting Lean working practices, the new facility succeeded in eliminating waste through the adoption of low-level gravity-fed racking systems and standardised assembly kits ready for transfer to the build area.

Furthermore, by regulating the capacity of the build line to match the required output, work content became more predicable enabling potential hold-ups to be more easily managed.

(Above - New look: The new building consolidated key activities and improved working conditions)

True value

The success of the Bristol redevelopment can be measured in terms of the bright, well-lit, modern facility that now stands on the site. However, this would be to underestimate the true value of the project, which in delivering three main phases pre-transition, transition into DAOF and implementation/decommissioning has completely transformed the business culture within Rolls-Royce.

An achievement best summed up by programme manager, Bill Cullen, who said: The project took four and a half years to deliver and involved close co-operation with the workforce to make the changes within the factory. Thats what was most powerful and one of the most significant things we did.

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