A Rolls-Royce approach

3 min read

‘Collaborative commerce’ may sound fanciful, but not to Rolls. Brian Tinham talks to Julie Scattergood about her systems

This country needs Rolls-Royce engineering and Rolls-Royce systems driving it. And to get it we need to start thinking outside the box in terms of our manufacturing, our business processes and our supporting IT for the coming ‘collaborative commerce’ age. That’s Rolls-Royce advice from Julie Scattergood, director of enterprise systems at that company. She says that means first considering what information, what systems and what relationships will enable us to compete better, to make better business, engineering and manufacturing decisions faster. And she adds: “don’t go for ad hoc projects, otherwise you could be e-enabling the wrong information.” Manufacturing business leaders “need to think carefully about what information would improve the engagement with their supply chains, making them both slicker and more efficient... What information would make a difference to you, and what to [your suppliers and customers]?” In the emerging manufacturing landscape, this is critically important. There’s no longer any doubt: manufacturers throughout the UK have little choice but to move their businesses into the world of web technologies and business-to-business collaboration, or face the consequences. Which is why Rolls-Royce has invested so heavily over the last four years in its own enterprise systems that now touch just about every aspect of its global business. And why the firm recommends others follow suit – but analytically. Rolls-Royce has been doing this for the last four years – from the ground up, inexorably moving its literally hundreds of legacy systems to a web-enabled, collaborative environment. It’s involved a major SAP ERP and supply chain implementation that now spans all its business units with some 15,000 users, alongside new manufacturing execution systems (MES) for 9,000 shopfloor users, company-wide Metaphase engineering product data management (PDM) and e-business. “We’ve implemented new systems, new processes, new and changed roles, backed by large scale change management,” she says. And it’s been – and remains – a major undertaking. From system selection in May 1998, the first implementation was complete in June 1999 – spanning financials for the whole of the UK. In November 1999, Rolls went on to pilot full scope systems at its Ansty, Coventry rotating components manufacturing site. “It’s small, but we were able to implement most of the business processes, test roles and data and ensure that it would all work.” Everything, from financials, through procurement, to demand management and quality management and production on a new MES, was tested. And the PDM was introduced in parallel – changing the systems that hold the heart of Rolls’ engineering knowledge base. Scattergood is unequivocal – you have to think and act as wide as this: whatever is necessary to pass the ‘What information would make a difference?’ test. And she warns that while it all went well, you shouldn’t underestimate the scale of data clean up. “For us, so much of it didn’t even exist,” she says. So be aware. What’s worked best for Rolls-Royce on web/collaboration? She has plenty of examples, including its e-enabled procurement activities. Now, delivery requests on suppliers go on the Rolls Supplier Network portal provided over a VPN (virtual private network). “As information changes, it gets to our suppliers online using mySAP.com technology,” Scattergood explains, although not mySAP.com itself yet. And the take-up? She says that more than 90% of its suppliers are using the portal. Beyond that, “on the customer side, we’ve made great strides in understanding what information we want to share and what would be useful to them,” she says. “The Aeromanager.com (remote online jet engine management system) portal is one example. Another is our CRM, where we have two ongoing projects, one to manage customer relationships, the other to manager customer publications… At one site in Indianapolis, customers can come onto the system and change information on orders. And it’s also augmenting our spares ordering facilities.” The list goes on. And the payoff? “Let me give you an example. The days following September 11 were turbulent… especially in aerospace. Our systems meant we were able to share information on the impact on our company with the workforce, all our operations, our suppliers, the whole extended network, so that we could all plan and cope.” And it works the other way just as well. “If you can’t get that quality of information you can’t manage efficiently,” warns Scattergood. And as the prophesy of supply chain pitched against supply chain comes to pass that will become a survival issue.