Countdown to zero……………..#EV

The U.K Governments decision to ban the sale of new petrol & diesel cars by 2030 presents some real challenges for the UK Automotive industry. A development lifecycle of 5-7 years is not unusual for a brand new model & when we are looking at a whole different powertrain & chassis with the consequent implications for production assembly then we are talking major developments.

JLR spent over $1 Billion developing its 2014 Engine Plant for Diesel & Petrol Engines, this gives some indication of the huge resource requirements for Battery powered vehicles.

There is a lot of debate as to whether Electric Vehicles actually produce less CO2 than their ICE (Internal Combustion Engine)  counterparts but this report from ICCT organisation clearly debunks this.

There is some parallel with the elimination of leaded petrol, responsible for the death of over 5000 adults per year & countless examples of brain damage to children; it took over 12 years from unleaded petrol being available to a European Directive in 2000 before it was eventually banned.

Interestingly the Government announcement makes no mention of exporting ICE vehicles; only sales in the U.K. As we currently export 80% of all UK manufactured cars (admittedly 55% to the Eu) there is a little bit of wriggle room for Manufacturers to continue making ICE cars in lower volumes beyond 2030. There are many part of the World where Electric Vehicles will not prevail for many years to come but in urban conurbations in the ‘developed’ world their ascendancy is without doubt.

This will result in huge engineering & change management opportunities in the ever evolving automotive sector.

There will be much debate over the coming decade about the pro’s & cons of electric cars but there is no doubt about it, after a century of production the Internal Combustion Engine is heading for the breakers yard.


2014 – Year of Discovery……..#automotive

This year has been an extremely exciting & challenging one for me personally. In January 2014 I signed a 12 month contract with Tata Technologies as Lead Engineer in Exterior Trim developing & bringing to production Jaguar Land Rovers’s Freelander replacement the new ‘Discovery Sport’.

In January I was based in TTL’s Coventry office but spent a lot of time at JLR’s Browns Lane plant in the West Midlands, historical home of Jaguar Cars & now utilised as a Pilot Plant for small scale production.

Walking into Browns Lane was a great experience personally as I met many old friends from JLR having worked on the Range Rover Sport Programme. Although it is a large organization employing many thousands its amazing how many people you get to know working on a project for 18 months.

The pilot build is known as VP build & this stage of the process is very much a learning process. Some trim parts are still not ‘off tool’ & its all about capturing issues via the Automated Issues Management system. This AIMs system is used to track issues & ensure the proper fix is put in place before closure. It provides visibility to Senior Management & its administration is one of the Lead Engineer’s key tasks along with developing engineering solutions & working with key suppliers to ensure timely delivery of quality parts. Most issues require a PACN (to support financial justification) & a Engineering Release to implement the change. As most Engineers are responsible for numerous parts time is rapidly eroded before its time for the next build – Hard Tool Functional Build (HTFB)

This build took place at JLR’s Halewood plant where the Discovery Sport is to be mass produced & which was to be my base for the next 8 months.

Halewood is a large plant which covers several square miles & employs over 8,000 people.  Most of the Product Coaches & Line Engineers were involved in the Browns Lane builds so there were many familiar faces at Halewood as well as plenty new ones. Halewood is one of JLR’s centres of excellence & the Engineering knowledge here is second to none.

Over the next 8 months we embarked on a number of builds increasing in numbers & complexity. This is a very stressful period for all & the nearer Volume Launch approaches the pressure piles on.

It was with a mixture of relief & a great sense of achievement  when Volume Launch in December was achieved and cars began rolling off the production line at a rate of one every 40 seconds !!

It is important to recognise the economic importance of this model; Tata have invested hundreds of millions of pounds in this venture which has created several thousand jobs at Halewood & employed hundreds of thousands in the wider supply chain. With JLR’s commitment to source 60% of parts within a 40 mile radius the importance to the Regional Economy cannot be underestimated.

To play a small part in this great venture & to help take the Discovery Sport from initial concept to volume production brings a great sense of pride & achievement.

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#Lean empowerment……


At the heart of the Toyota Production System (sometimes referrred to as #Lean Production System) is the principle of ‘Jidoka’.

 According to Toyota “Jidoka means that a machine safely stops when the normal processing is completed. It also means that, should a quality / equipment problem arise, the machine detects the problem on its own and stops, preventing defective products from being produced. As a result, only products satisfying quality standards will be passed on to the following processes on the production line.”

But there is more to #Lean than this. The key component is the empowerment of the Operator to stop the process immediately a defect or potentialy defective process is discovered without referring the issue upward. The Operator can stop the production process without fear of retribution and is empowered to do so. This is a great responsibility and one which is not granted lightly, the Operator must be fully trained and the Organisation steeped in the culture of #Lean & #Kaizen (continuous improvement)

Granting  this autonomy is absolutely key to the success of the TPS philosophy & unleashes immense forces of creativity & quality improvement.

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#Insource is the new #Outsource

workersA recent report from Deloitte suggests that bringing jobs back in house (Insourcing) is a small but growing trend against the much larger tendency to Outsource which has dominated western industry for the last thirty years.

Companies are increasingly realizing that Outsourcing is no longer the best value option. Anyone who has been involved in Outsourcing knows it is never as simple as it’s made out, often requiring intensive effort from Managerial & Engineering staff & extensive, frequent travel. Not to mention increased wage costs in China & India, increased shipping costs and numerous supply chain delays.

The biggest issue Western companies face with Insourcing is the lack of trained, skilled staff to deliver the service. Having made thousands of workers redundant in the pursuit of cheaper Outsource options this is somewhat ironic.

This need may be met by making good use of the highly skilled Freelance professionals who operate in the market to satisfy just such demand.

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#Innovation adds value and creates jobs……

Fantastic news today regarding the development of a National Automotive Innovation Campus at the University of Warwick.

Funded jointly by the Government’s U.K Research Investment fund, Tata Motors & Jaguar Land Rover, the centre will cost 92 million pounds.

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said: “The UK has world-class companies and great universities. This new investment will get them working together to deliver innovation and growth.”

“The automotive industry in the UK has seen a recent resurgence, but for the UK to remain internationally competitive we must create urgently a critical mass in research excellence,” said WMG chairman and founder Professor Lord Bhattacharyya. “Our vision is to create the National Automotive Innovation Campus where we link people, research and world-leading infrastructure to create and develop novel technologies.

“NAIC will be an ‘engine’ for economic growth, with wide economic benefit, and sustained growth from the creation of world-leading technologies. It will enable academic and industry teams to work together in state of the art buildings, with tailored equipment and digital solutions to create and integrate breakthrough technologies with a whole system approach crossing multiple disciplines.”

This is exactly the type of investment British Science & Engineering has been crying out for & is a terrific example of how collaboration between successful organizations and Government can work together to increase innovation & deliver high value added products along with well paid jobs.

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What recession ??? #pmot #entrepreneur

This week Jaguar Land Rover announced a multi – billion pound investment program which will generate over one thousand new jobs in the West Midlands – a fantastic example of how a company can thrive in a recession when it focuses on producing a quality product range which exceeds customer expectations.

Here is just a short list of some major companies which not only started in a recession (or even a depression) but went on to grow into some of the biggest and most successful companies in he world today.

growthGeneral Electric – 1873

Disney – 1924

Hewlett Packard – 1939

Burger King – 1957

Microsoft – 1975

So here are some thoughts on growth in the current recession:-

  • Business Case – if the business case is sound and has been rigorously reviewed – forget the recession. Have the courage to invest in your convictions.
  • Ignore the herd – just because the majority of companies are acting like rabbits caught in the headlights doesn’t mean that yours has to.
  • Crush Competitors – that’s right, take the opportunity to mop up your timid competitors markets.
  • Eliminate waste – apply LEAN principles to maintain the competitive edge.
  • Ensure Quality – apply 6 Sigma t0 minimize defects & maximise yields.
  • Employ Interims – If you are cautious about taking on full time employees make use of highly qualified contractors available at short notice to meet your immediate business needs.

Fortune favours the brave !

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Fix the system not the individual…#pmot…#in

systems-thinkingOn a recent business trip to Geneva I flew from Leeds Bradford Airport in the North of England. I checked through on time and headed for the gate to be met by a scene of organised chaos. The queue was very long and heaving with Schoolkids on exchange visits, holidaymakers and business people. At the very end of this long queue we were given a tray into which we had to load our laptops, keys, belts etc as part of the security screening process. This was undoubtedly the bottleneck and by the time I got through security to the Gate I was informed by an attendant that I may well have missed the flight. I was then subjected to admonishment, had I not heard the attendants calling people through for the Geneva flight – “No” , I hadn’t heard anything in melee – anyway to cut a long story short I caught my flight but not without a lot of hassle and stress.

Contrast this experience with the return journey – same plane, same loading, same mixture of people.

Here, at Geneva, the queuing system was completely different. Rather than joining  a long “snake” we joined the end of two queues where we were given a tray on a conveyor belt at the START of the queue. This gave us plenty time to put all our valuables into the tray before we reached the end of the queue and the X-ray machine. Consequenly there was no rush or panic, we all got through in plenty time & enjoyed a less stressful experience.

The difference was one of Systems Thinking. The system at Geneva was designed to speed the security process, eliminate bottlenecks and make thing easy for the customer. The system at Leeds-Bradford did the opposite.

If we employ Systems Thinking to our Business Processes, adopting the spirit of Kaizen, we will encourage the smooth flow of people and materials to aid maximum efficiency and process capability. If we ignore the system and blame the individual we will never achieve maximum efficiency & are doomed to fail.

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“Dee eff emm eee aaay”…? #pmot #in

DFMEADFMEA or Design Failure Modes Effects Analysis is a Risk Management Tool which is widely used throughout the Automotive Industry.

DFMEA is a Team activity which is led by the Project Manager or Senior Design Engineer.

It involves using a set form & identifying the risks in the project.

Each Risk is called a Failure Mode. Each has an Effect. The Severity of this Effect is assigned a score where 10 is high impact & 1 low impact.

Each Failure Mode also has a Cause which is ranked according to its Occurrence or likelihood between 1 & 10.

Each Failure Mode also has a Current Control and its chance of detection is ranked 10 unlikely to 1 likely.

The product of Severity x Cause x Control gives us a Risk Priority Number or RPN which gives us a measure of the size of the problem and the urgency to address it.

Identifying a Recommended Action for each Failure Mode leads us to rescoring the Occurrence & Detection and subsequently reducing the RPN.

The key to success of DFMEA is not to get too hung up about the scores and to use it as intended, as a comparative tool for Risk Analysis.

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The difference between price & cost…#in..#pmot

price & cost

How many times have you inherited a project and had major problems with a supplier who was selected because they were cheap !

This perception of “cheap” is normally based purely on price and takes absolutely no account of the total cost of ownership of the product or service.

Selecting suppliers purely on price is never a good idea.

Here are some great tips from Businesslink:-

What you should look for in a supplier

There are a number of key characteristics that you should look for when identifying and short listing possible suppliers. Good suppliers should be able to demonstrate that they can offer you the following benefits.

Quality and reliability

The quality of your supplies needs to be consistent – your customers associate poor quality with you, not your suppliers. Equally, if your supplier lets you down with a late delivery or faulty supplies, you may let your customer down.

Speed and flexibility

Being able to place frequent, small orders lets you avoid tying up too much working capital in stock. Flexible suppliers help you respond quickly to changing customer demands and sudden emergencies.

Value for money

The lowest price is not always the best value for money. If you want reliability and quality from your suppliers, you’ll have to decide how much you’re willing to pay for your supplies and the balance you want to strike between cost, reliability, quality and service.

Strong service and clear communication

You need your suppliers to deliver on time, or to be honest and give you plenty of warning if they can’t. The best suppliers will want to talk with you regularly to find out what needs you have now and how they can serve you better in the future.

Financial security

It’s always worth making sure your supplier has sufficiently strong cashflow to deliver what you want, when you need it. A credit check will help reassure you that they won’t go out of business when you need them most.

Always remember the difference between price & cost

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10 tips to ensure project delivery….#pmot #in

On target delivery

On target delivery

As Project Managers our business is project delivery. However some external suppliers are more reliable than others so here are 10 tips to ensure success:-

1) At the first sign of trouble arrange to have a face to face meeting with your supplier. It doesn’t matter if they are on the other side of the world, clear a space in the diary, book the flights and get in front of them. It will be worth every penny.

2) Raise your concerns in an open, honest none aggressive manner. By all means express your irritation but don’t blow your top – you will make yourself look foolish and unprofessional.

3) Identify the key stakeholders within your own organization who share an interest in the project.

4) Identify the key stakeholders in the supplier organization who share an interest in delivering the project.

5) Break the task down into manageable chunks and identify responsibility for each sub-task.

6) Insist the supplier provide a daily report of activity to be delivered at a specific time. This report should include a simple graphical representation (such as a bullseye chart) to indicate days ahead or days behind schedule. It should also stipulate actions required and responsibility. This report should be circulated to all key stakeholders. Accept no excuses for late or none delivery of this key report.

7) Following the face-to-face have a daily conference call. Do this whether there are any issues or not. 2 minutes passing the time of day reminds the supplier they are uppermost in your mind.

8) Identify Carrots and Sticks. What penalty clauses can you invoke ?  What are the opportunities of new business ?  Identifying them gives you additional leverage.

9) Make it easy for them – have they got a spec, is it up to date, is it comprehensive enough, do they understand exactly what is required ?

10) Don’t assume everything is the fault of the supplier, have you communicated clearly and concisely what your expectations are ?  Have you paid each milestone on time ? Is the SOW & Contract clear ?

Some suppliers are always easier to deal with than others but employing the above tips should help. Have you got any more you could share ?

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