Lean ERP is Alvis Vickers vehicle for war on waste

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When armoured security and fighting vehicle specialists, Alvis Vickers, decided to completely modernise its IT systems, it recognised it needed to improve its manufacturing and business processes before implementation could take place. It called on lean manufacturing consultants, HOSCA, to help reorganise the business.

Alvis Vickers was formed in 2002 from the merger of Vickers Defence Systems and Alvis Vehicles. It is now part of BAE SYSTEMS, Land Systems, Weapons and Vehicles. The company has four sites around the UK, with its main manufacturing plant in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where it employs nearly 700 people.

The company is well known for the manufacture of tanks and other large military vehicles. It currently produces the Engineering Tank Systems variants of Challenger 2, which are the TROJAN engineers vehicle and TITAN bridge layer. It has produced a wide range of famous-name products, including the Warrior, Challenger 2, and the long-established Scorpion and Stormer. It has built over 98% of the all the British Armys armoured vehicles, and is currently developing a range of faster, lighter, more mobile vehicles.

Over the years, specialist departments at the Newcastle site had developed their own systems, procedures and processes without fully recognising the cross-functional flow of the processes. As a result the use of technology varied dramatically throughout the company, ranging from the most sophisticated 3D CAD packages to (in one instance) a typewriter for despatch documents. With limited systems integration, business processes had become complex and disjointed and there was inherent waste and inefficiency throughout the plant.

Following the merger, the company secured funding for a fully integrated ERP system but there was work to do before the system could be implemented.

Christopher Lee, production control manager (and project leader for the new IT system) says, We were concerned that if we didnt simplify our business processes, the new system would be difficult and time consuming to implement and that we would just be automating bad processes.

Alvis Vickers called in specialist lean manufacturing consultants, HOSCA, to help them establish a more efficient organisation. Lee had previously worked with HOSCA and contacted the consultant again following press coverage of its lean ERP implementation techniques. HOSCA conducted a three-stage programme: business process mapping, training and ERP implementation blueprint.

HOSCA mapped out our business processes warts-n-all. It was a big and complex job because our systems were so diverse.

HOSCA helped the company create an implementation team with representatives from each of the key departments and brought them together for a week-long training programme to demonstrate what was possible with a fully integrated system - from shopfloor to e-commerce applications.

Lee says, The training program was an excellent experience for the team; the new system means a big change in our company culture and the training really opened our minds. It was important that everyone understood the benefits of what was about to happen. We started to think about how the company would look if you took the lid off it in two or three years time what systems would there be in place and what integration would there be if we were a world class operation.

The team was then able to take the concerns highlighted by the process mapping and turn them into a blueprint and set of principles against which the new ERP system could be implemented.

It meant we were on the front foot with the ERP supplier. We could say before you show us whats in the box, this is how we want to run our business implement the system round that. The entire programme took just 35 days. HOSCA didnt just come in and try to sell lots of training; they helped us prepare the business properly for our new system. I am impressed with what has been achieved, and it will save a lot of time and money on the ERP implementation.

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