Viva la revolution

Oct 30 • Features, Future of FIeld Service • 4016 Views • Comments Off on Viva la revolution


Rolls Royce once reinvented service in the aerospace industry with ‘power by the hour’ they are about to do it again with ‘disruption based availability’ writes Field Service News Editor, Kris Oldland…

When it comes to creating real value through service and integrating your service offering and product into one holistic package that generates far greater value for your customers and far greater long-term revenue for yourselves, there is one company whose name is come across in almost every conversation.

One company who are the ultimate example of what getting it right looks like.

One company who revolutionised not only the way service operates in their industry but indeed how an entire industry operated.

That company is Rolls Royce Aerospace.

So when we were asked if we would head down to Bristol to record an interview with Dave Gordon, Program Director for Rolls Royce’s Defence Aviation division for a series of interviews for the International Society of Service Innovation Professionals (ISSIP) we leapt at the chance. And we were not disappointed.

Accompanied by Service Management Specialist Nick Frank we arrived at the Bristol Base, after submitting an array of additional paper work to allow us to film in what on the surface seemed a fairly regular corporate building, although the strict restrictions on where we could and couldn’t be and the detailed examination of our equipment relayed that this was still for all intense purposes an integral component in the Royal Air Force’s operations and therefore access was neither granted or to be taken lightly.

And as we met with Gordon he too carried this air of being somewhere between corporate and government official. As we got set up he spoke with a relaxed and comfortable manner of the experienced corporation man. Getting our coffees personally, making light-hearted small talk about a recent decision to have laser-eye surgery etc.

One gets the impression that Gordon would remain the same calm and amiable figure fixing the coffees before the meeting begins, if he was a meeting with a group of RAF Air Marshalls, US Marine Core Generals or as in this instance a member of the trade press.

You felt this was a businessman who had sat in many meetings such as these before, that was calm, relaxed and in control. Yet when we begin the interview and talk about the role Gordon plays he speaks about the UK client, he touches on their engines performance in ‘extreme conditions’ and you suddenly realise just how much pressure he and his team must be under to deliver, when your customers are some of the worlds leading military forces and we live in troubled times where the air strikes in Syria, would be just one example of where both Gordon’s and Rolls Royce’s reputations are put to the test in life and death scenarios that will effect the lives of thousands.

Yet still one gets the impression that Gordon would remain the same calm and amiable figure fixing the coffees before the meeting begins, if he was a meeting with a group of RAF Air Marshalls, US Marine Core Generals or as in this instance a member of the trade press.

The other early observation is that he is clearly very proud and passionate about the work he and his team are doing for Rolls Royce.

“Rolls Royce within defence has been on a journey over the last ten to fifteen years, we were a fairly traditional provider of the service we sold a product, we sold a very time and material based service solution, it was very driven by the customer and their management of our product” Gordon begins

“However, it became clear to us that that wasn’t the best fit for our customers” he continues. And it is this attitude, this belief that they can stand in the face of a customer driven process and say ‘hold on, we think we should be doing all this a bit differently’ that has separated Rolls Royce from the rest of the pack in the sectors they operate in.

Although their famous power-by-the-hour service system that is at the heart of their success as a serviced provider required a leap of faith from another global player in the industry.

“There was a very strong pull from American Airlines, who approached Rolls Royce and said we would be far more interested in you providing a solution that kept your engine on wing and we incentivised you for doing that” Gordon explains

“So we worked very closely with that customer and developed a total care solution that very much focuses on that end-to-end need and during that process Rolls ourselves have gradually taken on more of the risks, more of the responsibilities for managing those assets”

And Gordon’s own department in defence have followed this path now themselves taking a strikingly similar journey forward with the those he refers to as ‘The UK Customer’

“Within defence we’ve taken some of those core tools and processes and embedded them into our own value offering to our customer and we particularly use the UK Customer as a testing house to work with them.” Gordon continues

“They themselves were going through a major transformation looking to downsize the scale of their operation and drive efficiency. We were very much up for that journey as well. Very much a collaboration we went about introducing a far more availability based solution, which has been very successful”

However yesterday’s revolution is today’s best practice. And the only true revolutionaries are those who continue to innovate, continue to push boundaries and continue to look for ways they can further improve tomorrow.

Both Gordon and Rolls Royce fit into this camp.

“As we look to the future, we’re starting to work with the customer to go beyond just an availability solution and say what’s really disrupting that customers operation? What is really stopping them doing their job?” Gordon comments before taking a moment to pause.

We want to get to a point where they are no longer thinking about my propulsion system they’re just focussed on prosecuting their operation. To do that we need to know a little bit about the nature of the disruption and what we can do to help

“We want to get to a point where they are no longer thinking about my propulsion system they’re just focussed on prosecuting their operation. To do that we need to know a little bit about the nature of the disruption and what we can do to help.” He adds with a definite hint of excitement of that future being within touching distance. It is this concept of ‘disruption based availability’ that Gordon and Rolls Royce clearly believe to be the next evolution of there service offering as they continue to lead the industry from the front.

“Disruption based availability is something that we been very focussed on”

“Disruption based availability, or sometimes we refer to it as project zero, as in zero disruption to the customer, is something that both us in Defence and our colleagues in Civil have been very focussed on.” Begins Gordon.

“Understanding that it’s not just about guaranteeing the engine time on wing but actually understanding when the engine does have an incident that causes some disruption to the customer, even something as minor as a delayed take off, still that clearly has a cost. What we have been trying to do is work with our customers to understand very clearly what that cost is.” He adds.

It is a bold vision of where the Aerospace giants next steps will be, yet at the same time it feels like a natural evolution from where they are today. It’s also an approach that will yield a number benefits both hard and soft according to Gordon.

“The benefits are both the tangible where we can build an offering around saying ‘We understand the impact around cost and therefore if we are able to reduce that we can develop that into a value proposition…  but also there is an intangible piece to this as well as it helps me to motivate my teams to understand the exact impact an event will have on a customer. To help them see the fact that there are repercussions way beyond a flight not being able to take off. It will feedback into the impact such an event has on the wider operation, the planning that went into it, the need for contingency planning, and so on…” Gordon explains with enthusiasm

“Understanding the whole eco-system that sits around not just my product, but the system it’s working in and how the customer is using it, and then understanding how we can reduce the impact, you can clearly demonstrate the value to the customer, and we’re working with them to do that….”

He takes the briefest of pauses, giving his next thought some consideration before committing to it.  But when he does it sums up exactly what both Gordon and Rolls Royce are all about

“It’s a real motivator for me as the team really starts to understand what customer service actually means.” He adds in an almost solemn tone.

And this for me is it, there is a point in any interview where you grasp the heart of the story, and you see your subject in their truest light. Dave Gordon and Rolls Royce are a perfect fit. Look at the DNA of both the man and the corporation and you’ll find service deeply entwined.

In the heart of each you’ll find a desire to innovate, to keep pushing the boundaries, and to keep on being revolutionary.

Which is why I expect both to succeed.



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