GKN Aerospace is a leading global supplier in the aerospace industry, specializing in the design, manufacturing, and supply of advanced aerospace systems and components. With an aviation history dating back a century, GKN Aerospace has established itself with major aircraft and engine manufacturers and operators worldwide as a trusted and sustainable partner that supports its goals of pushing the boundaries of aircraft performance and sustainability.

GKN Aerospace has expanded its operations through a series of strategic acquisitions, resulting in a significant global presence. With physical locations in 12 countries and 38 manufacturing sites worldwide, the company employs over 15,000 people. However, this expansion brought forth challenges in effectively managing the broader aspects of the organization. It soon became clear that effective management practices and strategies were needed to address these challenges and ensure the continued success of the business.

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Rising to the challenge

GKN Aerospace’s extensive operational structure presented several challenges in achieving efficient Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) processes and integrated business planning:

  • Non-standard Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems: The company’s growth through acquisitions resulted in a multitude of ERP systems, making it difficult to consolidate and transfer data seamlessly between different platforms.
  • Inconsistent Processes: Due to the non-homogeneous nature of acquired systems, GKN Aerospace relied on Excel-based templates to transfer data from ERPs to the mandated corporate reporting software. This manual process often led to errors and delays.
  • Lack of Standardization: GKN Aerospace’s global manufacturing business encompassed diverse products, business lines, and site operations, necessitating standardization to align FP&A models and reporting structures.

Expanding for growth

What started as site-level planning for a more robust solution gradually transformed into a comprehensive initiative to standardize processes and reporting across multiple sites and business lines. The flexibility of Planning Analytics allowed GKN Aerospace to adapt the system to the specific needs of each site while maintaining standardized approaches for key metrics and reporting at higher levels. This seamless integration and standardization across functions laid the groundwork for the implementation of Integrated Business Planning, ensuring a cohesive and streamlined approach to organizational decision-making.

Journey to integrated business planning

Traditionally, Planning Analytics was seen as a finance tool, but GKN Aerospace executives recognized the benefits of having a unified approach to planning and reporting across multiple departments.

Executives also understood that while the finance department had a strong understanding of their responsibilities and processes, other departments faced challenges. This realization led to a discussion among them, including Mike Herring, the Planning Analytics Development Lead, and the driving force behind GKN Aerospace’s integrated business planning transformation.

By leveraging Planning Analytics’ capabilities, Herring aimed to eliminate discrepancies and conflicts in data sets between different functions such as finance, HR, operations, and procurement. Each function had its own unique perspective, but the organization needed a common language and process to collaborate effectively.

What departments are Planning Analytics used for?

Currently, Planning Analytics (formerly TM1) is being utilized in several departments within the organization. Here are several ways GKN Aerospace is using the solution:

  • Workforce Planning for Engineers: Planning Analytics is used to allocate engineers’ time effectively. Workforce planning ensures that resources are appropriately allocated based on project requirements.
  • Integration with Operations: Planning Analytics facilitates discussions about manufacturing plans and tracks key metrics related to financial results. This integration helps streamline operations and enables data-driven decision-making.
  • Procurement: The organization considers procurement, especially when acquiring parts from external sources. Planning Analytics is crucial in the operations plan, ensuring efficient and cost-effective procurement processes.
  • Sales Planning: Planning Analytics is employed for customer sales plans and program management. Program managers responsible for sales management in the space industry can leverage Planning Analytics to monitor and optimize sales performance.
  • Manufacturing Engineering: The organization is exploring the inclusion of manufacturing engineers who oversee the manufacturing process on the shop floor. Planning Analytics assists in estimating production times, creating materials, and determining the required hours for manufacturing.

Why Planning Analytics for integrated business planning?

IBM Planning Analytics became the glue that bound these diverse functions together, here are some of the benefits GKN Aerospace saw as a result.

Driving efficiency and collaboration

Its powerful calculation engine allowed GKN Aerospace to capture complex calculations and streamline its workflows. Planning Analytics provided a common platform for different roles within the organization. A salesperson speaking to customers could seamlessly translate their requirements into the components needed for manufacturing. Planning Analytics facilitated this communication and ensured everyone understood their role in the bigger picture.

Flexibility and customization

According to Mike Herring, “The customization of [Planning Analytics] is what makes it a solution fit for integrated business planning.” He highlights that Planning Analytics offers unique functionality for complex calculations and cell-based interactions. Herring explains, “Planning Analytics allows for cell-based interactions, whereas typical relational databases don’t allow you to have that sort of level of granularity and still have the functionality.”

Excel integration and familiarity

Herring highlights the significance of Excel integration in Planning Analytics, stating, “Excel is an entry-level product that everybody uses.” He credits Excel’s familiarity and ease of use, for its widespread adoption. Planning Analytics leverages this by offering web-based simulators of Excel, providing a familiar interface. Herring states, “Here’s an Excel-type model on the web, and everybody naturally understands how to use it.” This approach facilitates adoption across departments and allows users to explore additional functionality gradually.

Natural learning curve

Training and user adoption were key elements of GKN Aerospace’s success with Planning Analytics. The tool provided a natural learning path, allowing users to progress at their own pace. With its user-friendly interface and the ability to build reports tailored to specific needs, Planning Analytics empowered each site to create its own reports and analysis.

Integration with Other Tools

Integrating and connecting Planning Analytics with other tools was crucial for their reporting and analysis needs. He mentioned that GKN Aerospace uses another tool for external and business line reporting designed to meet the requirements of statutory reporting. However, they needed more flexibility and detail, which Planning Analytics provided, for planning purposes. Herring emphasized the ease of transferring data between the two systems, thanks to API transfers, ODBC functionality, and other integration options offered by Planning Analytics.  This integration enabled them to perform detailed analysis for driving profitability, while corporate teams focused on reporting to regulatory bodies, trusting that Planning Analytics took care of the planning data.

Integrated business planning helps solve the biggest challenges GKN faces

According to Mike Herring, the two biggest challenges in embarking on the integrated business planning journey is convincing the wider organization that IBM Planning Analytics is not just a finance tool, and managing internal processes that heavily rely on Excel-based workflows. He emphasizes the importance of change management and overcoming the perception that finance professionals are trying to dictate how others should do their jobs. By demonstrating the collaborative benefits and value addition of integrating finance and other functions, these challenges can be overcome. “Let’s speak the same language and have an accountable way of delivering what we need,” said Herring.

Standardization and more clarity

According to Herring: “Nothing can compete with Planning Analytics, which saves hours and hours of time.” GKN Aerospace acknowledged the immense value Planning Analytics brought to its organization. Planning Analytics provided them with data integrity, ensuring accuracy and reliability in their decision-making processes.

Through the insights of Mike Herring, we have explored the remarkable journey of GKN Aerospace as they harnessed the power of IBM Planning Analytics to overcome challenges and optimize their planning and reporting processes. Their experience showcases the significance of customization, integration, and change management in successfully implementing an integrated business planning solution. Planning Analytics has empowered GKN Aerospace to standardize processes, improve accuracy, and facilitate collaboration across various functions, ultimately driving their organization toward greater efficiency and success.

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