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Workforce planning: How GKN Aerospace makes the most of its own talent

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Workforce planning: How GKN Aerospace makes the most of its own talent

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Finding the right employees is challenging even when you’re looking for common job skills. The more specialized the skills, however, the harder it is to find the right people — unless you’re doing workforce planning. And skills don’t get much more specialized than those of the engineers and other workers who design and build aircraft components for GKN Aerospace.

GKN makes everything from wing and fuselage structures to engine components and landing gear systems. It serves 90 percent of the world’s aircraft manufacturers with parts for everything from jet fighters to the largest passenger planes. Over the past decade, through organic growth and acquisitions, GKN’s workforce has grown to more than 17,000 employees. That includes 3,500 specialist aerospace engineers spread across 51 sites in 14 different countries.

This impressive growth has brought with it significant challenges. GKN found that there were silos of expertise across the company, with some sites having expert knowledge in certain technical areas, but little insight into the resources or capabilities available at other sites. This created a risk that if one site needed a person with particular skills and expertise, managers would make costly external hires to meet the demand — without realizing that the needed skills were already available elsewhere in the company.


This situation arose because managers at each site relied on time-consuming spreadsheet-based processes to allocate employees to projects. The company wanted to increase visibility into the skills available across all of its sites and provide greater flexibility in how the workforce was deployed globally. It became clear that they needed better workforce planning and better workforce analytics.

Keys to success in workforce planning and analytics

What exactly is workforce analytics? A 2017 report from the Corporate Research Forum titled Strategic Workforce Analytics offered this straightforward definition: “Workforce analytics is the process of discovering, interpreting and communicating meaningful patterns in workforce-related data to inform decision making and improve performance.”1 The report identified key conditions for success, emphasizing “how the emerging tools and techniques in this field can be successfully deployed to address the most pressing workforce-related business issues and improve organizational performance.”

The report outlined a number of questions related to job skills, one of which was: “What are the respective costs of developing the competencies inside the organization and hiring from outside?” This was a key question for GKN Aerospace.

Putting workforce analytics to work

When GKN realized that it needed to better align its projects with its available in-house workforce, the company conducted an extensive selection process for software. The result was the selection of IBM Planning Analytics. Once deployed, the solution enabled project managers to easily access data on every engineer, including details on their skills, experience and availability.

As GKN’s Global IT Projects Director explained, “Working with [IBM Planning Analytics] means that we will be much better able to match up our existing skills and resources with customer orders. In the past, individual sites had limited visibility of the expertise available elsewhere. For example, while one location might have been recruiting an expert welder, another center could have been letting one go. Now, our sites will be able to track the expertise available across the whole business, and as soon as we receive a new order we can either move labor to where it is needed, or even move the project to the best site to satisfy the request.”


The solution also saves project managers valuable time by eliminating manual, spreadsheet-based processes. GKN’s Head of Strategic Workforce Planning explained that, “Previously, our managers would have to complete multiple spreadsheet consolidations and perform quality control checks on the data. Now, the IBM solution provides a single source of the truth, showing available resources across GKN Aerospace at the click of a button.” Another GKN executive added, “The tool is easy to use and the data within WFP [workforce planning] is used to inform financial forecasting and budget planning.”

Where does an aerospace company deploy software? On the cloud!

Being an aerospace company, it seems only fitting that GKN would deploy their workforce planning solution on the cloud. But that was actually one of the most demanding requirements in GKN’s software selection process. The company’s Global IT Projects Director explained, “We have to be very vigilant about the threat of cyberattack — the aerospace and defense sector is a major target for hackers. In the past, we have walked away from cloud vendors if we felt they could not provide the level of protection we require. By contrast, the IBM Cloud solution gave us a lot of confidence that our data would be secure against attack.”

Nice to know that an aerospace company always puts safety first — in any kind of cloud.

Learn more about why GKN picked IBM Planning Analytics and how the solution helps the company make optimal use of its workforce. Read the full GKN case study.


1 Alec Levenson, Gillian Pillans, Strategic Workforce Analytics, Corporate Research Forum, November 2017,


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