GKN Aerospace has achieved impressive growth since 2000, with a six-fold rise in employees. How does the company ensure it has the right skills in the right locations to deliver innovative projects for clients?
GKN Aerospace uses IBM® Planning Analytics on Cloud to provide project managers with in-depth insight into the skills available across its engineering team, improving resource allocation and collaboration.
Optimizesutilization of engineering resources, helping to deliver projects more effectively
Providesa complete view of human resources, helping planners match skills to project demand
Deliversefficiency savings by eliminating manual processes and reducing external hiring costs
Business challenge story
Leading the world in aerospace engineering
GKN Aerospace has forged a reputation as a pioneering presence in the global aerospace sector. Today, the company delivers cutting-edge components to the world’s leading aerospace companies.
For GKN Aerospace, the goal is simple: to provide the technology that helps aircraft to fly faster, more safely, and with greater fuel efficiency. To achieve this, the company must ensure its engineering centers have the right teams and the right skills in place to develop next-generation aerospace technology.
David Legge, Global IT Projects Director at GKN Aerospace, begins: “Air travel is rising every year, creating more and more demand for aerospace components, especially in the European and Asia Pacific markets. GKN Aerospace has expanded hugely since 2000, with the acquisition of companies like Fokker, Filton and Volvo Aero, leading to a six-fold increase in employees.
“Today, we have around 3,500 specialist aerospace engineers at 51 sites in 14 countries, serving 90 percent of the world’s leading aerospace manufacturers.”
However, this impressive growth has brought significant challenges. GKN Aerospace quickly recognized that across its aerospace centers there were silos of expertise, with certain sites having specialist knowledge with specific materials and practices, but little insight into the resources or capabilities of other centers.
This lack of transparency created a risk that when one center was particularly busy, managers would make costly external hires to meet demand—without realizing that the required skills and expertise were available at another site.
Srinivas Hirimagalur, Head of Engineering Services Relationships & Strategic Workforce Planning at GKN Aerospace, continues: “We began a thorough review of our workforce planning processes to ensure we made the best use of our available resources.
“Previously, each site relied on time-consuming spreadsheet-based processes to allocate its employees to projects. Instead, we wanted to increase our visibility of the available skills across the whole of GKN Aerospace and implement standardized processes across all our sites to provide greater flexibility in how we deployed our workforce globally.”
The right skills at the right locations
After an extensive selection process, GKN Aerospace chose to deploy IBM Planning Analytics on Cloud to help it make smarter use of its human resources. The implementation means that GKN Aerospace is currently one of the largest users of the IBM solution in the UK.
David Legge elaborates: “We were already using IBM Planning Analytics and its predecessors in other areas of the business for financial budgeting and forecasting, so we had plenty of experience working with the solution.
“We saw that we could build on that existing knowledge and use the solution to help us plan and allocate human resources too. We also knew that IBM uses Planning Analytics internally for its own workforce planning, which was a very strong endorsement.”
He adds: “Our company has a cloud-first strategy, and to make that work, 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.”
IBM Planning Analytics enables GKN Aerospace to establish standardized processes for workforce planning across its business. Within the solution, project managers can find data on every engineer, with details on their skills, experience, availability, and the costs of moving work to their location, or moving them to an alternative site. As soon as a new project begins, the project manager can set a timeline, specify the resources they will need, and allocate the right engineers to the right roles.
Srinivas Hirimagalur continues: “Overall, our experience with IBM has been good. They helped us complete a phased implementation of the solution, and although there were challenges along the road, the IBM team had the knowledge and experience to help us to overcome them.
“In particular, we recognized that working with the consultant who had masterminded IBM’s own internal workforce planning project was key—he was involved at both the start and the end of our project, and really helped us get back on track.
“We are currently driving business intelligence and analytics projects across GKN Aerospace, and our work with IBM has certainly helped to make this stage of the journey a success.”
Gaining a complete view of skills and expertise
With IBM Planning Analytics on Cloud guiding its workforce planning strategy, GKN Aerospace is well-positioned to operate as a truly integrated, global engineering function, with the skills and expertise on hand to answer growing customer demand for cutting-edge aerospace technologies.
David Legge continues: “Working with IBM 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. That means we will have the potential to take on more jobs in future, strengthening our relationships with key partners, and reinforcing our position as a leading presence in the aerospace field.”
By eliminating manual, spreadsheet-based processes, the IBM solution will also make life significantly easier for project managers, helping them to achieve valuable time savings as they allocate resources at the start of each task.
Andy White, Head of Capability & Resource, Aerostructures & Systems – Europe & Asia, comments: “The workforce planning (WFP) tool has provided a much more robust process which enables all users to access data simultaneously – something not possible using the traditional spreadsheet approach. The tool is easy to use and the data within WFP is used to inform financial forecasting and budget planning.
“In summary, WFP has brought process improvements, enabled data capture by simultaneous users, enabled control of data, certainly reduced process time, and most importantly of all for me, it comes with a set of standard usable reports drawn from source data, without any risk of errors due to data transfer between systems.”
Srinivas Hirimagalur comments: “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, along with the capability to generate customized reports. The user feedback we have received so far during the training and go-live processes has been very positive.”
With the ability to make optimal use of its human resources, GKN Aerospace will also be able to limit the need to hire new staff or bring in external contractors to ensure it can meet customer requests.
David Legge adds: “Thanks to the greater flexibility in how we deploy our employees, we can now reduce the need to reach out to costly, short-term hires. In fact, when we factor in the possibility of taking on additional projects in the future, we are very confident of achieving an impressive return on investment with the IBM solution.”
He concludes: “Since 2000, we have achieved exceptional growth in GKN Aerospace, with an eightfold increase in turnover. With IBM’s help, we hope to continue this upward trajectory and write the next chapter of our history as a world-leader in the aerospace engineering sector.”
About GKN Aerospace
GKN Aerospace is the world’s leading multi-technology tier-one aerospace supplier. As a global company serving the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers, GKN Aerospace develops, builds and supplies an extensive range of advanced aerospace systems, components and technologies for use in aircraft ranging from helicopters and business jets to the most frequently used single-aisle aircraft and the largest passenger planes in the world. Lightweight composites, additive manufacturing, innovative engine systems and smart transparencies help to reduce emissions and weight on the aircraft and enhance passenger comfort. GKN Aerospace is market-leading in aerostructures, engine systems, transparencies and wiring systems, and operates in 14 countries at 51 manufacturing locations, employing approximately 17,000 people.
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