Monday, March 5, 2012

In defence of quality

According to analysts, extensive government cuts in defence spending could force the biggest defence manufacturer, BAE systems, to move its business operations overseas. Analysts suggest that the Government’s planned cuts of £37bn mean the manufacturer will have little choice than to target Brazil, the Gulf States and the Far East for both its marine and aerospace businesses.
While better placed than rivals to cope with the market downturn, BAE’s anticipated loss of the Indian Typhoon contract to France’s Dassault is an indication of the high levels of competition in overseas markets and the difficulties that lie ahead for one of the UK’s largest employers. Nevertheless, the defence industry’s vital role in the UK economy, along with its ability to adapt to changes in the market, is among its many strengths.
Adaptability, at least in the commercial aspects of the sector, has developed through an extensive sharing of best practice for quality through industry groups, such as the CQI’s Defence Industry Group and the MOD’s Defence Industry Quality Forum. This has been complemented by a thorough analysis of risk and robust contingency plans.
And despite it often being the subject of bad press, there are many other lessons the wider manufacturing industry can learn from the defence sector.
The National Audit Office has found that 75% of major defence programmes run on time and to budget and that for every £100m that is invested in the industry, some £227m of wealth is generated for the UK economy. Some professionals in the defence industry would argue that these impressive figures have been achieved due to the defence industry’s specific focus on the people that work within it. As Philip Crosby once said: ‘Quality begins with people, not with things’. However, it is also down to understanding what it is that customers want and providing it for them. This requires a focus on product quality; in an industry where state security and individual’s lives are dependent on the capability of their weapons, quality and fitness of purpose is paramount.
Quality issues affecting the defence industry and lessons from the sector for the rest of the manufacturing industry is the subject of a presentation being made by Ian McKay, FCQI CQP and quality manager at BAE Systems, on behalf of the CQI at this week’s Southern Manufacturing conference and exhibition in Farnborough. The CQI is also hosting a stand at the exhibition which attracts over 2,000 visitors and over 500 national and internal suppliers.

16 February 2012
Simon Feary, CQI CEO

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