ROLLS-ROYCE HOLDINGS PLC
In a complex and competitive market, the requirement for Rolls Royce to innovate by producing new improvements and products has been increasing all the time. In response to the ever increasing need for speed in design, the business has been leading the sector in developing design engineering automation and ‘knowledge-based engineering’ (KBE). KBE uses knowledge models, to represent objects being designed by bringing together the input variables including, for example, geometry, engineering, manufacturing, cost and legal rules to develop a coherent knowledge model facilitating integration across systems and applications, avoiding unnecessary re-keying, duplication and delivering substantial time efficiencies alongside alternative scenario explorations.
Design is one of five core engineering disciplines within Rolls-Royce, and the role of Designer is held in high regard. Designers are responsible for providing creative solutions to complex sets of requirements, and it is this innovation that generates intellectual property for the company and maintains a competitive advantage across its product ranges. The business generates the largest number of patents of any UK company, with 549 patents approved for filing in 2013.
The company expanded investment in early-stage research and technology to about 20% of its net research and development (R&D) spend. In 2013 Rolls-Royce invested over 7% of its annual turnover in R&D, amounting to £1.118bn. In addition to their in-house R&D capability, the business pursues advanced technologies via their global network of 31 University Technology Centres Partnerships. Each centre is part-funded by the Rolls-Royce Group, working closely with their engineering teams and undertaking specialist work led by a group of world-class academics.
By looking at the design processes and using free-form modelling, Rolls-Royce has delivered increases in productivity of up to 10 times in fan design and a 40% reduction in engine lead time.
Source: Birmingham Made Me (2014). Rolls Royce Holdings Plc. http://birmingham-made-me.org/rolls-royce-holdings-plc/#.VfaWbRFVhBd
Rolls-Royce plc, based in Derby, is the second biggest producer worldwide of large jet engines after General Electric, exporting 85% of total output.
In the 1980s Rolls-Royce transformed its business model from one based on making something for sale, to one combining making with servicing. Service, as a percentage of sales, increased from around 20% in 1981 to well over 50% in 2013. In creating this business model it moved to a situation where customers could chose to pay to operate their engines, in a deal known as ‘power-by-the-hour’®, with Rolls-Royce providing support and maintenance aimed at ensuring their engines work continuously day and night. To deliver this Rolls-Royce run one of the most sophisticated operational control centres in the world from their Headquarters in Derby, monitoring the progress of engines as they circle the globe. Banks of computer screens message engineers in a 24/7 ‘health-checking’ procedure.
Rolls-Royce Holdings defines itself as a global group providing, ‘integrated power solutions for customers in civil and defence aerospace, marine, energy and power markets’.
Their stated vision is centred around, ‘delivering better power for a changing world’ with a 4C focus on Customer, Concentration, Cost and Cash, delivered through development, sale and service of ‘mission critical power systems’, stating, ‘our ability to design and develop high-technology products and then integrate these into sophisticated power systems for land, sea and air, provides us with access to global markets.’
Design is one of five core engineering disciplines within Rolls-Royce, and the role of ‘Designer’ is held in high regard. Designers are responsible for providing creative solutions to complex sets of requirements, and it is this innovation that generates intellectual property for the company and maintains a competitive advantage across its product ranges. (Design Commission 2011)
2013 saw the company report revenues of £15.513bn up from £12.161bn and PBT of £1.759bn, representing a decline on 2012, with stated PBT of £2.161bn. Although a highly focussed technology and engineering business, intangible assets represent 65% of total assets or £4.987bn out of total assets valued at £6.303bn. First half 2014 results show revenues down by 7% and profits 20% lower, hit by the strong pound appreciating against both dollar and Euro by 10% over the past year. With over half revenue exposed to foreign currency movements this translational currency hit has reduced income by £226m, with the business delivering £6.8bn and taking £21m off profits to deliver £644m.
Culture and Business Ethics
With Serious Fraud Office and US Department of Justice investigations underway into allegations of corruption and bribery of officials in Indonesia, China and India, by executives in the constant quest to win contracts, the company has published a new Code of Conduct circulated to all employees accompanied by global management briefings, with Chief Executive, John Rishton, said to be unprepared to tolerate any ‘improper business conduct’.
Innovation, always on the agenda, is a means of both producing better overall and environmentally-enhanced performance. The company states, “Our continuous investment in technology, our ingenuity and our commitment to excellence allow us to seize …opportunities…and to face the future with confidence.”(Annual report 2013)
55,000 employees work in five divisions selling into – civil aerospace, by far the largest revenue stream, delivering sales of £6.655bn and £844m underlying profit; defence aerospace delivered revenues of £2.591bn and £438m underlying profits; marine posted revenues of £2.527bn and £281m underlying profit; energy delivered £1.048bn revenues and £26m underlying profit and power systems achieved sales of £2.831bn with £294, underlying profit.
Within civil aerospace Rolls-Royce powers more than 30 types of commercial aircraft and has almost 13,000 engines in service around the world. Underlying OE revenues accounted for £3.035bn in 2013 with underlying service revenues at £3.620bn, or 54% of total civil aerospace revenues last year. The company forecasts a global market value over the next 20 years of US$1,750bn with US$1,050 for OE equipment and US$700bn for aftermarket service. Over half of this value is forecast to be generated by engines for twin aisle airliners and large business jets, where Rolls-Royce is the number one engine supplier.
Like a lot of engineering businesses, outside of city-centric market updates and results, there does not seem to be that much written about Rolls-Royce in the consumer press. One article in the Economist, dated as far back as January 8th 2009, starts to colour in the Rolls-Royce story, painting a picture of inspiration, perspiration and determination, or perhaps, as Rolls-Royce would say, ‘Concentration’.
It suggests the best place to begin to understand Rolls-Royce is through the turbine blades, ‘at the heart of the engines located beneath the wings of the world’s biggest planes’. “They cost about $10,000 each….Turbine blades are difficult to make because they have to survive high temperatures and huge stresses. The air inside the jet engines reaches about 1,600 degrees C, in places 400 degrees hotter than the melting point of the metal from which the turbine blades are made….Each blade is grown from a single crystal of alloy for strength and then coated with tough ceramic. A network of tiny air holes then creates a thin blanket of cool air that stops it from melting.”
This is a story of radical design, created out of necessity as Rolls-Royce market share declined through the 1960s in comparison with its US competitors, who were benefitting from their larger domestic market and growing military orders.
The Economist states, “(Rolls-Royce) bet everything on two revolutionary technologies. The first was to use carbon composites to make fan blades (the big ones you do see) far lighter than the metal ones of the time. The second was to change the basic architecture of jet engines by using three shafts instead of two. Both tasks turned out to be costlier than Rolls-Royce thought. Its composites shattered when hit by hail or birds.” Eventually (the business) ran out of cash and was nationalised by a Conservative government in 1971.”
However, they persevered with their radical design ideas, leading to a whole new family of jet engines and transforming the company’s fortunes. “These were more complex to design, build and maintain, than those of rivals, but they also used fuel more efficiently and suffered less wear and tear,” the Economist article notes. “Much more importantly, they could be scaled up and down to fit bigger or smaller aircraft. As a result Rolls-Royce did not have to design a new engine from scratch each time a new airline came onto the market, allowing it to compete for sales across a far wider range of aircraft than its rivals.”
45 of the 50 leading airlines use Rolls-Royce engines, making it possible for them to sell spare parts and service the engines – the more lucrative side of the business. Rolls-Royce maintains and replaces engines when they break down with downtime attracting no fee. “More than half its engines in service are covered by such contracts, as are about 80% of those it is now selling.”
Their operations room in Derby continuously monitors 3,500 engines around the world, enabling them to predict when engines are likely to fail as well as helping customers to schedule service times. It was the data transmitted from the two Trent 800 engines that showed the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 flew for some five hours in total after contact was lost with the plane, suggesting that it could have travelled more than 2,500 miles.
A useful report by Frontier Economics for BIS, published July 2014, provides some insights into the technology at the heart of Rolls-Royce jet engines. It explains in outline how the company’s civil engines are based on gas turbine technology. ‘A gas turbine burns fuel to provide energy creating a moving flow of air. In the case of modern jet engines, the power generated by the turbine is used to drive a large fan on the front of the engine that draws air backwards producing thrust.’
The report outlines the four main parts comprising each gas turbine – fan system, compressor, combustor and turbine. The fan draws air at the front of the engine. A significant volume of this air exits the engine at the rear, contributing the largest proportion of the engine’s thrust. The remaining air drawn at the front gets delivered at high pressure through the compressor to the combustor where fuel is burn. The turbine converts the energy stored within the hot gas produced by the combustion into kinetic energy.
Research & Development
In 2013 Rolls-Royce invested over 7% turnover in R&D, amounting to £1.118bn, with the Group funding at £746m of this. The business generates the largest number of patents of any UK company with 549 patents approved for filing in 2013.
The company expanded investment in early-stage research and technology to about 20% of net R&D spend. The formation of their UK Aerospace Technology Institute has helped facilitate match-funding with government and EU programmes.
In addition to their in-house R&D capability the business pursues advanced technologies via their global network of 31 University Technology Centres (UTC) Partnerships. Each centre is part-funded by the Group, working closely with their engineering teams and undertaking specialist work led by a group of world class academics. Their model of developing technology through collaborations with academia and other partners was recognised by the German Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology which benchmarked 160 European Companies with Rolls-Royce being one of five companies to receive the ‘Successful Practices’ Award in technology management.
Drivers of innovation
Customer demand for fuel efficiency is a substantial driver with a 1% efficiency gain generating a potential saving of around £40m per annum for European airlines across an average fleet.
Government targets for reducing emissions are driving standards with the Advisory Council for Aviation Research and Innovation in Europe (ACARE) setting goals to 2050 for 65% reductions in noise emissions; 90% reduction in NOx emissions; and 75% reduction in CO2 emissions. Along with ACARE targets the aerospace industry is increasingly faced with legal requirements at national level around noise and NOx emission reductions.
The innovation process
Rolls-Royce, in addition, to investing c£1.2bn on traditional R&D activities in 2013, also invested over £100m on IT and trained over 1,000 apprentices as well as 300 graduates. Rolls-Royce investment is spread over the entire TRL scale, from observation of basic principles in scientific research (TRL1) to the final testing of an innovation in an operational environment (TRL 7-8), leading to entry into service (TRL9). The time required for a specific innovation to reach market can be over 20 years.
More recently the business has developed a new innovation portal to improve the exchange of ideas around the world as they invest to improve the efficiency of their R&D activity. “This has been a very helpful development and is another tool in the innovation box,” says Carl Barcock, Chief of Design Methods. “It has been driving together different groups of people within the business, who might not otherwise have had the chance to exchange ideas. Where do they come from – good ideas? Totally different people get involved and see things from totally different perspectives – this can be very helpful and lead to the injection of fresh perspective and energy,” he adds talking about the importance of getting people together across sectors and industries more frequently if we are to develop more radical and value adding innovations. .
His colleagues mull over Britain’s strong track record, its reputation as an inventive country, for developing world-changing concepts such as the world wide web, X Rays, thermal imaging, integrated circuit boards, alongside others. “There is a spark amongst people here that originates new ideas in the UK, but we struggle to convert that to commercial opportunity. Creating wealth needs to be developed more systematically and not simply in terms of helping to develop a process to assist the ideas to move along the pipeline towards the market, but in stimulating greater numbers of relevant ideas,” they conclude.
The research process
Unlike other businesses in aerospace, Rolls-Royce does not have large in-house research facilities. Although research is managed centrally, almost all of it takes place at TRL 1-4, with much of this being carried out through the company’s network of University Technology Centres. UTCs are occasionally used to assist Rolls-Royce with shorter term technical challenges. At later stages of development, around TRL 5-6, Rolls-Royce interacts with Advanced Manufacturing Centres to validate innovative ideas at a scale closer to the operational environment, and to develop the manufacturing processes necessary to implement the new ideas efficiently at full scale. At final stages (TRL 7-9) investment at full scale manufacturing capacity is carried out through programmes specific to each product.
Measuring the returns to investment in innovation
Investment in innovation is considered crucial to competitiveness. Choices around how to invest are driven by very long-term (40-50 year) business plans that set out the expected costs and benefits of developing a new final product –in this case a new jet engine. Getting to the final product involves initially investing in a range of technologies, because of the complexity of the product, and with a view to mitigating the risks associated with specific innovations which may fail to reach the market. So the strategy for investing in research and innovation is defined at macro level, rather than at the level of a technology.
Interactions with Academia: the UTC model
Universities receive public funding to move forward new knowledge and ideas, with business following on and taking degrees of commercial risk as they take these new technologies and ideas to market. SMEs are not, in general, able to take a lot of risk unless appropriately funded, such as through venture capital, working on the basis of possible equity gains, thereby able to support this sort of approach. Increasingly, Rolls-Royce stated, universities may be looking to become more entrepreneurial themselves, like Imperial College London, which had been focussing on developing spin-outs whilst retaining IP developed within the university.
Rolls-Royce has a formalized strategy and way of working with universities. Almost all early stage research is conducted through the Rolls-Royce network of UTCs, 19 of which are in the UK. Rolls-Royce has longstanding relationships with these UTCs, helping to ensure trust between parties, enabling freer and franker exchanges and greater insights as well as time-saving discussions between the partners.
The company recognised that by concentrating its effort into a smaller number of universities, each associated with a key research topic, they could look to increase the effectiveness of the collaborations.
This model, it was anticipated, would lead to longer term relationships with universities, enhanced funding, exchange of staff, with knowledge and access to public funding.
Each UTC is led by a senior academic, including other academic and support staff, researchers, and doctoral students. Five year rolling contracts are funded by Rolls-Royce, together with publicly sourced funding, including EPSRC, TSB regional agencies and EU funding sources. A fundamental role for Rolls-Royce staff is to integrate progress from industrial technology centres into the design and development of complex products.
When they work with UTCs and Advanced Manufacturing Centres they are talking Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) as part of their shared language. There is a focus, for example, on technology A at level B in one area which might be at another level in another location.
The mid range of TRLs is acknowledged as a difficult area by industry in general, as they need to get through levels 4-7 in order to get products into the market.
Frontier Economics highlight the example of the swept wide-chord fan blade, used on the Trent 900 as a development of a new final product, involving investment in a range of technologies. This, the widest of all the fan blades in service, involved private and public sector investment from a variety of sources. Within this, they explain, it was possible to identify six key research streams based at Rolls-Royce University Technical Colleges:
- Materials UTC at Birmingham had provided the understanding of the behaviour of the material used in the fan blade using fracture mechanics
- UTC for Computational Engineering at Southampton had studied the flow effects on fan noise aimed at reducing emissions
- Cambridge UTC had developed a range of aerodynamic models to increase the efficiency of the fan
- Solid Mechanics UTC at Oxford researched how to design the blade to ensure resistance to damage by foreign objects
- Imperial college London UTC had carried out complementary research on aero-mechanics of damaged fans
- Manufacturing Technology UTC at Nottingham had delivered innovative tooling concepts to support the efficiency of the blade production process.
Catapults and Advanced Manufacturing Centres
The Rolls-Royce team speak positively about the Advanced Manufacturing Centres and how they have been enabling positive spillovers into the business community, applauding the government’s focus on this approach. “We have been working very well with the Advanced Manufacturing Centres,” states Carl Barcock. “They have helped us and proved an effective means of bridging the gap between research and economic development and in trying to help us move through challenging range of mid level TRLs. They work on a membership basis and have been involving and working with lots of SMEs that might not otherwise be engaged in new technology developments. This way they are able to gain access to state of the art technologies and machines. The Technology Strategy Board has been funding and facilitating this process, with many programmes in place for collaborative research.”
The rationale for public investment in innovation in aerospace
Public investment in aerospace is considered crucial in supporting technology development. At the initial stages this is due to uncertainty and the long lags on gaining a return on the investment. As the development nears market stages it is linked to the higher costs associated with market testing. The business stressed the importance of continuity of public funding along the entire innovation process, with the quality of the local research base being a key influence over the location of R&D.
Perceived barriers to engagement with the public Sector
The ATI and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centres had been important in achieving coordination of public funding of science across different public bodies, according to Frontier Economics, July 2014. They state that this model could be extended across investment in academic research. The absence of an explicit link between the ATI and Research Councils was seen as a potential barrier to continuity and stability of support.
Similarly increased coordination of investment at academic level would avoid fragmentation of expertise and potential duplication. A successful example of coordination was the Materials Strategic Partnership, co-funded between Rolls-Royce and Engineering and Physical Science Research Council. Under this partnership Birmingham, Cambridge, Swansea and Oxford among others universities have a joint programme of research and support aimed at extending the capability of existing high temperature metallic systems and developing novel alloys. The programme also involved supply chain firms such as TIMET, a leading producer of commercial titanium products.
Engagement with academia could also be facilitated by influencing incentives that academic researchers were faced with. Although the current university evaluation process was placing greater emphasis on non academic ‘impact’, including through industrial collaborations, it still relied heavily on publication. In addition the process through which universities were required to document their industrial collaborations was onerous for business.
Rolls-Royce Design Process and Knowledge Based Engineering (KBE)
In all engineering companies, and especially within Rolls Royce, design is a top priority, but with competitive pressures increasing, the need to innovate by producing new improvements and products has been increasing all the time, especially in light of the Rolls-Royce stated goal to double turnover over the next ten years.
In responding to the ever increasing need for speed in design, the business has been leading in developing knowledge-based engineering (KBE). KBE uses knowledge models, generally in product lifecycle management and design optimisation, to represent objects being designed by bringing together the input variables including, for example, geometry, engineering, manufacturing, cost and legal rules to develop a coherent knowledge model facilitating integration across systems and applications, avoiding unnecessary re-keying, duplication and delivering substantial time efficiencies alongside alternative scenario explorations.
“A Rolls Royce aircraft takes off or lands once every 2.5 seconds,” Carl Barcock explained. “Rolls Royce is powering over 30 types of commercial aircraft with a presence in narrow body and a strong position in wide body, regional and corporate aircraft. In 2012 the order book stood at £60bn, in 2013 it stood at £71.612bn. We currently have 13,000 engines in service, more than 500 airline customers and 4000 corporate operations.
“We are clearly operating in a complex and competitive space. We are selling product on preliminary designs to de-risk the production and before we go into the costly development phase.
“The design challenge has been to speed up the process and increase the de-risking period to open up the options available to the business.
“At the end of the day time is precious. We don’t want our engineers to waste this precious time. We have a continual challenge to look for opportunities to improve efficiencies. We want our engineers to have as much time as possible being creative and innovative . There is after all, nothing new in this – it is a continuous process trying to speed up time-consuming processes,” says Carl Barcock.
Professor Craig Chapman, Birmingham City University, working alongside Carl Barcock at Rolls-Royce on these design challenges for more than a decade, said, “We are starting to automate the design engineering process, producing designs that automatically meet the required functionality. It is no longer good enough to have CAD-based geometric models; geometry is not the master model; it’s about the sum of the knowledge contained within the models and being able to manipulate this in order to assess the impact of design changes with great speed and effectiveness.
“Virtual engineering is aimed at allowing the synthesis, analysis, evaluation and optimal development of a product in a computer environment that mimics the understanding and behaviour of the solution to the realisation of that solution in reality,” said Professor Chapman.
Carl Barcock, Rolls-Royce, continued, “This includes challenges such as whether we are designing now for lease, or for lifetime build. It is not possible for us to design competitive gas turbines without extensive use of simulation. We are looking for speed in automation and integration of simulation tools, methods and the embedding of knowledge to create design systems. Simulation enables us to design better products, higher performing, lighter, less costly, more reliable, more environmentally friendly and with the ability to reduce scrap.
“Within Rolls Royce there is now a large scale use of simulation because testing is very expensive so these design systems are very important.
“For example, our customers want to know that if flock of birds were to fly into the fan blades of an aircraft then these fan blades would be secure and would not exit the fuselage. One test costs £25m so we are moving to the position where we can do this test through simulated analysis,” he concluded.
Professor Chapman, Birmingham City University explained how in developing fan design processes, KBE had delivered impressive results, “By looking at the design processes and using free-form modelling it has been possible to deliver increases in productivity of up to 10 times in fan design and a 40% reduction in engine lead time.”
“KBE was being used successfully in other businesses too. “Chrysler’s new Dodge,” explained Professor Chapman, “was designed using KBE design systems resulting in one year being taken off engine design time.”
Other examples included gimbal design and synthesis, or designing pivot supports (allowing rotation of an object on a single axis), as well as developing scenario-based structural configurations and sizings, with design lead times reduced in all cases. Aker Solutions were capturing engineering knowledge from their engineering domain on Oil and Gas platforms to make significant time savings and allowing for the rapid exploration of new designs ideas. Professor Chapman explained that CAD vendors were also beginning to develop KBE extensions to their mainstream products.
KBE and Standardisation
Professor Chapman outlined some further design process steps made possible through the Knowledge Based Engineering approach. “The most advanced data being passed between aerospace suppliers and OEMs are S-1000D aero specifications, usually exchanged as files. However, if we begin to look at each of the rules and processes contained in these basically as a ‘knowledge asset’, then instead of passing files businesses are exchanging knowledge assets between one another. This can lead to aerospace companies within the supply chain moving to exchange model-based documents rather than files, which are often incompatible and requiring considerable re-keying before they can be further developed.”
Professor Chapman continued, “It is very encouraging that recently all aero companies, OEMs, came together to agree and develop a new set of standards to describe every part number produced within any aircraft and each document can generate a new documents on this basis. I have just been invited to Austria and Switzerland to meet with other universities and EU representatives to join a Framework 8 bid to take a model-based document approach towards augmented reality. And I am keen to see a move to developing a Service Guide, using KBE to update the original model, and move towards automated documentation.
“This can provide the ability for people to suggest changes in visual, rather than a programmatic way, enabling more creative people to get involved. This approach is empowering SMEs, so they are not simply talking about the functionality of the engine, they are talking about problem-solving. It is freeing up creative skills and minds so they are not hampered but can think of new options and solutions. However, at the end of the day all these ideas have to be anchored in reality and within the context of a commercial environment”
STEM-Skills and Creativity
Rolls-Royce employs 16,000 engineers, with many of these working in integrated teams, focussing on major programmes across divisions and borders. A number of their top engineers, ‘Rolls-Royce Fellows’, are recognised for their specialist expertise and internationally significant contributions.
In sourcing their future talent Rolls-Royce is able to look to its home town of Derby where schools achieve higher grades in maths and science – the subjects needed to work in Rolls-Royce, than across the rest of the country. However, more recently, Rolls-Royce executives say the pool of experienced engineers, process managers and skilled workers from which they recruit is shrinking.
The company believes that young engineers are being well prepared in general for the world of work, accepting that there are always ways that universities can help this process, in particular through a practical focus on job placements, apprenticeship routes, practical experience gained during degree courses.
There is, theyobserve, a noticeable difference between post graduates with Eng Docs and PhDs. It is very noticeable that with the Eng Docs spending the majority of their time in –company, doing projects with a far greater focus on applied knowledge, they are gaining greater practical experience and insights. They are looking to develop a TRL approach to people to try to gain a greater understanding of how ready they are to apply their knowledge within the business.
“It is important in all this that our creative thinkers are able to not only think about the problem but to get their hands dirty too and have a good understanding of the reality,” says Professor Chapman. “Everywhere I go, Rolls Royce or wherever, I see TRIZ manuals, a systematic approach to being creative, if there is such a thing. Even twenty years ago when I was at BAe Systems people needed to look at problems as creatively as possible. In those days we had ‘War Rooms’ – these were large rooms where people would put up post it stickers identifying problems and other people would post their proposed solutions….It was like a huge visual debate. Sometimes we would all get together and discuss these, with some ideas coming up which could go forward for collaboration.
“But too often young people come into our colleges and all this innate creativity is knocked out of them as they learn very structural approaches to the STEM disciplines.
“We need to think of our designers more as ‘boundary spanners’ and systems integrators. People who have a bigger perspective and are able to see across teams to bring together lateral solutions, whilst drawing on new visual knowledge representations, such as KBE,” Professor Chapman concluded.
Rolls Royce is the second largest producer of jet engines worldwide after General Electric, exporting 85% of its output, employing 55,000 people and generating £15.5bn revenues and PBT of £1.7bn in 2013. The business covers five divisions – civil aerospace, defence aerospace, energy, marine and power systems. The company has a track record in radical innovations having used carbon composites to make fan blades and changed the basic architecture of jet engines. Worldwide, 45 leading airlines out of 50 use Rolls-Royce jet engines. Rolls Royce also developed the ‘power by the hour (R)’ concept, enabling customers to pay for engines only whilst in use, rather than purchasing them outright, and supplying service and maintenance support to ensure aircraft are in the air for as many hours as possible each day.
The business invested over 7% annual turnover in R&D during 2013 and generated more patents that any other UK company with 549 patents approved for filing in 2013.
Design Performance Efficiencies and innovation
Rolls-Royce is a demonstration of business model innovation through the power by the hour (R) approach.
Driving efficiencies in design and development is a key performance ratio. Knowledge Based Engineering (KBE) is being used to optimise design integrating input variables, including geometric, engineering, manufacturing, cost and legal rules, to create coherent knowledge models, facilitating cross systems applications, avoiding unnecessary re-keying, duplication and delivering substantial time efficiencies as well as enabling greater exploration of alternative scenarios.
“With over 30 types of commercial aircraft and with a presence in narrow body and a strong position in wide body, regional and corporate aircraft, we currently have 13,000 engines in service, more than 500 airline customers and 4000 corporate operations. We are selling product on preliminary designs to de-risk the production before we go into the costly development phase. The design challenge has been to speed up the process and increase the de-risking period to open up the options available to the business,” said Carl Barcock, Rolls Royce.
“Within Rolls-Royce there is now a large scale use of simulation because testing is very expensive so these designs systems are very important.”
Professor Craig Chapman said, “By looking at the design processes and using free-form modelling it is possible to deliver increases in productivity of up to 10 times in fan design and a 40% reduction in engine lead time.”
Research and Development
Whilst Rolls-Royce has developed its own approach to university research collaborations through its worldwide network of UTCs, it was acknowledged that greater university-business collaboration could be facilitated through reduced fragmentation in the university knowledge base, greater collaboration between industry bodies, such as the ATI and the Research Councils, greater collaboration across the university base itself and greater focus on impact, in terms of research outcomes for universities. For Rolls-Royce the ability to work with academics using explicit references to TRL levels throughout their engagement led to clear focus on the drive to market-based outcomes.
STEM and Creativity
Engineers need more time to be more creative and innovative. Rolls-Royce were satisfied with the calibre of engineering graduates coming into their business over a three year degree term. They noted the practical focus of the Eng Doc programme in contrast with the PhD. Professor Chapman, Birmingham City University was focussed on the need to encourage greater creativity and practicality as a dual track approach embedded during their time studying and developed from that point onwards, stating, “It is important in all this that our creative thinkers are able to not only think about the problem but to get their hand dirty too and have a good understanding of reality. We need to think of our designers as ‘boundary spanners’ and systems integrators. People who have a bigger perspective and are able to see across teams to bring together lateral solutions whilst drawing on new visual knowledge representations,” Professor Chapman concluded.
Aerospace sectoral issues highlighted in the work of the AGP and ATI demonstrated a wide range of priorities have been identified. However, there is too little strategic focus on the areas where control could be grown for the UK operators.
Supply chain challenges included – fragmentation and fragility, difficulties in accessing funding – especially in light of long term investments required for contracts with OEMs – with a need to bring greater collaborative partnerships and cross sectoral innovation and learning as well as continuing to develop eco-system linkages between academia and business through applied late stage R&D.
One threat identified included the reducing level of UK content within aircraft with proposed solutions focussed around investment in key technologies. Promoting UK capabilities internationally was also suggested by supply chain producers and companies such as Cubewano with a real role for UKTI and the larger OEMs, such as Rolls-Royce to bring together targeted aerospace responses with leading sectoral bodies.