Thursday 11th June 2020
Building an innovative, first-of-a-kind vessel is challenging enough at the best of times. Organising and managing work schedules, solving production issues and coming up with engineering solutions are all vital but time-consuming, labour-intensive tasks.
But when the world falls under the shadow of a global pandemic, the usual restrictions and safeguarding measures imposed on fast-paced, manual handling working environments are magnified tenfold. Whether you work in a parcel sorting depot or a shipyard, your normal working practices change overnight.
When lockdown measures came into effect in the UK, the CWind Hybrid SES project team were presented with several immediate challenges.
There were some obvious measures that could be implemented immediately at the shipyard, such as increasing the frequency and intensity of workshop cleaning rotas and distributing extra Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to employees. But when it came to working with partners and suppliers throughout the supply chain, a more strategic approach was required.
“We reacted quickly once lockdown was introduced by setting up a workgroup dedicated to working on the challenges that our supply chain was likely to face in light of COVID-19,” said Andy Newman, Engineering Manager at Global Marine Group.
“Although the situation was unprecedented, we were conscious of any knee-jerk reactions from our suppliers and partners at both ends of the supply chain. When things change so drastically overnight, as they did back in March, there is always a danger that companies will look to protect their own interests by delaying or pulling out of a project altogether. We knew we needed to implement a proven approach to managing this risk and improving visibility throughout our supply chain.”
The supply chain workgroup adopted a proven five-step approach to ensure that any lockdown impact on the Hybrid SES build project was kept to an absolute minimum:
Having implemented the above five-step plan, we’re delighted to report that the build of the CWind Hybrid SES is making good progress. Things could have been different had it not been for a collaborative, open-minded approach across the supply chain.
“The last thing anybody wanted was for the build to come to a grinding halt and the project to be put in jeopardy,” said Andy. “But at the same time, we had to be realistic about what was safe and financially viable for companies throughout the supply chain. For smaller suppliers, or those with limited resources, there was a genuine risk that they could go out of business if the Hybrid SES project faltered or failed. Adopting the five-step approach helped us avoid that scenario.”
But what were the actual, practical steps taken to avoid these worst-case scenarios? Theory is a great foundation, but it means nothing without effective implementation.
“Pro-active communication at all levels of the supply chain has proved key throughout this period. We now have a revised production schedule and build deadline in place that everybody is happy with (given the circumstances), but that wouldn’t have been possible without some crucial conversations and planning meetings along the way,” said Andy.
The inability to meet in person for some of these key discussions could have introduced another barrier had it not been for the team’s five-step plan. Having already planned for the use of necessary technology in step four (Implement the action plan using technology and other tools), our work group used video calls and project management tools to engage with suppliers, communicate regularly, chart progress and forecast different scenarios with partners in all tiers of the supply chain pyramid.
Another important consideration for the project team was escalation and reporting. As with any ‘normal’ project being undertaken in stable circumstances, knowing when to escalate discussions was an important strategic consideration.
“Other market elements, such as the global lithium shortage, were already a concern for our suppliers. Knowing when to escalate production or supply delays caused by these outside influences is critical. The last thing we want is to keep our client in the dark about important developments, but at the same time we don’t want to burden them with issues they contracted us to handle,” said Andy.
“Taking the lead and guiding the supply chain from a position of uncertainty to one of stability reinforced our place within the pyramid. Our goal from the start has been to keep everyone safe while delivering an innovative project for our client, and our pro-active approach has both mitigated risk at every stage and reassured our client that we were the right choice for such a momentous project.”
Safety, quality and reliability are the fundamental elements of an efficient supply chain. Any vessel build project, no matter how innovative, is made greater by the sum of its parts. By adapting to changing circumstances and collaborating with suppliers at every step of the supply chain, we’ve created a stable foundation that will see the Hybrid SES build through to completion later this year.
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