Jonathan Mitchell, CIO and director of business process improvement at Rolls-Royce, says the company has had a good year and the markets it operates in – civil and defence aerospace and marine power and energy have seen a turnaround since the downturn following 9/11. Rolls-Royce has consolidated its operations, improved its product lifecycles, reduced its cost base and is beginning to see the benefits.

“We have begun to increase our investments with a multi-year programme, and have started with process improvements to reduce product lifecycles,” says Mitchell. Reducing the time it takes to develop a new engine, like the Trent 1000 engine that has been developed in record time, can mean big paybacks. “Of course this involves a huge change of process and has to be closely supported by IT.”

"The SAP implementation will be done well because it is process-based, not technology-based"

Jonathan Mitchell, CIO, Rolls-Royce

At the operations level, Rolls-Royce has begun a massive 18-month SAP implementation programme. “The integration of SAP into the energy division of the company has been very successful, and it is now a standard template,” says Mitchell. “We are looking at moving all our processes and operations into a single standard. MRP, HR and financials are all moving into the shared services model.” The global convergence programme will begin rollout at the end of 2006 and is due to be completed by the third quarter of 2007.

“It will go out unit by unit and is a very large programme running into tens of millions of pounds. We are looking for the business benefits and a large number of facts independently affect this. It should release significant manufacturing capacity, and planning should allow the supply chain to free up.”

Rolls-Royce has overhauled its WAN to support the ERP implementation, and 70 per cent of the bandwidth of the company is complete. “This work is about process improvements, and IT is very linked into this because it is an enabler,” says Mitchell. “We are always thinking ‘process improvement’. We are using SAP in areas that were different and now there is a lack of customised systems. We are very vanilla and processes are standardised, which makes upgrades far easier. The standard way for us is SAP, and we are in the final stages of achieving this. The SAP implementation will be done well because it is process-based, not technology-based.”