Oral history of British science
King, Julia (Part 7 of 9). An Oral History of British Science.
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Interviewee's office, Aston University, Birmingham
King, Julia, 1954- (speaker, female)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 7: Comments on transition to MD role at Rolls-Royce Fan Systems Business: not considering it much at the time; similar management challenges; dealing with internal customers over cost reductions; lack of effective processes for dealing with internal customers initially but later improvements; communicating effectively with staff, pride in working for Rolls-Royce. [07:10] Remarks on value of Rolls-Royce prestige: high status in UK manufacturing; mark of quality staff; world wide status. [10:30] Remarks on reasons for Rolls-Royce success: high quality personnel; comparison with automotive industry; military links and strong leadership; nationalisation; quality of leadership and engineering. [14:42] Comments on guiding careers: importance of communication in growing university careers, with reference to Cambridge, Aston and Imperial; value of Rolls-Royce experience for JK. [18:55] Comments on manufacturing: integrating design and manufacturing more closely; anecdote about manufacturing of Joint Strike Fighter lift fan blades; bringing designers to manufacturing facility at Barnoldswick; problems cutting big fan blades; rapid prototyping to check designs can be built; designing with an eye to access for testing and maintenance by users. [25:45] Comments on lean manufacturing: [W. Edwards] Deming, Japanese and Unipart examples; Rolls-Royce practice of having much work in progress [WIP] leading to large stores of cost; union challenges and machine tools; use of WIP to balance cash-flow; [30:20] anecdote about manufacturing variations piling up awaiting testing and building up costs; building up better communications between manufacturing and designers; successful legacy of work. [33:35] Remarks on opposition to changes: JK impressed by knowledge of long serving Rolls-Royce staff but realising staff knew problems from experience but not necessarily understanding them; staff resistance to change, moving long serving staff out to implement radical changes. [39:16] Remarks on typical activities and regular pattern to week's work: Mondays searching for problems, example of activities caused by faults in fan blade manufacturing clean rooms; anecdote about value of JK personally attending meetings with new engine chief engineers; meetings with customers and suppliers; travel around sites in Derby, Barnoldswick, Newcastle, Coventry, Ansty, Indianapolis, Germany. [44:55] Remarks on feelings about work: very busy and tiring; satisfying; exciting; pioneering new methods of manufacturing; good team to work with, including Dominic Horwood, Gordon Tytler. [48:35] Story about building up team from younger promising looking staff as she didn't know manufacturing personnel already, challenge of improving on factories that were already working quite well. [51:20] Description of manufacturing: Barnoldswick factory located in old mill and modern sheds; clean rooms; specialist machining in model shop by skilled staff; manufacturing of plastic formed diffusion bonded big fan blades; [57:37] early problems in fan blade production; rig tests of Trent engines; high-tech manufacturing and public perceptions of manufacturing in the UK; German industry compared to UK industry.
Interview with materials scientist Professor Dame Julia King