Based in Oxfordshire ALC Vehicles is a joint venture between, Amey Plc and Babcock International Plc. It delivers the 15-year MOD, ‘C Vehicle Capability’ PFI contract providing a wide range of construction and field mechanical handling equipment to the Ministry of Defence. ALC supply over 2,000 individual items covering 167 different equipment types together with a broad range of support services to the British Armed Forces worldwide. Its aim is to optimise the use of the fleet and to ensure that service personnel do not suffer “skill fade” which would adversely impact their operational capability.
Services include training of plant operators and maintainers, an integrated Management Information System, the provision of an online and hardcopy technical publications service, fleet transport, hiring in and out of equipment to optimise the fleet holding and a spares provision and inventory management system. Highly regarded by its users and their Chain of Command the contract has made a significant improvement in the availability of capability whilst simultaneously reducing the logistic and maintenance burden on the personnel at the unit level. The PFI has also generated greater financial savings for the MOD than first envisaged when the contract was awarded.
‘Optimising Capability’ is ALC’s strapline, promoting an ethos of continuous improvement in everything it does. It’s intended to encapsulate the ethos that the business is working toward and to ensure that ALC constantly deliver benefits to the Authority, from the start of the contract right through until its completion. Data management is key to this.
The organisation works to 15 stringent KPI’s. The Business Systems Manager at ALC explains, “Our business operates in a very complex environment, with many different variables which all have to be monitored and reported to a very demanding customer: the MOD.”
With so many ‘moving parts’ ALC were data rich, but information poor. The organisation relied upon spreadsheets and hundreds of Crystal reports which were labour intensive to administrate, offered no configuration control and had questionable data quality. There was no single version of the truth and given the risk associated with ALC’s KPI targets, data integrity was becoming increasingly important.
In January 2013 ALC initiated Project Chrysalis – an IT transformation programme that would see the organisation overhaul its use of technology in order to ensure continuous improvement within its service offering. As part of this programme, ALC’s Technical Business Analyst, Natalie Law introduced QlikView. Having had exposure to QlikView in her previous role, Natalie felt that the software could offer ALC an accessible, user-friendly tool to make sense of their big data.
“The seeing is believing session delivered by CPiO enabled us to immediately see the advantages of how QlikView could support our own data. And from the outset CPiO guided us in purchasing the correct server, licence and support combination with clear information around costs; they didn’t oversell or give us the wrong pricing model. This enabled us to build a solid business case to implement QlikView.” Natalie says.
Working within the constraints of the MOD’s restricted network protocols and with the help and support of Midland’s based Qlik partner, CPiO, ALC was able to deploy QlikView. Natalie comments, “CPiO and its clever application of QlikView meant that we could utilise all of the data sitting on the servers without compromising MOD security which was a big hurdle to jump. That, though, wasn’t the main stumbling block; we underestimated the cultural change of introducing QlikView. People got very worried about “big brother” and we had to do a lot of work to prove that this would enhance their value and not damage it.”
ALC experienced a common phenomenon during the introduction of QlikView – “QlikView is wrong”. The power of QlikView lies in its ability to very quickly spot obvious issues in data quality. “We sat in so many meetings in the first few days of the launch where managers said that QlikView was clearly wrong. I had to point out that QlikView isn’t doing anything with the data and that the data, at its source, was wrong. Once people realised what QlikView was showing them, the penny dropped and we have subsequently seen a marked improvement in data quality. Now the whole organisation is far more data-aware because they know that QlikView has raised the benchmark”, comments the Business Systems Manager.
QlikView has been introduced in a self-service format at the Board level so that decisions can be made faster and they no longer need to rely upon others to write reports. There are 15 million records sitting behind the ALC QlikView dashboards meaning that information is dynamic and comprehensive. ALC also operates a touch screen within its head office to promote proactivity and raise the level of workplace accessibility; an effort that has not gone unnoticed by Amey Plc and Babcock International Plc.
Working with CPiO
On ALC’s working relationship with CPiO consultants throughout the implementation, Natalie comments, “Complex issues have been resolved through collaborative working and some key reporting solutions have been created saving several man days a month. The support we have received has been great, always timely and to a high standard.”
12 months into the QlikView implementation, ALC can already identify significant benefits citing a predicted saving of over £1million to the MOD in one product line alone – lighting towers. The Business Systems Manager comments, “We’ve been able to realise a further £100k per annum on fleet optimisation. Added to that the savings in time – 10 man days a month in reporting is significant”.
With the help of QlikView and CPiO, ALC has started upon a transformational journey of discovery where data is accessible to all and employees are encouraged to ask questions to improve performance. QlikView acts as the control panel to the business giving the senior management team greater confidence of delivery against KPI’s. The Business Systems Manager comments, “We’re so impressed with QlikView that we are now looking to roll this out into our spares management area and it is highlighting data issues within our supply chain partners helping to improve data quality end to end.”