Ever heard of the saying ‘stick to the knitting’?
Popularised in a best-selling management book of the 1980s, it proposes the belief that a business’s interests are best served by using its existing skills to focus on areas in which it has experience: areas where it can excel.
Perkins took this very philosophy on board in 2017 with the launch of the Customer Machine Engineering Team (CMET). Recognising that customers’ engineering resources are sometimes limited, CMET provides the global OEM base with access to the knowledge, insight and experience that characterises the Perkins team – leaving the customer free to focus on its own strengths.
“CMET’s a bit like a rapid-response team that any of our customers can call upon when they’re faced with any engineering challenge that involves one of our engines,” says Rob Borland, CMET’s engineering team leader.
“Beyond the engineering know-how, an additional word that customers often use in a CMET post-project debrief is ‘ingenuity’,” he adds. “They recognise that what we’ve achieved – usually, but not always related to improving the performance of a machine – is beyond what their team could have delivered, had they been working alone.”
“It makes a massive difference to how well these projects work,” reveals Rob, “as it does in any collaboration between Perkins and its customers.”
Hosted at Peterborough, UK, the TIW sees customers invited to the site for a three- to five-day stay, comprising both professional and social elements*. As much a team-building event as anything else, the workshop allows both teams to get to know one another, and to understand everyone’s core competencies and characters, to allow the team to ‘gel’ as successfully as possible as the project unfolds.
Of course, it’s also the primary opportunity to lay down the parameters of the project. “Here is where the Perkins team first starts to shine,” remarks Rob. “Although the customer has already explained their objective, they begin to see how quickly Perkins has understood the problem. Often that will result in CMET being given free rein to make further changes or suggestions, with a view to refining and elevating the original proposed solution.”
Outcomes of the TIW include a full set of plans, project management and the integration proposal itself: the specific, the scope, the timeline and the key milestones. With this in place, CMET starts baseline testing on the loan machine, with one basic objective: how good is its current engine.
“Noise, fuel efficiency, power, performance, acceleration, consumption – pretty much every parameter bar emissions, as the engine will already carry appropriate certification.
“Often we’ll begin the design stage before the baseline testing’s finished. We run on a gateway process, using our preliminary findings to reach a stage where the design is ‘complete enough’ and the team’s confident we’re going to face only minor issues when it comes to build and fitting.”
The build stage is the most crucial, with components ordered, the old engine stripped out and any necessary modifications – engine mounts, for example – configured and applied. Instrumentation for testing will also be installed with the build, saving time and effort in the later stages.
“Data’s vital and we collect every piece starting from first-fire of the new engine,” notes Rob, “so we can follow a continuous ‘run-data-check-adjust’ mantra during the initial shakedown, before we apply the full A&I test and the machine’s ready for the customer to assess.”
It’s at this stage that the relationship established between the lead engineers in both parties becomes critical. “Everyone’s got to be confident to make the changes we need to ensure we’re realising the full potential of the project.”
Rob concludes: “There’s no hard-and-fast formula for what makes a CMET project a success, but the debriefing process – undertaken after every project sign-off – reveals both the level of enthusiasm and the degree of trust and confidence that the collaboration engenders, as well as the perspective of commercial value.”
*As COVID protocols permit
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