Trading in traditions: transforming the Navy

An effective management operating solution, underpinned by collaborative behaviour internally and across the supply chain, helps break the mould of a very traditional approach to maintenance in the Australian Navy.

“It was more than change management. It was a fundamental analysis of our business culture: how we do business and how we behave with our industry counterparts. We realised that the old way couldn’t continue, as it was part of the problem.”

– Dr Bruce McLennan, Director of Maritime Strategic Industry Engagement, Australian Department of Defence

The problem

The upkeep and maintenance of Australia’s Defence ships has long been a costly and problematic game, resulting in suboptimal outcomes for both the Navy and industry at large. Traditionally, Defence outsourced the maintenance of their ships to multiple suppliers on a piecemeal basis, tendering to a panel of pre-qualified suppliers. However, due to its short-term outlook, this approach provided suboptimal outcomes – and instead incentivised a strong focus on growth for individual contractors. Significant schedule delays, excess administration and cost blow-outs were run of the mill.

The solution

The establishment of a collaborative supplier engagement model. This new model saw all the work on the class of Adelaide class frigates given to one contractor for a period 5 years.

  • $1 million savings per month to Commonwealth
  • Ships sent out on time, every time (unprecedented)
  • Greater ability to predict contractors and end customers
Brooke’s approach

Brooke’s initial review was more than just a typical review. The teams’ extensive and trusted knowledge base, coupled with a mentoring partnership approach, meant they were fully connected and committed to the project’s outcomes. With this deep trust and motivation for change, plus the confidence to bring about transformation in the industry, the partnership saw the Department steer away from their highly transactional and process-driven approach, which resulted in large costs and time overruns.

Working closely at all levels within Department, Brooke first took time to fully understand gaps in strategy, such as collaboration both internally and with external suppliers. A tailored strategy was developed to assess engagement and integration. A transitional program was then implemented. It started with a focus on contracting, but eventually extended to all areas of the Department.

The program’s governance structure was second to none and helped key stakeholders to identify what needed to be done. It focused upon how the Department could engage collaboratively and reduce excess administration in favour of a more predictable management operating system.

“We needed to look at how the Department did business, how they visualised what they did, and how they visualised what suppliers did for them. We helped them to see that if they worked collaboratively with industry they could improve overall system performance in ways that they, acting alone would never have been able to achieve.”

– Brett Ackroyd, Brooke’s project leader