Transforming Engineering at MBDA

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Friday 3 March 2023

At MBDA, we are transforming the way we engineer. Our purpose is to Digitise how we work, focussing on data rather than documents. Creating connected synthetic environments so we can collaborate and co-ordinate our development virtually, or by augmented reality. The game changer of working in this way is that we can move from design to testing without having to build something until we have confidence it will work, as we expect it to, the first time we build it as a physical product.

Why change?

The whole of UK Defence is changing how it works in a connected, digital age and we have a strong vision of where we need to be as a business. Therefore, we spoke to three of our team leaders - Kirsty Akroyd-Wallis one of our technical experts for Systems, Methods & Tools says, Fiona Mortimore, Head of Transformation on one of our programmes, and Louise Robinson, and Head of UK Portfolio Transformation & Improvement - who are at the front of this project. They explain why this is so important and why they are so passionate about transforming the way MBDA Engineers work to meet the demands of future business.


People led

We often say at MBDA that our people are at the heart of what we do. It’s true. Without them, we couldn’t do what is needed as a business, and transforming our engineering is no different. Our people are the drivers of our digital transformation. Kirsty [pictured above], said, “MBDA has incredibly talented people who in their own teams, functions and projects are already transforming their work for their own domains through IRAD, Functional Improvements, Capability Uplifts, etc.” 

Louise adds “Through this [engineering transformation], I have had to opportunity to meet and work with a number of passionate individuals, all striving for a successful outcome to the transformation programme, focusing heavily on engineering change and harnessing our move towards agility.“ Fiona also points out that transformation can’t take place without the right workplace culture, saying, “In addition to the technical aspects of these transformations, a critical success driver is having the right culture embedded across the team. Embodying a strong ethos of continual improvement, joint working, “fail fast” and can do attitude.” 


Making sure we capture all the good stuff happening

Saying you are transforming means nothing unless you can demonstrate it. At the beginning of 2022 our senior leaders in the UK launched our UK Improvement & Transformation Plan to give our customers, and in particular the UK MOD, confidence that all of the good activity they were being told about was being harnessed correctly.

Fiona states “On my programme we are pursuing 12 different transformation streams encompassing both business & engineering practices and influencing approaches across the whole enterprise from MBDA to our customers and in to the supply base. We have been looking at how we demonstrate a business wide continuous improvement strategy across the UK.”

Louise [pictured above] goes on to say, “There is so much incredible activity happening across the business so we wanted to align this clearly into a comprehensive improvement plan.” Kirsty concludes, “The challenge is to architect all of those individual improvements together into an integrated transformation solution and fill the gaps between that and the vision.”


Leading by example

There are examples of where transformation work is already ongoing and where we are seeing a benefit. Some programmes have some hugely challenging timescales for the reduction in time from concept to in service compared to a typical previous development cycles. Fiona, Head of Transformation for one such programme [pictured above] comments,

“This means we couldn’t just tweak the way we work.  We needed to embrace revolutionary changes whilst still maintaining high quality and high performance product delivery”. Example engineering themes pursed in the programme include agile methodologies and agile design, progressive assurance, rapid development and prototyping, specific elements of digital test and evaluation, digital thread and model based engineering.

Fiona adds, "The programme I work on is embedding transformation and realising tangible benefits now. [In a short space of time] it has very much moved from scoping and planning, into delivering the benefits of these transformations and demonstrating a realistic reduction in program duration as a result.”


”Generational shift”

Louise finishes by saying, “I feel very proud and excited to be able to help lead this change within the business and the early formation of a strong network of high performing role models working on improvement and transformation activity across the business”. Louise added, “Bringing this all together and working as a cohesive, aligned team has, and I am sure will continue to be, extremely rewarding”.  Kirsty concludes, “This [the transformation into digital engineering] is a generational shift in how we work, so I’m incredibly excited to be part of it.”

Innovation at the heart of everything we do

Reacting to Kirsty, Fiona and Louise’s discussions, Sarah Webb [pictured above], our Group Head of Functional Capability and Skills for MBDA, summed up this hugely exciting Transformation activity, “At MBDA, our Engineers are great at leveraging latest technology trends to create extraordinary products. Digital Engineering and Digital Test and Evaluation is the opportunity to apply this same innovation to the way we create these products, not just the products themselves”.

If you’re an engineer, and you want to be part of our engineering transformation journey, why not search our available jobs and find your opportunity here.