Implementing Lean within a military aircraft MRO facility

An Aerospace Company won a maintenance contract for a military aircraft. It required new performance targets, so they need to start a Lean Project. 


The Company won an extended contract to carry out the deep level maintenance, repair and overhaul of the RAF’s fleet of VC10 large bodied jets. This included the transfer of Minor maintenance activity from Brize Norton into the facility.

Whilst the facility had a long history of working with VC10, meeting the new performance targets presented a significant challenge. The situation was complicated by uncertainties about the future of the Agency following the Strategic Defence Review: a long running voluntary redundancy campaign that was depleting experience and skills; and the need to position the facility as a lean showcase for winning new business.



A joint team was set up to tackle the programme.

An initial evaluation of the facility revealed excessive waste in the processes, poor house keeping, and low levels of ownership amongst the workforce. We carried out a full audit in order to establish the precise starting point, diagnose root causes of poor performance, and gauge the receptivity of the management and workforce to change.

We quickly identified that the operation provided an ideal opportunity to implement the principles of lean in three key areas: the underlying control of processes; the organisation of the workplace; and the culture of the workforce.

A series of workshops with operations managers explored the current causes of dissatisfaction, raised awareness of the revised expectations of the customers, the business and the workforce, and helped them to develop their vision for the future. We also carried out lean awareness workshops for the workforce and trained key members of the team in lean.

From this starting point a suite of new ways of working was developed and implemented that delivered the performance improvements required and generated a more participative culture.


VC10 was able to deliver the new service provision successfully and become the best performing facility on the site. Other benefits included:

  • Smooth introduction of the Minor Maintenance programme with all targets for the first aircraft through the facility met.
  • Value of material returns on Major servicing reduced from £5m to less than £500k.
  • Project set up time for new aircraft reduced by 50%.
  • Consistent achievement of target lead times on both Major and Minor services.
  • On schedule to achieve 33% reduction in booked hours over the nextthree major services.

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