So what do you do when the aerospace plant you run is more likely than not to be faced with a major water outage at least once a year? How do counter a stoppage bill that is calculated to cost at least £300,000 a time?
This is the problem that faced Lee Nicholson and the team from Investment and Infrastructure Services at the BAE Systems manufacturing facility at Samlesbury in Lancashire. And it is a problem that, if conventional solutions were used, would cost at least £5million to solve.
But Lee and the team don’t do conventional. And now the solution they have come up with will save the company £4.5million in costs and guarantee on-site water supplies for the manufacturing processes used make components for some of the world’s most advanced aircraft, and for the 4,000 plus people who work on the site.
Lee explained: “The location and geography of our site, means that, even with the best efforts of our water provider, United Utilities, we are likely to face a major water outage at least once a year. We all know what it’s like when you lose your supply of water at home – it can make life both difficult and unpleasant – but when it happens on a 350 acre site like ours it is little short of a disaster. We wanted to make sure that couldn’t happen – but we wanted to avoid paying the estimated £5million it would have cost to put a second mains supply pipe in – and the risk that even that too could fail.”
Instead, the team came up with an ingenious system of cold water storage tanks and booster pumps that guarantee at least 12 hours of supply – even if the external mains is completely cut off. More ingenious still is a novel ‘level control’ system in the tanks that ensures the water is regularly ‘turned over’ to avoid any risk of stagnation and keep it fit for drinking.
The cost of this solution? Not the £5million bill that the company could have been facing – but £500,000 – just a tenth of the original estimate for a conventional cure.
“The new system has been in place since February,” says Lee, “and already it has kept the facility running during a supply outage. Business continuity is everything to us, it means we can honour our contractual obligations, keep the machines running, and satisfy the thirst of anyone on site. “
This is the first installation of its kind to serve an entire BAE Systems site anywhere in the UK. It is also a system that has so impressed United Utilities that it is being recommended to other North West businesses with similar critical supply issues. Within BAE Systems the novel solution to a tricky problem has also secured the team some significant recognition. This is a story that, like the water, just looks set to run and run.
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