Does our defence procurement process need to be more flexible and agile?
The end of this week marks the deadline for industry to submit their proposals for the design phase of the UK Royal Navy’s Type 31e frigate requirement. As much as you can understand the reasons for pausing the programme in the summer which, according to MOD, was due to ‘inadequate competition’, you do wonder whether the delay will indeed make any difference. Or, whether the uncertainty around Brexit is having an impact.
Unfortunately, our choices are limited if we are to align with the National Shipbuilding Strategy and maximise UK capability to deliver this programme. Step back in time to the 1970’s and yes, it would have been a very different story but, competition from Japan, South Korea and China has taken its toll. Sir John Parker who provided the recommendations for the National Shipbuilding Strategy, was quoted saying that the UK failed to spot the big opportunities in the 80s, so the words “too little, too late” do spring to mind.
Couple these concerns with the cynicism that surrounds the price tag of these ships and it’s hard not to think that the programme is doomed to fail before it’s gained any real traction. Budget cuts are a very real issue facing the MOD however, we still need to manage expectations and question whether $328 million per ship, is a realistic figure.
Encouragingly, we wait with anticipation to see if Atlas Elektronik U.K. and Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems become the MOD’s 3rdoption. Will that then mean there is now ‘adequate competition’ for the programme to go ahead to the next stage? Only time will tell but rapid decisions will need to follow if there is any chance of industry meeting the delivery deadlines.
With Euronaval just around the corner, we’ll be looking forward to walking the floors, meeting clients and prospects and keeping our ear to the ground for any big defence announcements.
Whilst preparing for SMM Fair 2018, I was fully aware that it was a big show; you only need to look through the exhibitor list to understand that. But it’s only once you’re there and in the thick of it that you truly appreciate the sheer magnitude of what is certainly the largest trade event I’ve ever been to.
Liz at SMM Fair 2018
25,000 steps over 1.5 days and there were still people I didn’t get a chance to catch up with, but it was a fantastic couple of days and a great opportunity to spend time with clients, journalists, as well as meet some new and interesting people who clearly have a passion for this industry. The blisters were totally worth it!
What did I learn?
The IMO Ballast Water Convention and Global Sulphur Cap 2020 were still the main discussion topics, as was the ‘green drive’ and maritime security. Of course, none of these are quick wins and they will all have a major impact on how the industry operates in the future. What’s clear is that there needs to be a much more agile and flexible approach to the formation and implementation of regulations if we stand any hope of keeping up, never mind getting ahead, in an ever-changing world.
Our preparation for Posidonia, earlier this year, was spot on so we didn’t change anything for this show. Despite only being able to commit to 1.5 days, with nifty preparation and planning, I had 18 meetings plus several drop-ins. No other show will give you such an opportunity to see all the major industry players in one place. If I was to give advice to anyone attending this show for the first time, I would say:
- Plan your meetings hall by hall to avoid feeling frustrated and exhausted.
- Taxis are impossible to secure after 4pm – research public transport and the different ways to get around Hamburg. Nearly 2 hours waiting for a taxi is an experience I’m hoping never to repeat. If it wasn’t for the kindness of two executives travelling in my direction, I may never have got to my hotel that night.
- Dedicate at least three full days to attend and work SMM, so that you can be more systematic in your approach, i.e. 1st day – A Halls, 2nd day – B Halls, 3rd day – any stands you’ve missed.
- Leave the heels at home – being an absolute lover of heels, I can’t quite believe I’m saying this but I’m also still trying to nurse my feet back to normal and haven’t been out of my trainers since I got back. So, next time it’s flats all the way.
What will we do differently in 2020?
In all honesty, not a lot. The timing of these events is critical. Whilst Posidonia was fantastic from a BD perspective, we then quickly entered ‘silly season’ and so, we faced two or three months of following up and nurturing these relationships at a time when quite frankly, very few people are looking to seriously engage. That said, we’re now seeing our hard work paying off and SMM last week has reinforced our passion and commitment to working in an industry that plays a crucial role in driving the global economy. Roll on Norway for Nor-Shipping 2019. It’ll be interesting to see how much the industry has moved on and what investments are made over the next year. Given the conversations I’ve been privy to recently, we should be seeing a flurry of activity which can only be good news for the industry.
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