New estimation tool gives GKN aerospace services the winning edge

Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology

ISSN: 0002-2667

Article publication date: 1 October 2004




(2004), "New estimation tool gives GKN aerospace services the winning edge", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 76 No. 5.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

New estimation tool gives GKN aerospace services the winning edge

New estimation tool gives GKN aerospace services the winning edge

Keywords: GKN Aerospace, Estimation, Tools

GKN's Aerospace Services European estimation team has a new tool and process to replace their legacy system, giving them the competitive edge in winning projects.

Dave Morgan is the estimating manager for GKN Aerospace Services (GKNAS) in Cowes, Isle of Wight, Hampshire, in the United Kingdom. Dave and his team of three estimators, plus four others from other European sites in Munich, Germany, and Yeovil, UK, are tasked with creating highly detailed estimates for cost, effort, time and schedule that are required on the numerous projects for which GKNAS submits bids. These estimates must be as accurate as possible – anything too high and GKNAS may not win the work, anything too low and it could actually end up costing GKNAS to do the project. “Our most important goal is winning profitable work,” Dave states, “Bids need to have a maximum amount of detailed effort and be produced in a minimum amount of time. There is great pressure to do this.”

Until recently, Dave's team has been using a computer aided planning system to help them arrive at their estimates. “Our current system's time has expired. It's old and doesn't work very well. We need something with more features and more support”, said Dave. He spoke to John Henson, the estimating manager at another GKN enterprise, westland Helicopters who recommended the estimating tools they use at Westland, SEER-H (Hardware Model) and SEER-DFM (design for manufacturability model).

Dave had Galorath's International Managing Director, Carl Dalton, who showed the team to both models. They first tried to use SEER-H without any instruction on one of their known products, an A-380 component, and got an estimate of £120,000 using only a limited number of inputs and knowledge bases (pre-set parameters for well-known elements of projects) – after Carl took them through the model, explaining the array of parameters arid their settings and asking them questions about their practices along the way to ensure the parameters were correctly adjusted, the tool produced an estimate of £46,000 – 2 per cent from the actual cost! “That really impressed us – Carl didn't know what the actual cost was so we realized right then that SEER was a very powerful tool”, said Dave.

The next step was to demonstrate SEER-H and SEER-DFM to Paul Cocker, Group Commercial Director for GKNAS, and his European Commercial Team. The demonstration gave an overview of the SEER suite of tools, along with the above SEER-H A-380 detailed example, and six other SEER-H samples that had been carried out. Paul then requested a further demonstration the following week at the Farnborough Air Show, for his US Commercial Team.

The feedback from these meetings led Paul to conclude that the SEER products would offer a common estimating basis across the whole group, the ability to create top's down parametric estimates in SEER-H, and bottom's up estimates with SEER- DFM. Furthermore, the fact that the SEER products are being used by GKNAS' leading customers (and in some cases, these customers are in the process of developing enhancements for the SEER products) convinced Paul of the benefits of the SEER products and led him to sanction the purchase of SEER-H and SEER-DFM for use in GKNAS sites in the United States and in Europe.

Dave was assigned the task of overseeing the SEER implementation for GKNAS, Europe, The team need to learn how to use SEER, calibrate it to their specific projects, and gain faith in it. Dave decided on a tandem approach and set-up several check points and processes to help ease in SEER and sunset their existing tool.

The first step was training. Galorath's Senior Consultant, Joe Falque, trained the entire European team over the course of 5 days on how to use SEER-H and SEER-DFM. He used specific GKNAS projects during the training so the team was familiar with the parameters and how to accurately estimate them. He immediately followed training with 3 days of SEER-QuickStart consulting, a hands-on, highly intensive consulting package that gets users up and running so they can calibrate their projects and learn the finer details, efficiency tips and customizations of the tool, quickly and effectively.

“Joe was magnificent”, stated Dave. “He took every unique GKNAS component, looked at it, analyzed it, and showed us how to estimate it. That process really helped us hit the ground running.”

Dave's next challenge was deriving a way to enable his team to use similar files, even though they are located in three different locations across Europe. The team was split into SEER-H and SEER-DFM user groups, a provisional GKNAS operating procedure was drawn up for both SEER systems, that classified when and how to use the SEER models, to ensure that estimators at each site could use each others cost models.

The decision was taken to fast track SEER-H ahead of DFM as it was felt more beneficial to improve the three sites estimating bidding process, with SEER-DFM being developed at a slower pace. A follow-up SEER-H users meeting is set for June 2003, with SEER-DFM users meeting set for end of 2003. The plan is to launch the SEER systems as GKNAS Europe standard estimating processes at the users meetings.

Knowing the team would be getting together in June for a 2-day check point meeting, estimators at all three locations, Cowes, Yeovil and Munich, started building cost models in SEER-H for each bid they had estimated. They then undertook calibration using actuals or estimates. By doing this, they were able to build-up families of product types and they planned to complete 60-80 calibrated GKNAS components (known in SEER as knowledge bases) for the users meeting. At the users meeting, the team will go through the work, analyze where they have made changes in SEER-H and how the changes impacted the estimate. The team needs to agree on the changes, standardize their practice, formalize their operation procedure, and then link each other via GKNAS internal network.

Already this approach has proven to be successful. In January, Dave's colleagues in Munich performed SEER-H estimates on cross beams. They worked together to chose which knowledge bases fitted the best and found they could do the estimate in 1-2 h whereas in the past it took them 1- 2 weeks! By using the knowledge bases in SEER-H, they were able to come within 4 per cent of their actuals. “We now need to prove we can do this consistently and progressively”, said Dave.

Additionally, Dave's team is using SEER-H to apply a fresh approach to new bids.

By choosing SEER-H files that are similar to past projects, they are able to copy it, change the parameters to fit the new project, replicate the file and then generate the estimate. “Right now we also have to add detailed estimates on top of the SEER-H estimates to support them, which usually takes two weeks. But once we have full confidence in our ability to use SEER-H accurately, that will stop”, stated Morgan.

After the June check-point, Dave's goal was to use the SEER.-H software almost exclusively, having confidence in it so they don't have to do a “ton of detail” because all the detail will already be in the model. By June 2003, Dave felt the team should be ready to use SEER-H as their main bidding tool. “Being able to bid accurately on more projects will result in more successful winning of future work”, said Dave.

Details available from: Galorath Incorporated. Tel: +1 310 414 3222; Fax: +1 310 414 3220; Web site:

Related articles