Process improvement helps save lives at sea

How the Royal National Lifeboat Institution applied business process excellence to the engineering and supply department

Since its founding in 1824, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), a charity that runs a 24-hour lifeboat search and rescue service off the coast of Britain, has saved more than 139,000 lives, according to the charity's website. The largely volunteer-run organization regularly confronts dangerous seas along the UK's craggy coastline, saving an average of 22 people a day (in 2011).

The Engineering and Supply department manages a huge amount of equipment - everything from "boots to boats" in the words of David Brook, Engineering and Supply Director at RNLI. With an annual operating budget of 60-70 million pounds a year, the key remit of the department is to ensure both the safety and security of their volunteer crews and make sure they've got the equipment they need, when they need it.

"We really have a moral duty to use the money as best we can," says Brook. "So there's a real tension between our need to make our equipment as best and high performing as possible but also reduce the cost and use the money of our donors as best as we can."

This video case study, provided by Nimbus, looks at how the RNLI applied business process excellence and process mapping in order to "lean" the Engineering and Supply Department to improve quality, whilst at the same time reducing the reserve fleet size and reducing on-going maintenance costs.

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