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MCA Awards 2012 - PA Consulting

MCA Awards 2012
MCA Platinum Award winners 2012 - PA Consulting

London: A PA Consulting project has saved money — and lives.

Over the next two weeks will carry short case studies describing all the winning projects honoured at the MCA Awards 2012. We start with the 2012 Platinum Award winner, and Innovation winner — PA Consulting's Panama Project with UK Ministry of Defence.

PA Consulting Group helped the UK MOD to develop a ground-breaking remote-vehicle based explosive device detection system that is now saving lives in Afghanistan; urgent timescales were met and savings of £17M achieved thanks to PA's equally innovative procurement techniques

Initially, the MOD faced a dilemma. Complete off-the-shelf solutions existed but were unsatisfactory — they were manned, whereas unmanned systems would be safer and more effective. Customising a solution within the required timescale of under a year, however, looked impossible.

PA, a trusted advisor to the MOD, resolved the dilemma, finding a middle path between bespoke and off-the-shelf options. PA's solution took the obsolete SN2A 'Snatch' Land Rover, 200 of which were awaiting disposal by the MOD, added an operationally proven IED detector system and integrated off-the-shelf remote-control and sensor subsystems. Panama keeps the crew out of harm's way, situating them in the most protected vehicle in the UK fleet.

PA met the urgent timescales without compromising on performance, through innovation in both solution and procurement. As well as applying accelerated procurement methods from the earlier Talisman project, PA supported the MOD in taking overall responsibility for design decisions, without the usual prime contract arrangements but with close collaboration among empowered and incentivised suppliers. This meant the MOD could:

  • better align accountability and responsibility
  • evolve the specification, making trade-offs between performance, cost and time
  • retain and reallocate funds that would normally go to the contractor to cover delivery risk

In the absence of a prime contractor, risk was borne by the MOD itself. PA helped it manage this risk through targeted technical studies, detailed programme modelling and early engagement with suppliers. To ensure progress was controlled and auditable, PA employed a formal 'risk gate' approach, which would not allow progress towards an investment decision until appropriate risks had been addressed.

A multidisciplinary PA team supported the MOD throughout from requirements definition to deployment in Afghanistan. Close consultation and early demonstration of prototypes enabled PA to obtain senior stakeholder buy-in to the solution and the procurement approach, both categorised by the MOD as novel and contentious.

After more than six months of active operations the ability of UK forces to find and deal with IEDs has dramatically improved. Now IEDs can be found remotely and lives have been saved by the reduced need for soldiers to investigate on foot. There has been a ten-fold increase in the rate at which a route can be searched; this means soldiers on the ground can get things done much faster.

PA's approach saved an estimated £9M, reducing initial procurement cost to £50M. A further £8M of savings are expected over the life of Panama, thanks to use of the existing 'Snatch' Land Rovers. In recognition of this work the joint team received a Chief of Defence Materiel Commendation from the head of the UK MOD's £16Bn equipment and support organisation, for 'the delivery of the Panama life-saving capability'.

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