Designing naval ships is every bit as complex as designing spacecraft. As a result, RHEA Group has worked with the Ministry of Defence in the Netherlands since 2019 to apply the same concurrent design methodology used by the European Space Agency (ESA) to major projects including the specification of new naval vessels. Commodore Dick Kreiter, Director of Projects for the Dutch Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO), explains.
The DMO is responsible for the procurement and maintenance of all items used by the country’s military personnel, from clothing to ships and aircraft. Many of its projects are complex and can take years to complete.
Why did you consider concurrent design for the DMO?
“We got to know the methodology of concurrent design from ESA and also from a shipyard where it was being used. One of the things we supply is ships for the Navy, so when we saw it was also being used to support shipbuilding, we realized we could also use it for the same purpose.
“It was coincidental that we were looking for replacements for our M-frigate ships at the same time as we started working with RHEA to investigate the use of concurrent design. However, this programme – the Anti Submarine Warfare Frigate Project (ASW-Frigate) – was one of the most complex problems we were facing, so it was an ideal opportunity to test the methodology. We resolved all of our issues within a year and are now looking to use concurrent design for other projects.”
What do defence and space have in common?
“One of the issues with space projects and programmes is that they are usually very complex, both technically and organizationally. And that’s true for us too – we have many very complex programmes and projects running all the time.
“There really isn’t much difference between designing and sending a satellite to space or a Navy ship out to sea – both are complex, custom-made craft and neither is ever standard as there are always new requirements and new options to consider.”
What has concurrent design provided that you did not have before?
“The most important thing that RHEA has given us is a different way of thinking – a different way of looking at design and a different way of finding solutions for complex problems.
“The methodology helps us to discuss complex problems in a structured and concurrent way, instead of the much slower, sequential way we used previously. We now use this at the stage of a project where we are still investigating and refining our own requirements to include in a contract.”
What benefits have you seen from using concurrent design?
“There have been many benefits! One is that we have more or less halved the time we would have needed otherwise for this project. Because that saves the time of all the personnel involved, we can use that time to do other things and so in the end it saves us money too.
“Perhaps the most important thing, though, is the different cultural approach and behaviour, with someone continuously challenging the group on their performance and commitment. I think that is the most effective part of the whole concurrent design methodology.”
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to implement concurrent design?
“You need strong leadership to get this implemented. You have to persuade people by taking them to see it in action at other organizations – not only project managers but also your own management. People don’t like change and will be sceptical, but once you convince them and they start using it, they will not only embrace it but also find other uses for it.”
Headshot and main image: © Dutch Ministry of Defence