Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Visit to Rolls Royce Derby

Yesterday I paid a visit to my former employers, Rolls Royce aero engine division, which I joined 60 years ago after leaving the army. As was to be expected, the products and the technology have changed out of all recognition, not least in the way the technical and management capacity of the company has enabled it to expand into related fields such as marine engineering, power generation and oilfield technology, which now account for a substantial proportion of total revenue.

RR also has a thriving apprentice school and is taking on more youngsters including a growing proportion of girls. The apprentices also take on the role of ambassadors to the schools, encouraging pupils to think of careers in engineering, and teachers to promote the learning of science and maths. It isn't good for the future if more and more young people are dissuaded from taking 'difficult' subjects by teachers who themselves avoided them. I'm not sure how we reverse the cultural trend away from engineering, in which for the time being we still have companies like Rolls Royce which can beat the world.

Another particularly impressive location was the Operations Room, where data from all Rolls Royce engines in flight all over the world is received via satellite and analysed by the computers for incipient maintenance needs. Apparently engines aren't serviced nowadays after a fixed time in service, or so many flying hours, but only when the computers tell the monitoring engineers that msintensnce is due. The centre is manned 24 hours a day 365 days a year!

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