Engage with our academicsCase Study : Leonardo

The Business Challenge 

Leonardo is a global technology company that operates in the Defence, Security and Aerospace markets. It does business in over 150 countries and is one of the largest suppliers to the UK MoD. Its Sensors business, based in Southampton, currently manufactures a range of Infra-Red Detector products for military and commercial surveillance applications. These detectors contain state-of-the art technology and are mounted on aircraft, missiles and satellites.

Ismael Ahmad, a Masters Graduate in Management from the University of Cranfield, joined Leonardo. Over two years under the academic supervision of Steve Paton, the knowledge base supervisor from Strathclyde Business School, and Jay Harji, the company supervisor from Leonardo, Ismael worked on a number of challenges within the Leonardo Business. By introducing robust Product Lifecycle Management, the KTP aimed to increase revenues by reducing engineering cycle times, increasing production volume and diversifying the product portfolio to meet evolving market demands.


The Knowledge Transfer

The academic team and KTP Associate had the opportunity to apply and transfer their knowledge gained in other high value manufacturing industries that face the same challenges.

The KTP was undertaken to embed integrated product/project lifecycle and engineering management capability to enhance product lifecycle productivity from technology development through design, production, in-service support and product withdrawal.

Specific areas of focus included; first, the introduction of a modularised product family approach to address added complexity in requirements management and product configuration created by increasingly numerous and diverse applications for core products; second, the development of a more efficient product lifecycle to address demand for shorter lead-times and challenging cost expectations; and third, the introduction of an improved design-for-manufacture capability to facilitate increases in production volumes and reductions in unit cost. This capability embedded via the KTP will improve production yield, increase sales of competitively priced products, and facilitate market growth.

Several bodies of knowledge were drawn upon for this project including systems engineering management that was embedded into the engineering process and Integrated product management which was developed for this custom application and embedded within the existing lifecycle management process. In addition, business tools from improvement methodologies such as Kaizen, Lean and Six Sigma facilitated the change process.

Leonardo gained access to the most up-to-date knowledge within each of these areas while the academic team gained access to a research context where new ideas in each domain could be applied.


The Value Added

The project delivered clear benefits to the company. The company supervisor noted that at the application stage it was never expected that the KTP would demonstrate an impact within such a short timeframe as the project and programme lead-times (within Defence and Aerospace) are comparatively long by industry standards. However, given the improvements made, he expected the changes very quickly to became visible externally to customers, whether in terms of delivery, support or engineering quality. Already the repair and overhaul business has demonstrated improved service response times, a reduction in overall returns position, substantial improvements in productivity and a 30% reduction in per-unit repair costs.

In addition to these tangible systemic improvements other more intangible benefits resulted. The KTP created a better communications culture and increased support for continuous improvement initiatives. It also allowed staff members from across the business to gain experience of the KTP system and upskill themselves in the activity of knowledge transfer. This is extremely important as it is often difficult for staff to find time to move beyond their ‘day-job’ and find time to engage in knowledge exchange. The presence of the full-time knowledge transfer associate proactively championing progressive initiatives was key to this cultural change. As the KTP ended the Vice President of the Detectors business had already begun to roll-out the work done by the KTP to other business units within the Leonardo company.

Furthermore, this KTP project has delivered positive impact on the University and the Academic team. The KTP provided empirical data for the Academic team’s ongoing research into high value manufacturing and innovation ecosystems. The academic team, the KTP Associate and the company team have developed their knowledge of product management in the defence industry. The KTP Associate was able to develop new skills such as project management and learn business improvement techniques. The KTP is the ideal apprenticeship from which a graduate can build a successful and fulfilling career upon.

Contact details

 Undergraduate admissions
 +44 (0)141 548 4114

 Postgraduate admissions
 +44(0)141 553 6116/6105/6117


Strathclyde Business School
University of Strathclyde
199 Cathedral Street
G4 0QU

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