Steve Clark on Develop Consulting's expansion into airports operations

26 July 2023 Consultancy.uk 8 min. read
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Develop Consulting has recently branched out its services into the airports sector. We spoke with Steve Clark – Director at the Coventry-based consultancy and Head of the Manufacturing and Construction practices – on the firm’s work in the space and its people-driven lean offerings.

What areas does the Develop Consulting team focus on within the airport landscape?

In the last three years, airports have faced significant challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They have experienced pressures related to capacity, capability, skills, and overall operational efficiency.

As a company focused on manufacturing and construction, we have recognised the struggles faced by the airport sector and sought to provide urgent support to help them overcome these challenges and achieve positive outcomes.

Steve Clark on Develop Consulting's expansion into airports operations

The skillset we possess in manufacturing and construction is highly transferable to the airport industry. Much of what we do involves optimising processes and enhancing productivity. Airports, with their operations centred around efficiently processing people as they travel through various checkpoints, present an excellent example of a process-oriented environment.

Ensuring timely and secure movement of passengers is crucial, and we work to improve service quality while maintaining security standards.

Can you provide us some examples of projects the firm has worked on?

We have been collaborating with airports, such as Bristol Airport, for several years. Our partnership began during the start of the pandemic when they faced immediate needs for rapid improvements in security. Since then, we have expanded our scope to include other areas of airport operations, such as car parking optimisation, assisted travel processes, airfield entry, and vehicle maintenance.

Our success in improving security and performance at Bristol Airport has led to the replication of our approach in other airports across the country. We are proud to contribute our expertise to help airports deliver efficient and effective services, particularly during these challenging times.

Develop Consulting is an expert in lean thinking. How can this methodology help airport operations run more efficiently and smoothly?

At the core of our work is the optimisation of processes and the enhancement of productivity for individuals and teams. Airports serve as an excellent example of a setting where people move through a series of processes, and these processes are executed by airport staff.

Airport Operations exemplifies this scenario, where individuals navigate through various stages while passing through the airport. From their arrival to timely check-ins and security screenings, the entire process revolves around efficiently guiding passengers through each step while maintaining the highest standards of service, quality and security.

Applying lean thinking to airport operations aligns with the principles of process flow optimisation. The five key principles of lean are highly relevant in this context and are actively employed when working within airport environments.

First and foremost, we prioritise understanding the needs and expectations of the customers – the passengers. This insight forms the foundation for mapping out the entire process flow. By visualising and analysing the sequence of activities, we can identify areas of improvement.

The next step involves streamlining the process flow, ensuring a smooth and uninterrupted journey for passengers. This may entail eliminating bottlenecks, reducing waiting times, and enhancing overall operational efficiency.

Furthermore, we emphasise delivering the process in alignment with the pull of the customer, meaning that the pace and sequence of activities are synchronised with passengers' demands and requirements. This approach allows us to maintain a high level of customer satisfaction while optimising the use of resources.

Lastly, continuous optimisation remains a critical aspect. We constantly evaluate and refine processes, seeking opportunities to enhance effectiveness and efficiency. By implementing these principles, we bring tangible benefits to each airport we collaborate with, helping them improve their operations and elevate the passenger experience.

The application of lean thinking in airport operations proves to be invaluable. By embracing these principles, we contribute to the seamless movement of passengers through airports, enabling efficient service delivery without compromising on security or customer satisfaction.

Behavioural change is an integral part of success in the lean methodology. To what extent is the ‘soft side’ of change part of Develop Consulting’s methodology for airport operation projects, and how?

A good example is to look at how security works within an airport environment. When it comes to working within airport security, it is crucial to understand that while equipment plays an important role, the key factor that drives change is the people involved. It is the interaction between passengers and the security equipment that truly matters. We do not expect people to fundamentally change how they operate and think. Instead, our approach with the teams focuses on enabling security to work more efficiently while ensuring compliance and delivering excellent customer service.

Airport security teams operate in a lean manner, always striving for efficiency and effectiveness. They work together as a cohesive unit, providing a service to passengers. We collaborate closely with these teams to ensure they have a deep understanding of performance metrics, passenger flow, compliance requirements, and customer satisfaction. We acknowledge the challenging nature of their job and provide them with the necessary support to excel in their roles.

As security measures evolve, we are actively involved in supporting these changes. Our project involves exploring how we can leverage the next generation of security equipment, scheduled to be implemented in June 2024. Much of our current work is in preparation for the future, as new security regulations will require people to adapt their approaches and procedures.

This transition presents a unique opportunity for each airport to reset their operations, considering the significant changes that come with the equipment upgrade. All airports are going through a similar situation, and we are here to provide the necessary support during this transformation.

Drawing on our expertise in working with factories and manufacturing processes, we have successfully applied our knowledge and experience to the airport environment. This transfer of skills has proven to be valuable, allowing us to optimise operations and enhance security practices in airports.

By leveraging our strengths and collaborating closely with security teams and airports, we are committed to driving positive change and ensuring the highest levels of security and customer satisfaction.

Further reading: Develop Consulting's Steve Boam on the virtues of Lean working.

You’ve been in at the firm for over 3.5 years now. What are the achievements you’re most proud of?

I was with the business for just ten weeks and Covid-19 hit and it was a very challenging time for many of us. I have helped guide the company through this from the start – not just ours but also the businesses that we have been working alongside.

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, our team has remained steadfast in delivering exceptional results and unwavering support to our clients. I am immensely proud of how we have navigated through these difficult circumstances, not only for our own company but also for the businesses we work alongside.

We have been able to provide tangible results that have made a real difference for our clients, which is why we have developed such strong working relationships and receive numerous referrals from past clients and directors.

The quality of our work and the continuous support we offer to our clients on a daily basis have been at the forefront of our operations. Witnessing our team grow both in numbers and capability has been a source of great satisfaction for me personally, and it is a testament to the strength and dedication of our company. We are continuing to grow as a business and our future looks extremely positive.

People are very envious of the premium brands that we support and work closely with.  It is truly special that many clients come to us based on recommendations and our established reputation. It is a rare occurrence for us to work with completely new clients who are unknown to us. Often, our client relationships are built on prior collaborations or connections made through our strong network. This speaks volumes about the trust and value we bring to our clients’ businesses.

As we move forward, we remain dedicated to upholding our commitment to excellence, delivering outstanding results, and nurturing the relationships we have built. Our team will continue to work tirelessly to ensure the success and satisfaction of our clients