Issue 07 / October 2015
We want the Bloodhound Project to be the ‘Apollo movement’ of the 21st century.
The project was launched in 2008 and expects to make its attempt on the record during the early autumn 2016, in the North Cape Province in South Africa, before raising the stakes further in 2017 when it targets the 1,000mph barrier.
It means having a clear understanding of our strategic mission and objectives. It’s much wider than just managing the engineering risks, although they are an essential part of the whole exercise. The technical safety requirements for running a supersonic car can be summarised very simply:
• Find a very smooth flat surface, at least 12 miles long.
• Keep all wheels on the ground at all times.
• Stop the vehicle before the end of the track.
We shouldn’t underestimate the huge technical and engineering challenges involved in travelling faster than a jet fighter at ground level, and we’ve had to develop and test some genuinely new bits of science, but by working with world-class engineering experts we are finding ways to deliver and manage this safely.
However, our strategic mission is much wider than just building and running a fast car. The primary objectives of the Bloodhound Project are to:
• Inspire the next generation about science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
• Share an iconic research and development programme with a global audience.
In other words, we’re a strategic communications project, and effective strategic risk management requires a clear understanding of what this means for the project. We want the Bloodhound Project to be the ‘Apollo movement’ of the 21st century.
We’re building a truly global event, and inspiring young people who will build and live in the high-technology, low-carbon world of tomorrow. In strategic terms, the speed the car reaches is less important than the global ‘engineering adventure’ story of how we get there.
Insight from Martyn Davidson, operations director for the Bloodhound Project+
Insight from Martyn Davidson, operations director for the Bloodhound Project
“BLOODHOUND SSC is a jet and rocket-powered car approximately 13.4m long with two front wheels within the body and two rear wheels mounted externally. It weighs 7.5 tonnes and the engines produce more than the equivalent of 135,000 horsepower – more than nine times the power of all the Formula 1 cars on a starting grid put together.
“The car is a mix of car and aircraft technology: the front half is a carbon fibre monocoque like a racing car and the back half is a metallic framework with panels like an aircraft.
“The car has three engines. Approximately half of the power comes from the Rolls- Royce Eurojet fighter engine, the EJ200. The auxiliary power unit is a 550bhp Jaguar Supercharged V8, which works in conjunction with a Nammo HTP hybrid rocket.
“Of course, the three engines are key to the success of the record attempt. The EJ200 is being taken into a performance area it wasn’t originally designed for. The RAF uses it at 30,000ft but it has never been driven on the ground at such speeds before.
“One of the most recent component tests was on one of the wheels. Using a sophisticated laser monitoring rig, the wheel was pushed to its limits to check for deformity at extreme speeds, and to see how much it would grow under load. Pleasingly, the results were similar to the predictions that the Bloodhound engineers had calculated using computer simulation software, with the slight expansion in the wheel’s diameter as expected.”
Perhaps our biggest strategic risk revolves around creating the commercial partnerships required to build, run and share the story of the most remarkable straight-line racing car in history.
We need to work with global commercial organisations, and to do that we must gain their confidence as partners. They want to know that we can do this and that we aren’t going to let them down, technically or reputationally.
This is an area where our relationship with Willis makes a big difference. In reply to the oft-asked sceptical question ‘but surely you can’t get insurance for this?’, we can describe how well insured we are. This fact alone provides a lot of reassurance to potential sponsors.
We also need to show the benefits for our partners. How does this project fit with their business needs and objectives? This is easy to demonstrate once we’ve built the car and created the global interest – but we need their help in order to get to this point! We’re always looking for sponsorship, seeking out the innovative, group-leading organisations that will join us in our ‘engineering adventure’.
Each sponsor has slightly different needs (global PR, employee engagement, schools programmes, corporate social responsibility and so on) and each sees the alignment between their business and the project in different ways, which is something we are careful to cater for.
The organisations that have the confidence to partner our ‘adventure’ and help us to manage the strategic risks are, historically, the ones that gain the biggest benefits at the end of the day.
As a strategic communications project, we also need to ensure that Bloodhound has genuine global reach and engagement. The car will carry 12 cameras and 500 sensors, and will stream live video and data onto the internet – it is literally the world’s fastest outside broadcast platform.
There is no real data available to manage our strategic commercial and PR risks. We can measure and quantity – Bloodhound delivered £300 million of global PR value last year alone, which is simply staggering – but numbers tell us very little about quality or the ability to inspire a global audience. This has to be assessed subjectively, so human judgement is central to this process.
How live data and thorough preparation helps to manage the pressures and risks of top-flight motor racinghttp://www.resilience.willis.com/articles/2015/09/27/risk-management-strategy-formula-1/
Turning to the technical risks, data has a much larger part to play. Thanks to years of technical research, and the 500 sensors on Bloodhound, we have vastly more data available than any previous land-speed record attempt. Using military aviation methodology, we need to manage every risk so that it is:
• As low as reasonably practicable (ALARP).
Whether something is tolerable, or ALARP, comes down to subjective human assessment. In analysing the data, we have to ask ourselves:
• Are we using the right evidence?
• Are we measuring it against the right benchmark?
So, despite all the data we have, safety management still comes down to informed judgement calls.
Once we understand what we are trying to achieve, we’re half way towards managing our strategic risks. For Bloodhound, this means looking beyond the technology – the risk management task is much broader, and much more interesting, than that.
Willis Group Holdings plc is a leading global risk advisor, insurance and reinsurance broker. With roots dating to 1828, Willis operates today on every continent with more than 18,000 employees in over 400 offices. Willis offers its clients superior expertise, teamwork, innovation and market-leading products and professional services in risk management and transfer. Our experts rank among the world’s leading authorities on analytics, modelling and mitigation strategies at the intersection of global commerce and extreme events.Find more information at our website, www.willis.com
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