Manufacturer, Evangelist, Visionary

“If we can go to the Moon, or to Mars and back, why can’t we make manufacturing so fool proof that inspection becomes yesterday’s norm?" Hamid Mughal, manufacturing director, Rolls-Royce

Dr Hamid Mughal, manufacturing director at Rolls-Royce, shares his passion for his sector with Jane Gray and sets out his unfinished business in shaping its future.

Dr Hamid Mughal, manufacutirng director, Rolls-Royce
Dr Hamid Mughal, manufacutirng director, Rolls-Royce

Do you have a dream for the future of manufacturing? A vision of how processes and technology should work in your utopian factory?

Hamid Mughal does.

Rolls-Royce’s director of manufacturing has 28 years in industry under his belt and has led many changes both in the companies he has worked for, and across British industry as a whole.

But he’s not satisfied. He has unfinished business.

“I am totally dedicated to developing knowledge based adaptable manufacturing excellence,” he asserts.

“People talk a lot about labour cost and productivity but for me the hidden cost of ‘non-quality’ in manufacturing offers the biggest opportunity for achieving true excellence.”

Getting into his stride, Dr Mughal elaborates keenly. “If we can go to the Moon, or to Mars and back, why can’t we make manufacturing so fool proof that inspection becomes yesterday’s norm?

“Why can’t our systems sustain and self-correct themselves in a way that always creates the right product to the right specifications?

“This is what I absolutely yearn for and I do not think that we are that far away from it.”

Mughal senses a manufacturing revolution in the wind that will radically change the way the sector is understood and operates in the next 30 years. “Relatively speaking the changes we have seen in manufacturing over the past 40 years have been gradual. This won’t be the case going forward.” he says.

Mughal’s knowledge based adaptable manufacturing vision will require a swathe of leaders to embrace concepts and technologies for a new approach to competitive advantage.

“This will require the integration of manufacturing knowledge and systems from the product master model to the shop floor, with everything connected to the master model in real time, self-correcting and adjusting itself accordingly,” Mughal enthuses.

“This would make the world of manufacturing so different. It would free people up from the mundane shop floor monitoring activities to developing the next generation of processes, technologies and systems.”

Hamid Mughal’s career highs and lows

Worst: In the eighties I worked on the development of automation systems using electro-optical inspection technologies and robots.

Due to a lack of industrial maturity at the time I put so much focus and emphasis into developing the technical capabilities and specifications and underestimated the need to engage with the shop floor. As a result, despite a lot of time and investment, the project was almost a total failure – the systems were ahead of the technical capabilities of the people and they did not feel involved.

That taught me a lot about the people aspect of manufacturing.

The best processes and technology will not work unless people are on board and adequately trained to embrace them. I have not made the same mistake twice.

Best: There have been so many good moments, from the opening of new factories, introduction of new technologies and the launch of internal organisations which I have taken from low capability to best in class performance.

But a very prominent thing is my contribution to the establishment of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult. It has been a story of world class teamwork and it fills me with pride that we were able to deliver on such a compelling vision. It means so much because the HVM Catapult addresses an historic national problem in failing to support the commercialisation of research and technology. Its impact and legacy will reach right across British industry.

Chasing challenge

A desire for increased recognition for manufacturing burns strongly in Mughal, but don’t be fooled into thinking that he is letting passion rule without logic or a clear appreciation of the challenges involved.

“At heart I am a deeply technical guy,” he admits, and one that is a slave to the constant technical challenges involved in getting manufacturing to work at its optimum potential.

“That challenge is what first made me want to go into industry,” he explains.

“My early career soon showed me that what makes scientific sense in theory, or what can be demonstrated on a lab bench, often doesn’t translate precisely or consistently in the manufacturing world.”

This is because the manufacturing environment is a mesh of variables including; people, process, environmental, input, supply chain and cultural variables.

“Optimising manufacturing performance in spite of these complexities is a huge challenge and one that excites me,” Mughal sums up.

For society

Having caught the manufacturing bug, Mughal’s devotion and reverence for his sector has grown and grown.

He has become a fervent advocate of its manifold economic and social benefits and a key influence in the rehabilitation and nurturing of Britain’s industrial landscape.

He was at the centre of the establishment of the Advanced

Manufacturing Research Centre and the Manufacturing Technology Centre and of the process which saw these institutions become a part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult (see highs and lows box).

It’s the social impact of manufacturing in particular that animates Mughal.

“As I matured my thinking about manufacturing and gained experience in industry, I realised that while the capital value of manufacturing is widely recognised and appreciated – in terms of its ability to generate economic output – its social value is hugely underestimated.

“I have come to revere the national resilience, sense of fulfilment, skills, pride, community spirit and security of supply in a changing world that a strong manufacturing sector can bring. I value this probably more highly than the economic capital but it is generally not talked about.”

Mughal got his chance to bring this misrepresentation to the fore when he was invited to be an industrial representative on the Lead Expert Group involved in the Foresight report, Future of Manufacturing.

“It was an ideal opportunity to express my views about the true value of manufacturing and it was gratifying that my colleagues involved in the report agreed that outdated metrics for manufacturing do not truly reflect its value.”

When it was finally published in October 2013, the Foresight report received high acclaim as a rounded representation of manufacturing, including a range of activities stretching far beyond the narrow window of production. The report was also widely welcomed as a long term reference for competitive and technological progress.

“Normally there is a pretty jaundiced view about the relevance of such reports – there are so many – but this one seems to have hit the right note and many in industry say that it has done justice to the subject,” says a proud Mughal.

The day job

With all this extra-curricular activity it’s hard to believe Mughal has had time to focus on his day job at Rolls-Royce, but in fact nothing could be further from the truth.

Mughal is a hard worker extraordinaire – something he says was nurtured in his time working in the automotive sector – and his career with one of the biggest names in British industry has run concurrent with some significant developments for its manufacturing function.

Since Mughal joined Rolls-Royce its global footprint has developed significantly, new standards and processes have been introduced and product innovation has advanced apace.

Between 2004 and 2008 alone eight new factories were built. While contributing to this physical investment, Mughal has also led a cultural investment in manufacturing, making it a more prominent and appreciated part of the broader professional spectrum of capabilities in Rolls-Royce.

He has also brought a new culture to manufacturing processes themselves, sensitively deploying knowledge about lean production learned from his early days in automotive – a time which he says has “left a big mark on” his career.

“There are three things in particular that I learned in the automotive sector that still form the basis of my thinking about manufacturing today,” he says.

The first is to think of standardisation as an enabler for innovation – not a constraint. “The automotive sector’s track record in using standardisation as a basis for continuous innovation in better and more cost effective products is more radical than any other sector,” says Mughal.

“Secondly, I learned the difference between complexity and variety. The automotive sector mastered this during the eighties and it is so important to successful, competitive manufacturing.”

In simple terms, Mughal describes variety as what the customer pays for and complexity as the hidden, overly intricate engineering that the customer does not perceive and which has no intrinsic value to them.

“Finally, and this perhaps outweighs the others, is work ethic,” concludes Mughal. “The obsession with takt time in automotive companies drives hard work and agility.”

Mughal was headhunted by Rolls- Royce to bring this perspective into its manufacturing operations and he says he has never regretted his decision to move away from the automotive sector.

“I was attracted because deep down I am still a technical guy really and the lure of the product technology, the heritage and markets associated with Rolls-Royce were really exciting – it’s a brand many would give an arm and a leg to work for,” adds Mughal.

Global outlook

There’s a lot of news and statistics spouted about the strength of the global aerospace sector today – particularly civil – and the UK’s market share of all that entails.

Is this level of success sustainable? Mughal says yes and this is why: “In the civil sector, predicted air traffic will more than double in the next 20 years.

“At the same time, the rising cost of oil means that fuel will become a larger and larger part of airline operating expenses and this will increase pressure on fuel efficiency.

“The pressure will require innovation in technology and that will drive for more challenging manufacturing.”

But does the UK have enough capability in its supply chain to support Rolls-Royce as it seeks to rise to these technology and production challenges?

“There will come a point when, due to the sheer growth, potential industry consolidation and rate of new product innovation, we will push castings suppliers and tool makers for example to the limits of their capability and capacity,” acknowledges Mughal.

“But we are a global company with a global supply chain,” he continues. “We are not just reliant on the UK. We will always work with our suppliers to ensure we get mutual benefits from improving productivity and cost effectiveness, but in the end our dedication to our customers means that we must pick the best of the global supply chains to work with.”

Making the imperative for the supply chain clear, Mughal concludes, “The UK supply chain is important to Rolls-Royce but it must keep working on its efficiency and productivity just like everyone else.”

Dr Hamid Mughal was recently nominated to feature on TM’s Top 100 list 2014.

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