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The University of Southampton
Southampton Business School

RNLI Knowledge Transfer Partnership

University of Southampton expertise in management and engineering sciences is supporting the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), enabling them to save more lives at sea.

Management scientists and engineers at the University of Southampton joined forces with the RNLI to reduce the operational costs of its fleet. The RNLI is wholly dependent on charitable giving; saving money on operational working means the donations can be used more effectively to save more lives.

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) was signed between the two organisations. Two talented graduates were appointed to work as associates at RNLI headquarters in Poole for two years, supervised by Professor Douglas Macbeth of Southampton Business School and Professor Ajit Shenoi of Engineering. Dr Tri-dung Nguyen from the Business School and Dr James Blake from the Engineering were also involved in the initiative.

The RNLI currently supports 300 lifeboats based at 235 lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland. The sophisticated vessels are engineered to high standards so the volunteer crews can carry out rescue operations in the worst sea conditions. Equipping and maintaining the fleet can be expensive. A Tamar class lifeboat costs £2.7m to buy and equip, but has a working life of around 50 years.

The Management Associate developed computer models to capture the commercial and logistics issues around the costs of building and maintaining the lifeboat fleet. The Engineering Associate looked at the technical design issues involved in deciding how frequently the boats and their equipment need maintenance, to manage these costs. The two associates worked closely together on these interdependent projects.

Douglas Macbeth says: "Modern analytical techniques can help organisations examine their business models in detail. The RNLI wants to develop a best practice model of maintenance and repair and the KTP was very successful in helping them increase efficiency and save operating costs."

Professor Ajit Shenoi, an expert in ship and boat design, production and operation, says: "University of Southampton engineers have worked alongside the RNLI for over 20 years, with the last 10 in a formal Advanced Technology Partnership, largely examining safety issues. Many of our students have undertaken placements and internships."

The Management Associate was offered and accepted a substantive post at RNLI and continues to act as an interface with the University.

Related Staff Member

Saving lives at sea costs us £270,000 a day. We would like to develop ways of delivering the same quality of service at reduced costs.

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