Management scientists and engineers at the University have joined forces with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) to reduce the operational costs of its fleet. The RNLI currently supports more than 300 lifeboats based at over 230 lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland.
A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) was signed by the two organisations in 2010, after which two of our talented graduates from the fields of management science and engineering were recruited to work at RNLI’s Poole headquarters. Their aim was to develop computer models to capture the commercial and logistical issues relating to the costs of building and maintaining the lifeboat fleet.
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 25 years. The RNLI is entirely dependent on charitable giving, so any reduction in running costs enables it to spend funds more effectively on its lifesaving work.
The project looks at the technical design issues involved in deciding how frequently the boats and their equipment needs to be maintained in order to manage maintenance costs. The partnership is an opportunity for the University to test its research in cost modelling and cost benefit calculations in a unique business environment.
The KTP agreement is built on a longstanding relationship between the University and the RNLI, as maritime expert Professor Ajit Shenoi explains: “Our engineers have worked alongside the RNLI for over 20 years, with the last ten in a formal Advanced Technology Partnership, largely examining safety issues. Many of our students have undertaken placements and internships with the RNLI. This KTP enabled us to combine our skills to good effect.”