DSG DONNINGTON – A TRUE CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE
By Julian Nettlefold
BATTLESPACE Editor Julian Nettlefold visits DSG Donnington as part of a series of visits.
DSG was launched on April 1st 2008 and brought together the ABRO and DARA businesses into a single new defence Trading Fund. DSG’s primary focus is in providing expert in-house maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade services for the through life support of the key land and air based platforms and equipment for the UK Armed Forces. By joining forces DSG provides a flexible, responsive, operationally excellent organisation that delivers cost competitive in-house maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade capability to support the air and land systems of the UK Armed Forces.
One of the first jobs for DSG CE Archie Hughes was to meld a mishmash of disparate sites into centres of excellence in the Land & Air arenas. The huge St Athan site of some 100 acres is the main Air Systems capability site for VC10 aircraft whilst the Land Systems capability is spread over a number of sites
DSG’s Head Office is located in Andover and provides strategic direction to the main sites in Bovington – tracked vehicles, Challenger 2, Bulldog and FV432; Catterick – DROPS; Colchester – embedded in garrison for general repairs and overhaul; Donnington – Warrior, CVR(T), SA80 overhaul and repair, electronics; Sealand – avionics; St Athan – VC10; Stafford – general support; Stirling – Land Rovers; Telford – procurement and provisioning for Land equipment and Warminster – wheeled tanker and spares.
Smaller support sites located in Aldershot, Bicester, Edinburgh, Kinnegar, Sennybridge and York further enhances DSG’s geographic coverage. Small support teams are also permanently embedded in other UK military sites.
DSG, as a Government Trading Fund reports to the MOD and has to make a reasonable return on investment. It has an annual turnover in excess of £200 million, employs 3800 people and is run by a Board of Directors headed by Archie Hughes, much under the lines of the old established family engineering companies such as GKN prior to its listing. DSG concentrates on engineering excellence and keeps all its capabilities in-house in contrast to the current practices of such listed Companies as BAE Systems which chooses to operate a different model of outsourcing the bulk of its engineering capabilities, preferring to concentrate on the model of keeping a strong share price and being a Prime Contractor for new projects, shunning the upgrade work being carried out at plants such as Donnington. It was ironic that the very week we visited Donnington, BAE Systems closed three plants, including the ex-GKN Defence site at Telford and laid off 500 workers.
The Donnington site, established in 1938 as an MoD storage facility, reputedly situated on windy moor to stop its presence being identified by the Luftwaffe, sits in 51 acres in a total of over 315 acres and includes not only DSG’s workshops but also the main DSDA warehouses. BATTLESPACE was shown round by Phil Leech, Senior Production Manager, a veteran of 37 years at the site.
“How have you fared in the current economic climate?” The Editor asked
“We turnover in excess of £60m and employ a total of 971 people at this site, 825 industrial and 146 non-industrial. Given the current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan we have not been affected by the downturn and actually took on ten extra workers last month to meet a surge of orders for Warrior in particular. We pride ourselves in maintaining one of the best Apprentice Schemes in the country with many local businesses trying to lure our Apprentices from Donnington. We also have an exceptional retention of staff and loyalty, I have worked here for 37 years since starting out as a Donnington apprentice At the heart of DSG are our people, they are pivotal to our reputation and success. Their skill and expertise make DSG a lean and forward thinking business with an impressive pedig