When FM risk became real at BAE systems

BIFM members in 'Hangar 302', where the Eurofighter Typhoon jet is assembled
BIFM members in ‘Hangar 302’, where the Eurofighter Typhoon jet is assembled

By Jackie Bennett Shaw

We were asked to leave our mobile devices, removing all contact with the outside world; held in reception until all security checks had taken place; and then escorted by bus, under secure escort, to our destination. This wasn’t your average BIFM North Key Learning Event. It felt like I was part of a spy movie but I was actually attending the group’s recent event on risk management with around 50 facilities professionals.

Global defence, aerospace and security company BAE Systems provided the perfect venue for this event: from the carefully executed security clearance processes to the plethora of health and safety advisory notices across the 700 acre Warton site, there was strong advocacy for a responsible and safe business.

BAE Systems, which provides defence information, safety critical IT systems, and civil and military aircraft has, in recent years, entered the cyber intelligence arena. It has an elaborate range of technical facilities which, due to their uniqueness, are potential single points of failure.

We had the amazing opportunity to take a tour of the hangar where the Typhoon jet fighter, the most technologically advanced fighter jet on the planet, is made and learned some fascinating facts:

  • it needs just 700 metres to take-off or land (the 747 you go on holiday in requires over 3,000 metres)
  • the wingspan is 10.95 metres (less than that of a WWII Spitfire) and the length is 15.96 metres. This helps the aircraft to be incredibly agile, allowing it to change direction fast, as well as accelerate at an astonishing rate
  • a low frontal cross-section and the use of carbon fibre (70 per cent) and glass reinforced plastics (12 per cent) help ensure the Eurofighter can avoid detection by enemy radar. Metals, mostly aluminium and titanium, make up just 15 per cent of the body
  • the high-tech cockpit is designed to make life easy for the pilot. Many functions are controlled by voice, while a heads-up display puts essential data right in front of the pilot
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Mark Tooth, BAE Systems Governance, Engineering and Sustainability Manager

Mark Tooth, BAE Systems Governance, Engineering and Sustainability Manager, highlighted that risk management and business continuity are embedded throughout the company and its products, and that safety is right at the top of the agenda. “Each site has its own designated emergency planning centre. We have several high risk zones which house highly advanced, and valuable, equipment and products. We work closely with our insurers, regularly undertaking risk surveys to increase business resilience.”

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Mike Gillespie, Founder and MD of Avent IM

As well as seeing how FM works in a real high risk site as BAE Systems, we got to hear about cyber crime and its impact on FM from Mike Gillespie, Founder and MD of Avent IM. He explained that 92 per cent of our data breaches come from malicious internal activity but that cyber crime is “normally relegated to the IT department to fix it”. Gillespie highlighted that “many cyber attacks are only made possible by physical vulnerability and that may physical attacks are only made possible by cyber vulnerability”. Everything is attached to the “world of cyber” from fridges to the air conditioning, BMS, security systems and fire alarm systems. Facilities Managers must be aware that everyone and everything is a potential threat through which an attack can occur. He stressed to have a thorough knowledge of the supply chain and to bring the security disciplines together in a robust plan, “Don’t let FM provide the weak underbelly,” he warned.

The message, from the event, was loud and clear that risk management is becoming increasingly important in the strategic goals of an organisation; that the time for box-ticking is over; and that managing the complex risk landscape has never been more crucial.

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