Logistical Challenge of the Year at ICEAWARDS18

Case Studies
14.08.2018 13:50

One day in April 2017, the CEO of AWE announced "We're having a Family Open Day...this year!"

Open the gates to 5000 members of the public, on a heavily regulated, nuclear licensed site: home to warheads for the UK’s nuclear deterrent, and radioactive materials; all in three months?  Now that’s a logistical challenge! 

best logistical challenge of the year 


Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE plc)


Objective What AWE does is truly extraordinary. Keeping our world safe and secure; deterring nuclear threat.  The people are remarkable and they wanted to show some of what makes them inordinately proud of what they do, and also say “thank you” to their families.

AWE’s work has always been shrouded in secrecy and mystique and is absolutely carried out to the most stringent safety and regulatory standards, and within a robust security regime.

Never been done before, the objective was to deliver a first class, on-site event, showcasing as much of what they do – and why they do it – in a safe and secure way.  All within a budget of half that was quoted!

AWE operate 24/7/365. It was essential that work was not compromised, and that ongoing commitments were uninterrupted.  Normal visitor access arrangements are geared for around 100 visitors per day.  They had to work out how to handle up to 5000 visitors, register them as a guest and protect their data.

The scale of the event, and recognising safety and security, meant they had to identify a suitable on-site location where they could accommodate 5000 people, at the same time complying with all the H&S and construction regulations.

As a Nuclear Licensed site AWE works within strict safety parameters: they had to demonstrate to ONR (the Nuclear Regulator) and the MOD that if an “incident” occurred they could get everyone on site under safety cover within an acceptable timescale.

Challenges A top priority was to make logistical, safety and security challenges as unobtrusive as possible.  They quickly established a project team which most of whom had never worked on such an event, developed an agile project plan, and initiated internal communications and stakeholder engagement campaigns.

AWE had to engage – and get buy-in – from critical stakeholders: ONR; MOD and MOD Police; emergency response services; Mitie – who provide access control and search services. They had to resolve issues of opening up site on a weekend – when they normally operate at reduced working levels – with commercial and contractual cover.

They had to think differently about visitor registration. Working with a supplier, they created a bespoke event website and registration process. Conscious of the collection and processing of personal data, this was developed to comply with regulations and also to meet their security requirements.

A major challenge was in working through a formalised risk assessment process, critical in getting regulatory approval.  This was accelerated to offset a traditional (lengthy!) procedure.

The Team The internal team at AWE were described as truly awesome.  This had never been done before and everyone stood up to the challenge to deliver this event in just 3 months.

Once the core project team was set up and they got their heads around the sheer scope of the logistical challenge, it very quickly became clear that they needed other key specialists to join the team:  So, in addition to the security, health and safety and event production specialists, they also needed construction, procurement, finance, emergency services, catering, and risk assessment specialists; not to mention external event suppliers – for the pavilions, generators, water supplies, portable loos etc. – as well as their internal exhibitors, facility managers and guest hosts. All in all, the team grew to around 400 people!

Overcoming Challenges So, where could they go and what could they see?  AWE needed to ensure that secure areas were protected to satisfy safety and security regulations, as well as the MOD.  An inner security zone was established so that visitor access was restricted to specified buildings and discrete areas only.  A security management plan was written, tested and approved.

FD17 wasn’t the only activity taking place that day on site! AWE operates 24/7, and a number of the buildings, all highly classified, had to remain fully operational.  The site access arrangements and security plan successfully ensured that that work was not compromised.

They also developed contingency plans – and tested them where practicable – to demonstrate that they could respond to any unexpected event, before or during the big day.

However, not everything does go to plan.  Clearly excited by the prospect of getting a first look at what AWE does, visitors were queuing well before the opening time which meant some delays in the morning.  The team quickly adapted the entry procedures and brought the 40 minute entrance time in the first hour down to a stunning 7 minutes!  They also finessed the art of prising unauthorised mobile phones from reluctant teenagers.

Results The challenge of delivering this event was not really understood at the outset by all stakeholders.  But not to be deterred, the project team rose to the extraordinary challenge and were committed to delivering a first-class event. They delivered against all the targets, aspirations, and their Executive’s wish list – they set out and then achieved measurable success criteria.

This is seen as a strategic achievement, delivering to key engagement goals.  They created greater visibility and understanding from those who matter most – staff families.  They maintained their brand, reputation and the confidence of the MOD customer, the Regulator, and their commercial shareholders - and showed an ability to pull off a spectacular event.

For the individuals involved, they have been challenged, tested and found successful in thinking and delivering outside their comfort boxes.There were no reported security breaches of safety infringements, and their Nuclear Licence conditions were all maintained.

Not only did AWE achieve an overall 98% positive score on visitor feedback, the event made a difference for the team and their families. Through feedback, employee engagement surveys, leadership satisfaction measurement they have seen how this event has improved staff morale and working culture.  They have also seen measured improvements in management/staff relationships and interactions.

This was a first event in its kind. AWE had never contemplated opening the gates before to uncleared visitors, showing enough to give a realistic idea of the scale, depth and breadth of what makes them AWEsome.

FD17 was hailed a huge success and the CEO said: “The team delivered a high quality product that far exceeded all reasonable expectations.”

AWE explained they are probably proudest that they dared to do it, and that it worked, and met all the success criteria that they had set.  And that their visitors - their wider "family" - went home amazed, and wanting more.

Judges’ Comments The submission was a great example of a team coming together to effectively manage a massive logistical challenge at the most guarded and protected nuclear site in the UK.

The undertaking of a project of this nature in itself presents multiple logistical challenges from health & safety, access/registration for 5000 guests, security, contractors as well as keeping the site protected and working at all times.  

The team produced an entry that was perfectly presented and engaged the judges by telling the story of how the logistical challenge was managed and the process of how each challenge was overcome.  

The aim of the event was to enable 5,000 family members and friends of the employees to see what their work involves on a day to day basis and based upon the feedback presented, the event ran seamlessly.

The judges scored this entry highly based upon the fact that they not only overcame significant logistical challenges, but that the event itself also provided some reward for its delegates.   

The event offered an element of CSR as an outcome, providing a family friendly experiential experience and giving something back to the wider company community, resulting in employees feeling proud to work for an organisation that takes time to invest in its employees.

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