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PA and the UK MOD win top prize at the 2012 MCA awards for the life-saving Panama capability

“Together we have achieved results that many thought impossible at the outset. PA helped us to execute the role with confidence, and Panama has become a source of pride within the MOD.”


Lieutenant Colonel Adrian Parker OBE, Manoeuvre Support Team, UK Miinistry of defence

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PA’s work with the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) on the Panama capability won two prizes at the 2012 Management Consultancies Association annual awards. 

The Panama project was awarded the MCA’s top ‘Platinum’ award for the best overall project for the year. The award was based on our winning submission to the ‘Innovation’ category, and recognised the ground-breaking work from both the UK MOD and PA in developing and delivering Panama within urgent timescales while saving £17M through the use of innovative procurement techniques. 

To request a copy of the award-winning Panama case study, please contact us

Initially, the MOD faced a dilemma. Complete off-the-shelf solutions existed but were unsatisfactory – they were manned, whereas unmanned systems would be safer and more effective. Customising a solution within the required timescale of under a year, however, looked impossible.

PA, a trusted advisor to the MOD, resolved the dilemma, finding a middle path between bespoke and off-the-shelf options. PA’s solution took the obsolete SN2A ‘Snatch’ Land Rover, 200 of which were awaiting disposal by the MOD, added an operationally proven IED detector system and integrated off-the-shelf remote-control and sensor subsystems. Panama keeps the crew out of harm’s way, situating them in the most protected vehicle in the UK fleet.

PA met the urgent timescales without compromising on performance, through innovation in both solution and procurement. As well as applying accelerated procurement methods from the earlier Talisman project, PA supported the MOD in taking overall responsibility for design decisions, without the usual prime contract arrangements but with close collaboration among empowered and incentivised suppliers. This meant the MOD could:

  • better align accountability and responsibility

  • evolve the specification, making trade-offs between performance, cost and time

  • retain and reallocate funds that would normally go to the contractor to cover delivery risk.

In the absence of a prime contractor, risk was borne by the MOD itself. PA helped it manage this risk through targeted technical studies, detailed programme modelling and early engagement with suppliers. To ensure progress was controlled and auditable, PA employed a formal ‘risk gate’ approach, which would not allow progress towards an investment decision until appropriate risks had been addressed.

A multidisciplinary PA team supported the MOD throughout from requirements definition to deployment in Afghanistan. Close consultation and early demonstration of prototypes enabled PA to obtain senior stakeholder buy-in to the solution and the procurement approach, both categorised by the MOD as novel and contentious.

After more than six months of active operations the ability of UK forces to find and deal with IEDs has dramatically improved. Now IEDs can be found remotely and lives have been saved by the reduced need for soldiers to investigate on foot.
There has been a ten-fold increase in the rate at which a route can be searched; this means soldiers on the ground can get things done much faster.

PA’s approach saved an estimated £9M, reducing initial procurement cost to £50M. A further £8M of savings are expected over the life of Panama, thanks to use of the existing ‘Snatch’ Land Rovers. In recognition of this work the joint team received a Chief of Defence Materiel Commendation from the head of the UK MOD’s £16Bn equipment and support organisation, for ‘the delivery of the Panama life-saving capability’.

Peter Smith, one of the judges of the awards commented: "The Innovation Award went to PA Consulting for their work with the MOD. The judging team I was part of thought it was an outstanding project in its category, but I didn’t know till the event that it was also awarded the overall top prize. Despite strong competition (and really, all 10 short listed projects I looked at were very good), it was outstanding. It relates to a project to convert obsolete military vehicles into what are effectively remote-controlled “improvised explosive device” detection units for use in Afghanistan.

"The innovation came from both the way the project (including the consulting support) was run – remarkably quickly by any measure, let alone traditional MOD, and in the technology used to achieve the aims. The overall result is that lives are being saved – while the project came in under budget as well.

At a time when consultants often get a lot of stick, as does the MOD, this was a reminder that consultants and client, working together to combine different skills and knowledge, can deliver great results – quite literally, life-saving stuff."

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