Public Sector | 11 February 2016

Client: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Assignment: Horticultural Efficiency Programme

Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Horticultural Efficiency Programme

The Problem

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is an intergovernmental organisation of six independent member states whose principal function is to mark, record and maintain the graves, and places of commemoration, of Commonwealth of Nations military service members who died in the two World Wars. The Commission is also responsible for commemorating Commonwealth civilians who died as a result of enemy action during the Second World War.

The Commission, as part of its mandate, is responsible for commemorating all Commonwealth war dead individually and equally. To this effect, the war dead are commemorated by name on either a headstone, at an identified site of burial, or on a memorial. War dead are commemorated in a uniform and equal fashion, irrespective of military or civil rank, race or creed.

The Commission is currently responsible for the continued commemoration of 1.69 million deceased Commonwealth military service members in 150 countries.

Since its inception, the Commission has constructed approximately 2,500 war cemeteries and numerous memorials. The Commission is currently responsible for the care of war dead at over 23,000 separate burial sites and the maintenance of more than 200 memorials worldwide. The Commission operates through the continued financial support of the member states: United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa.

Like all Government agencies, there is pressure to do more with less and CWGC is no exception. Bourton Group was asked to help improve the efficiency of the horticultural works with in the commission but to ensure the work did not reduce the quality of the kerbside appeal of cemeteries as measured by the Horticultural Quality Assessment Standard (HQA).

The Solution

The start point for our assignment was to establish what the ‘standard work’ comprised for horticultural staff. The internal team identified not only all the core tasks but also built up an impressive database for France and Northern Europe areas that could establish how many resource hours were required to maintain and upkeep the cemeteries. The team established the value added time was 61% with 39% of non-value added time.

The project then worked on identifying and removing waste from the ‘standard work’ as well as seeking how we could minimise the non-value added time. The team then identified eleven improvement projects which were captured on a Quad of Aims, this was then used to communicate to all staff how the commission was going to reduce waste in its processes and create a ‘One Best Way’ of working across France and Northern Europe.

Building Capability

The internal team was selected and trained by us to understand the 8 wastes and The Principles of Lean. The first year was very successful and identified £1.5m of benefits; the team has now started on a second year of improvements. Work has also spread to the construction side of the commission; with work carried out to accelerate the headstone replacement programme, this has resulted in an increase from 5,000 to 25,000 headstones per year being replaced as the ageing process and climatic conditions in some cemeteries has caused deterioration.

The Benefits

At the end of the first year the organisation had achieved a range of benefits:

  • A clear understanding of the work content necessary to keep the cemeteries up to their high quality standard. Horticultural costs for replacement flowers for example generated 20% reduction in plant purchases
  • Process accountability for key measures of performance
  • Reduction in operational costs by reducing non-value adding activities and headcount reduction in France/ Belgium area by 28 staff
  • Maintained the high standards in customer satisfaction
  • Organisation wide understanding and acceptance of new processes and ways of working

We continued to work with the Commission to rollout the Efficiency Programme that began in Europe, across the rest of the commission’s activities worldwide.