Page 1: Introduction
RWE npower is a leading energy company in the UK. It is part of the German-owned RWE, one of Europe's leading utilities. Part of RWE's strategy is to deliver cleaner, affordable, secure energy supplies for the UK while improving profitability.
RWE npower has over 11,000 employees across 60 sites in the UK. It provides more than 10% of all electricity in England and Wales. In the UK, RWE npower provides electricity and gas services to both B2C (business-to-consumer) and B2B (business-to-business) markets through its retail brand, npower. In 2007, npower supplied over six million residential consumers and 400,000 business customers. Business customers included large corporations such as BT, Ford and Wembley Stadium. Service organisations, such as schools and hospitals, also rely on npower.
The UK energy market is highly competitive. Both private and business customers can choose from several suppliers to get the best service and price.
RWE npower relies on its engineers taking appropriate and timely decisions at all levels. The company encourages all employees to become involved in decision-making. An example of this is the 'Strategic Spare Parts Project'. The project was initially set up by RWE npower's parent company RWE, as a strategy to minimise the risk of supply failure. npower Cogen, one part of RWE npower's business, is responsible for implementing this strategy in the UK. npower Cogen generates combined heat and power for large organisations like oil refineries and chemical plants. The project aims to improve availability of vital spare parts for equipment to reduce plant availability costs. This project illustrates the concept of lean production, which uses resources more efficiently to lower costs and improve service.
This case study explores the way in which RWE npower delegates responsibility to extend the capabilities of its employees. Jay, a young graduate engineer, has been at RWE npower a relatively short time. He is responsible for the decisions that will achieve the required Strategic Spare Parts Project targets. As a mechanical engineering graduate, he has been involved in many different areas of work, ranging from preparing tenders and contract management to hands-on work activities that include routine maintenance, plant inspections, overhauls and improvements. In his words, 'Working at RWE npower as an engineer is very different to the usual view of workmen in overalls. Engineers at RWE npower can be involved in anything from new build projects or existing plant site activities to office based work and/or projects.'