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Operations management

British Airways London Eye (‘LE /The Millennium Wheel’) is a remarkable piece of engineering in the heart of London offering visitors, a unique opportunity for a panoramic view of London. The concept of the wheel was an ideal symbol for London in the Millennium – representing the turning of the century. The wheel was an outcome of the united efforts of the project team comprising of Mace Ltd, Tussauds Group, Marks Barfield (the original conceiver of LE) and other specialists from different European nations making this masterpiece truly European.

Though the project was agreed to be sponsored by British Airways (‘BA’) back in 1996, LE was faced with contractual and technical challenges that delayed the project till February 2000. But the wait was worth the discrete experience of the memorable and ecstatic ride at LE. Project environment comprises of all the factors which may affect the project before, during & after completion. It determines the setting and circumstances in which the project is executed.

A feasibility study of the project environment is conducted prior to project initiation since the environment influences the way project is carried out and is also the main determinant of uncertainty surrounding it. Project LE was conceptualized, structured

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and erected bearing in mind its environmental factors that influenced the planning and design of the wheel. Following variables comprised the environment of project LE during its operations (figure 2).

The geographical location of LE was attractive and appropriate for shipment of wheel parts using water transport. However, LE was faced with severe construction restrictions owing to limitation in space for storage of parts or lay-down areas. The tidal changes of River Thames and threat of interference from commercial shipping were come of the geographical factors affecting LE’s operations. Economic environment The economy was stable with inflation rate of 1. 1% in 1999 [Allis, A.

, (2003), Lecture notes] during LE’s operations. The trade relationships with European nations were steady (contractors from all parts of Europe as LE’s team). Legal and Ecological environment: Building restriction on foundation size of LE was imposed under the prevailing land rights law. Also, Environment Agency imposed restrictions on river-bed activity due to ecological reasons. European specialists were contracted for the project design and technical support of LE. (Example: bearings from Germany, cables from Italy)

Social environment There was high involvement and support of media and mass spectators (local and international) to LE’s site making it a highly visible project. Customers This project was innovative and technically complex creating anxiety among potential customers who were reasonably supportive during its operations. National Culture LE’s operations involved different contractors speaking different languages from different parts of Europe creating language barrier during operations. According to Slack, N.

et al (2001), a project is a set of activities with a defined start point and a defined end state, which pursues a defined goal and uses a defined set of resources. LE was a well defined project with a definite output of creating a technically innovative wheel of premium quality and high safety within defined time period of 16 months. Defining the project helps understand its objectives, scope and strategy. Definition of Millennium wheel contains the following three elements. Objectives are the end points towards which all activities are directed.

LE had clear and measurable objectives with a definite mission statement of creating a unique engineering masterpiece with a perception of high customer utilisation to enable an early break even to the project. The entire project’s objectives were well connected with the objectives of the individual tasks within the project. LE’s objectives and its significance can be illustrated in the form of Polar Model (figure 3) where each of the project objectives is rated on a scale of five.

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