Phil Swash

Presented by Professor Frank Sanderson

Honorable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Phil Swash for the award of an Honorary Fellowship of Liverpool John Moores University.  

Phil Swash is the Vice-President (Manufacturing) and Plant Manager of the Broughton Wing Manufacturing Unit in North Wales which employs around 7000 people, the largest plant of its kind in Europe. 

This dedicated professional is clearly making a telling contribution to the UK and European aerospace industry through his dynamic leadership of an integrated business team with an annual budget of around £35 million.  

Phil was born in 1963 in Maghull where he spent his early childhood before moving in 1974 to Ormskirk.

After attending the local comprehensive, he joined Hawker Siddley Dynamics in 1980 as a craft apprentice.

At this time, he enrolled at Wigan College as a part-time student, and over the next 7 years, he completed an ONC, an HNC and an HND in Mechanical & Production Engineering. Anyone who has studied part-time whilst holding down a full-time job will know how difficult this can be.  

After completing his apprenticeship, he continued with his academic studies on a part-time basis and spent several years as a missile assembly fitter before moving into the commercial function as an Estimating Engineer. 

In 1990, Phil was seconded onto the BAe Dynamics Change Team based at Stevenage, where he led the implementation of several organisation and process changes which resulted in dramatic Time-to-Market, Quality and Cost improvements.  

Following this 2 year secondment, Phil returned to Production Project Management at Lostock and completed a part-time degree programme at Bolton College, achieving an honours degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1996. Thereafter he became a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of the Institution of Electrical Engineers. 

In 1995, Phil joined Airbus just prior to a dramatic up-turn in customer demand and has been able to play a pivotal role during a remarkable period of growth in market share, investments, new products and new technology developments. He has created a high performance culture through his leadership of a team which has transformed the machining, treatments and panel assembly processes, with over £60 million of investment. He has ensured that Lean Manufacturing processes are implemented in each stage of manufacture.   

The impact of his leadership is evident from key performance indicators: 

  • Achievement of ISO 14001 accreditation in 2004
  • Dramatic increases in product quality
  • 100 percent on-time delivery on every wing-set since 2001
  • Customer satisfaction ratings increased from 85 percent to 97 percent since 2004
  • 14 percent reduction in unit production costs in 2005 and 
  • More than 200 senior managers trained at the Airbus Lean Learning Academy since 2004  

From 1999 Phil has been Head of Manufacturing Operations for Long Range Airbus wing assembly and was part of the Airbus team responsible for the design, manufacture and delivery of the new A340-600 aircraft. 

Today Phil is a leader of the newly integrated Airbus company, which since January 2001, has been seeking ways to create a consistently high performance culture through integrating the resources and skills of a truly international company. Phil is at the heart of this cultural change project and is determined to make a sustainable difference to the business.    

In recent years, our university has played its part in the development of Airbus: about 20 Airbus engineers have studied at our School of Engineering, predominantly in the field of Manufacturing Systems Engineering.

And collaboration with Dr Michael Morgan and his team at our General Engineering Research Institute has helped Airbus resolve some complex tool design questions. 

Phil Swash has demonstrated throughout his career that he attaches high importance to learning. His years of part-time study bear witness to this, as does the long and impressive list of training courses he has attended. 

But he is also prepared to learn from his colleagues , saying that: "I can learn from anyone at any level in the organisation. I passionately believe in life-long learning and the opportunities it creates."     

But he also recognises that the opportunities that learning has created for him would not have materialised without the unwavering support of his wife Karen - who is here today with the family to share in the proud occasion. Phil Swash is very much a son of our region. 

Despite his demanding schedule, he finds to time to support Wigan Rugby League Club and his beloved Liverpool FC. He also finds time for regular mountain biking - you know you're getting older when industry bosses have recreations like mountain biking… 

Phil Swash is a high achiever who is making a real difference in the manufacturing sector. He is the first graduate in his family, and gained his qualifications the hard way through part-time study. His eagerness to learn has been evident throughout his career and will serve him well in the future. He is an excellent example to others and we are proud to honour him today.  

Thus I have pleasure in presenting Phil Swash, this distinguished son of our region, for admission to our highest honour of Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.