Dr Ian Riggs, Executive VP of Quality, Rolls-Royce Aerospace

I have many fond memories of time at The University of South Wales. I can still remember the first time someone showed me the ‘internet’ at the University Library around 1993

Dr_Ian_Riggs_400x400.jpg What did you study, and what year did you graduate?

I studied for two postgraduate qualifications at the University of South Wales in Treforest. The first was a Postgraduate Diploma in Manufacturing Systems Engineering, graduating in 1993, and the second was a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) graduating in 1999. The Master of Philosophy Research degree was perfect for me as it combined solving a practical work based problem with the academic rigour required, leading to a successful outcome for both my company and my personal development.

What is your favourite memory of the University?

I have many fond memories of time at The University of South Wales. I can still remember the first time someone showed me the ‘internet’ at the University Library around 1993. I loved the environment at the University, the lecturers were always encouraging and had such a great network across South Wales. They always went the extra mile and made it a really enjoyable experience.

How do you think your qualification has helped you? 

The qualifications gave me confidence in my own ability but also because they were linked to solving practical problems gave me excellent experience to share with current and future employers.  Studying at the University of South Wales also helped me to grow a great network of contacts that I am still in touch with today. Following on from my time at Treforest I have since also gained an Engineering Doctorate from Warwick that built on the research from my degree.

Describe a typical day in your current role?

I am Executive Vice President of Quality at Rolls-Royce Aerospace in Derby. Every day is different. In my role as head of the quality function I spend a lot of time listening to customers and ensuring our improvement strategies are aligned to their needs. I spend time around our facilities talking to the teams and coaching them on improvement tools and also providing a ‘voice of the customer’ to them. It is always important to show how the work that they do contributes to the customer’s needs. We are a global company so travel is a key part of my week. Whether it is to a customer, a supplier or a Rolls-Royce facility.  

What have been the key achievements during your career? 

In my Quality roles I have been lucky to have led organisations to be certified to a range of industry and customer certifications. While at Trico we were one of the first automotive companies in Europe to gain the automotive standard QS-9000 and the Environmental accreditation EMAS. While at Cosworth I led the project to build a new factory making cylinder heads, blocks and bedplates for JCB engines in Wellingborough. The project was delivered on time, on quality and under budget. At Rolls-Royce I have led the creation of an Aero Engine Quality Standards group in association with Rolls-Royce’s competitors to set a new standard for Quality in our industry.

What would be your advice to someone wishing to follow your career path? 

Don’t be afraid to take opportunities that take you outside of your comfort zone. Some of the best leaders I have worked for have had a number of positions in various functions and geographies. Remember that learning is lifelong, always stay curious, and don’t forget to share what you’ve learnt with others.

In the Quality and HS&E field it is always vital to create a strong, independent voice that can challenge and support the business. Often you have to say or do things that are not easily accepted by management. Having the confidence to do this successfully and positively relies on a knowledge of your subject and experience.