Month: August 2020

Collaboration is King

3Squared Collaboration

Prior to the arrival of COVID-19, UK rail passenger numbers were the highest we had ever seen, doubling over a 20-year period, and were set to continue to rise. However, once the pandemic hit and the knock on effects of social distancing and remote working reared its head, the rail industry, as with many others, was completely turned on its head requiring levels of flexibility not previously experienced.

Despite record investment as part of the UK government’s “Build, build, build” strategy, the industry still faces immediate challenges of limited resources and an increased pressure to deliver. The industry is suffering from the impacts of historic infrastructure, a business environment which is unable to keep up with rising passenger numbers, evolving demands for ecological solutions and ever developing technological advancements.

In such a complex industry how do you keep up and enable development and reinvention to take place?

The answer is collaboration.

Comprised of business-to-business and public facing companies of all sizes and a vast array of expertise, rail is an industry where each organisation has a role to play. In February, RSSB CEO Mark Phillips talked to Rail Business Daily about the need for collaboration to make advancements on the railway and how RSSB were involved with the introduction of funding competitions to find shared rail solutions.

Collaboration is not a new concept to the rail industry. It is something that has been championed as a way of finding, instigating and successfully implementing change for a number of years. In this way, it is an industry that connects people in more ways than one. While part of the industry focuses on the here and now, another section is focused on developing the next piece of technology that will transform the industry.

The industry shares a unified mission of making the railway as safe as it can be, to allow more passengers and freight to travel more efficiently. It may not be written gospel but you will soon discover that all organisations involved are focused on solving one or more of those challenges in some way.

Alliances enable new innovations to develop and allow complex projects to take place. Networks nurture an environment where the most promising minds can collaborate to discuss and make plans for the future, linking people together under one single banner.

Shared safety rules are applied by all, with mutual respect, and success is championed. Membership bodies develop skills, and initiatives and focus groups further equality, diversity and encourage new skills and young talent.

How are 3Squared involved?

The common thread running throughout all of the above is collaboration. Since their inception, 3Squared have championed collaboration across the industry to drive innovation and new ways of working. From their longstanding partnership with Sheffield Hallam University, introducing new interns to the industry year after year, to new alliances that help secure competition funding for innovations and advancements in technology, collaboration has been intrinsic to 3Squared’s growth and success over the years.

The 3Squared team are encouraged to take part in sector specific and wider collaborative opportunities. On a regional level they are an integral part of the Sheffield digital and business communities; in rail, they have members on the board of the Northern Leaders in Rail, are actively involved in trade associations like RSSB, RIA and RFG and regularly take part in industry wide panels and discussions.

New funding and renewed focus

Now, as we begin to see the momentum improvement initiatives build and an increasing focus at a supply chain level, collaboration will begin to play an ever more important role. Changes in the industry due to COVID-19 will place an increased focus on technology, therefore removing the need for hand-to-hand contact and increasing the opportunities for remote monitoring. Innovative solutions to distancing and measuring facilities to keep the workforce safe will transform the way work is carried out.

Building resilience for the future and enabling opportunities for change will propel the industry into the “new normal” that will dominate the rail industry going forward, as the country slowly comes back to life. As we have seen throughout history, the rail industry is safety focused and is actively seeking to improve best practice. When you pair this with collaboration, the future begins to look more promising, presenting a wealth of new opportunities to capitalise on.

Lucy Prior, Business Engagement Director commented:

“The way in which the railway community has come together as a whole in response to COVID-19 has been staggering. This has all been enabled, I would argue, through a willingness to collaborate and use digital technologies to tackle and solve the challenges that necessary safe working guidelines have created.

“All manner of companies have had to ensure that they maintain productivity while coping with a reduced workforce. This has essentially enabled rail to field-test a whole plethora of new products and services, which will hopefully support the adoption of further technologies. In the case of our own products, our mission of supporting a safer, greener and more efficient railway has been very much proven during lockdown.

“As the government firms up its plans for the Infrastructure Investment package, and commits to building back “greener” I hope that the collaborative environment that has emerged over the past few months continues to flourish.”

An insight into BulkSmart, our innovative new platform designed to accelerate the digital railway

BULKSMART software on screen with developer

Here at 3Squared, we have been working hard behind the scenes to develop new technologies and processes that will help the rail industry to make the concept of the digital railway a reality. As we head into the latter part of the year, we have taken the time to pause, reflect and provide you with an insight into the innovations and tools that are helping us to support the wider industry to accelerate the railway of the future, into the present.

In this piece, we will explore the new modules that are set to become part of the RailSmart platform. Our flagship product RailSmart is a driver for operational efficiency and simplifying information management. It provides the UK rail industry with a suite of software applications to help improve operational efficiency, reduce incidents, mitigate business risk and overcome complex rail challenges.

A key focus for us this year has been to develop a series of new modules to enhance our RailSmart product even further. These modules have been created with HS2 in mind; a milestone project that we are excited to be part of which you can read more about here. For that project, we will be working closely with one of HS2’s direct contractors, Skanska Costain STRABAG JV (SCS JV), who are delivering the tunneling programme for the route between London Euston up to the M25.

With HS2 in mind, we are pleased to announce that we are set to introduce BulkSmart, a brand new client and customer facing platform that uses our RailSmart system to seamlessly integrate into the operational railway.

BulkSmart will enable our clients to fully manage their supply chains, including freight operators. Combining the existing RailSmart software modules with the new BulkSmart module, we have created a client facing order to cash system for the client side, that now gives full visibility of the complex freight supply chain. In addition to this, it provides live performance, cost management information and operational control data in real-time, enabling our clients to manage their operations across the UK.

Collaboration is key here at 3Squared and it will always play a vital role in the development of these new and improved features, which were specified and designed in partnership with Legge Infrastructure Services, a construction and transportation strategic consultancy and the appointed rail freight logistics lead sub-contractors working on behalf of SCSJV.

We are very excited to launch these new features and modules and to celebrate, we are pleased to give you an insight into each of the modules which you can read more information about below:

Ordering Module

The ordering module will allow SCS to place orders with its supply chain and contains all the key workflows that will guide all orders through from initial input on the system, right the way through to being accepted by the freight companies, fully resourced and fulfilled.

The ordering module will support SCS to work closely with its own supply chain, in turn providing forward visibility of demand, equipping freight operating companies with the ability to plan their resource requirements more effectively and efficiently.

Yard Manager

The new yard manager module aims to provide complete visibility of the yard for the first time ever, creating a map of the yard, planned departures, live performance reports for inbound trains and stockpile information, collated together in one clean, crisp single tactical view:

Not only does the yard manager provide new insights into yards, it will also enable users to control to move and manage rakes within the yard. The module will also make it  possible to move, split, join, reverse and perform many more actions on the rakes.

Above and beyond this, the yard management solution integrates seamlessly with the RailSmart mobile consisting application (MCA), which has a direct integration with TOPS. This aims to provide one seamless digital workflow from yard management, train preparation right through to train departures:

Yard Mobile

Aiming to positively support ground staff, the yard mobile application will provide real-time visibility of the yard, incoming trains and planned departures. The solution also provides ground staff with a list of tasks that have been generated by the yard manager mobile application:

The yard manager and yard mobile modules will seamlessly combine to provide a fully comprehensive, integrated platform for the efficient running of yards; in turn mitigating risk and improving overall efficiencies.

Load Tracking

This simple, cost effective app aims to track the progress of wagon loading providing yard managers with real-time visibility into the loading process, loading performance and any subsequent impacts on timely departures. We view the loading application as the first step towards a fully automated, digital wagon load detection solution:

Sensors and IoT (Internet of Things) platform

In an industry-first, through the use of sensors and equipment connected via the internet or other means of communication, we have developed IoT and RCM solutions that will enable digitally connected weight bridges, conveyors and shovels to show in real-time the weights for inbound and outbound empties and loaded wagons, giving the data to show the laden tare of the wagons.

Departure Board

This is in essence a more client specific version of our RailSmart departure board, which provides the client with an easily visible performance summary for all train departures. The Bulksmart Departure Board is designed in a way that summarises the train plan, enhancing the visual output with effective colour coding, and provides management information reports that can be tailored by the client.

Rail Maps

The Rail Maps module will equip clients with the capability to seamlessly track their consignment, utilising the information contained in the Departure Board module. In addition to this, all train movements with their performance status will be fully visible on an interactive map of the UK. From here, the client can access train running data, train consist information, and any other information that is available during times of disruption.

We hope you have enjoyed this insight into the new developments happening across 3Sqaured and are as excited as we are to implement them across the rail network. Watch this space for further updates and insights on the projects and technologies we are developing and should you wish to find out more information about our work in action, please get in touch with a member of our team today.