Author: Marie Hanby

2022: A Reflection

3Squared A Reflection on 2022

As we near the end of 2022, it is time for us to take stock and reflect on the year’s experiences, our achievements, the lessons we have learned and plan for what is to come in 2023.

There is no denying that this year has certainly been action-packed, with several key achievements made across our organisation. First and foremost, a recent milestone we are proud to have achieved is our recognition as winners of the First of a Kind (FOAK) competition, organised by the Department for Transport and Innovate UK.

This recognition will enable us to further develop our PathPlanner tool to improve freight operations and unlock network capacity across the UK rail network. To be recognised in such a prestigious competition is a real milestone for 3Squared and something we are extremely proud of.

Following on from the above, a key focus for us next year will be the further development of our PathPlanner tool, led by Jason Durk, Principal Consultant.

PathPlanner is an innovative software solution designed to help freight operators run additional trains. It does this by utilising over 7 years’ worth of historical train records to help planners quickly identify available paths, which can be bid to Network Rail through the Very Short-Term Planning (VSTP) process – therefore allowing them to take advantage of much needed spare, and potentially wasted, capacity.

You can read more about PathPlanner and its intended roll out over on Jason’s ‘Meet the team’ here and an interview Martin Gleadow, Head of Customer Success, had with RSSB on their podcast at the start of the year, here.

Back in April, we were also selected for the Department for Transport’s ‘Transport Research Innovation Grants Programme’ (TRIG). These grants are designed to support feasibility and proof of concept projects, that will foster innovation within the UK transport sector, generate growth and cultivate links between the policy teams in the Department for Transport and innovators across the UK. Read more on the project and what it means for our industry, here.

It has been positive to see the continued uptake and usage of our products across the UK rail sector, including RailSmart and EDS. We started the year with a rebrand of the RailSmart product suite, to streamline the brand aesthetic and enable us to keep up to date with the rail industry’s evolving demands for seamless, efficient and easy to use tools and technologies.

This year also marked a return to a ‘new normal’ as we emerged from the pandemic into the world of hybrid working. It has been great to interact with colleagues in our Sheffield HQ, yet also retain our work-life balance through providing staff with the opportunity to work remotely. It is safe to say that this model of working is going well, and we look forward to continuing with it next year.

After two years of remote events, it was also enjoyable to get back to the world of face-to-face events this year. From Rail Live, to RIA and RFG hosted events and much more, to get out and about to events across the UK has been fantastic, as Graham Cooper, our Head of Product & Marketing, addressed in a blog earlier this year.

We are also proud to not only have retained staff this year but grow the team. We have made a number of key hires this year, from Martine Dodwell-Bennett joining the team as Divisional Director, to the expansion of our marketing team in the form of Graham Cooper as Head of Product & Marketing, Ross Bray as our Technical Services Director and Marie Hanby as Marketing Manager. Bringing in knowledge and expertise from other sectors continues to be a strength for 3Squared, and we are excited to grow the team further in 2023.

Finally, we would like to take the time to thank every single employee, client, partner, and peer that we have either met or continued to engage with, this year. Without your continuous support, we would not be the organisation that we are proud to be today, with an open, innovative, and enthusiastic culture at our core. We wish you all a fantastic festive break and look forward to seeing what 2023 has in store.

If you would like to hear more from the 3Squared team on how they can help make change work in your business in the year ahead, get in touch today.

3Squared ‘Meet the Team’ – Izzy Mallon, Technical Product Owner

Izzy Mallon, Technical Product Owner

In the latest instalment of our ‘Meet the team’ feature, we spoke with Izzy Mallon, Technical Product Owner, on what drew her to the world of rail, the opportunities for problem solving that her role presents and the key advice she would give to women looking to forge a career in technology, and more:

Hi Izzy, can you give us an insight into your main roles and responsibilities at 3Squared?

At 3Squared, I am a Technical Product Owner, where I help develop 3Squared products. This involves working with both the software development and service design team to design new solutions and scope out new requirements. My role also includes programming; this could be anything from fixing a small grammar bug to implementing new features within applications.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

There is a lot of opportunity for problem solving. I love the creativity and teamwork required to tackle a complex problem and create a solution that meets user needs and is really simple to use.

I also enjoy being able to develop new skills. The tech industry is constantly evolving, so there are always exciting new challenges to take on, with new learning opportunities.

What do you enjoy about the culture at 3Squared?

I started at 3Squared straight from university and found that everybody was friendly and supportive in helping me to learn. I was able to share any problems I was having during project work, and I was taught new skills to figure out how to solve them. I love the culture here, as there are plenty of social events where you can get to know your colleagues.

What does your day-to-day look like?

Every morning begins with a stand up, but otherwise, my day-to-day work varies throughout the week. Some of my days will be filled with different programming tasks, fixing bugs, or implementing change requests. On other days I will be investing time into new work that will be coming into my project, which can range from estimation sessions, sprint planning and refinement sessions, to much more.

What excites you about the world of rail technology?

How the work that we do makes people’s jobs easier. Harnessing data can give insights into how the rail industry can improve and make railways safer and greener. It is exciting to be working on projects where you know that you are making a practical difference to people’s lives.

What advice would you give to women looking to forge a career in tech?

As someone who only started programming after university, going into a tech career was all new to me. The jargon used was a whole different world, and it was easy to feel like it wasn’t for me, but I found that through persevering it became exciting to see the impact the power of technology can have in solving complex problems and making them simple. I think it is best to just get stuck in!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Once you are a few weeks or months in, it can be easy to forget what you didn’t know at the beginning, so other people probably want to ask the question as well. Also, don’t be intimidated by people who have been in tech for a long time, as being able to bring other skills and different ways of thinking can be really valuable.

Thanks for sharing your interesting insights, Izzy. If you would be interested in learning more about how you could join the 3Squared team, visit our careers page here or get in touch via [email protected]

3Squared Appoints Martine Dodwell-Bennett in Role of Divisional Director

Martine Dodwell-Bennett, Divisional Director

Rail software and solutions specialist 3Squared are pleased to announce the appointment of Martine Dodwell-Bennett in the role of Divisional Director.

Martine brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise from across the technology space to 3Squared. Martine’s role will be to enhance current processes and enable the business to make change happen and drive innovation across the rail industry.

Prior to joining 3Squared, Martine was Senior Business Consultant at AXA UK, Director of Sales Channel Operations at Lutron Electronics and Sales and Marketing Director at Steljes Ltd.

Passionate about understanding the customer journey, throughout her career Martine has provided a wealth of business propositions, underpinned with operational excellence and support, and has built rewarding team environments, across UK SMEs, newly listed companies, and global world leaders.

In the role of Divisional Director, Martine will be focused on taking the time to listen to the organisation’s customers and build the business’ proposition to address their emerging needs. Martine will also be developing the team at 3Squared, engaging with new talent, and nurturing existing talent within the business.

Martine commented on her appointment: “I am excited to learn more about the challenges within the rail sector and how we can help those working within the industry to achieve their goals and make a difference. Putting the customer at the centre and anticipating and meeting their needs is at the heart of this.

“I’m looking forward to identifying the hurdles for implementing digital solutions to ensure that successful implementations take place across both freight and passenger operations, delivering positive change for the wider rail industry.”

If you would like to find out more about Martine’s role and say hello, get in touch with us via [email protected]

3Squared ‘Meet the team’ – Graham Cooper, Head of Product & Marketing

Graham Cooper, Head of Product & Marketing

In the latest instalment of our ‘Meet the team’ feature, we spoke with Graham Cooper, Head of Product & Marketing, on how integral communications is to the rail industry, how Graham’s expertise in the education sector is informing his work in rail, and much more:

Hi Graham, can you give us an insight into your main roles and responsibilities at 3Squared?

I’m responsible for the Product Management and Marketing functions at 3Squared. The Product Management part of that means that I work with the great team at 3Squared to make sure that the RailSmart suite and our other products have all the right features and functions in to meet the challenges of running a modern, increasingly digital railway.

I also talk to lots of our customers to see ‘what’s next’ and make sure we continue to innovate and offer solutions that keep 3Squared at the forefront of digital rail technology with solutions that operators need to meet the challenges in front of them.

The Marketing element means I’m responsible for letting our customers know about the solutions we offer and that they understand how 3Squared’s products can improve how they run their rail businesses.

How has your experience in the education sector informed your experience within the rail sector?

That’s an interesting question. There are many differences of course. Where I used to worry about technology solutions for around 20,000 schools, now the numbers are much less – perhaps 40 passenger train and freight operating companies plus those businesses working in the rail supply chain.

There are not really any obvious parallels between the two, apart from the fact that most people have experienced both education and rail. Everyone has been to school and most people have been on a train.

However, the two industries do have some things in common. Both sectors are full of very passionate people who fervently believe in the benefits and impact of the services they provide. Both sectors are ripe for digital transformation and realising the benefits of delivering a better, more joined up experience that people have come to expect from their experience of consumer grade technology and software. Both rail and education have some catching up to do here – but it’s happening at pace now and we are determined to play our part at 3Squared.

How integral is communications and marketing to the rail sector?  

Hugely important. It’s of little use if we build brilliant solutions for the rail sector and no-one knows or understands them.

Therefore, we will be working hard to showcase how our customers make use of the 3Squared RailSmart suite of products to run more efficient business operations and a safer railway. Our customers are our best advocates, and it is really their stories that I want to tell in our marketing.

What do you enjoy about the culture at 3Squared?

It’s a bit of a cliché for a tech company to have a ‘cool’ culture. But I can say 3Squared is a little different. There is a real fun and open atmosphere in the office, which is probably helped by the best stocked kitchen cupboards and fridges (there are three) I’ve ever come across. I’m now trying to lose the weight I put on after starting here!

The social committee is very active so there is always something happening. Bi-weekly whole-company catchups help everyone in the business keep updated with 3Squared news. And – one more thing. People in the office love trains! We have one guy with a model railway on his desk and the #trainnerds channel on Slack is very active.

What excites you about working in the rail industry?

I’m really enjoying learning about a new industry – lots of new terminology, acronyms, and customers to meet. I think I am asking fewer and fewer daft questions now, although my colleagues might disagree! I think I am most looking forward to seeing how technology impacts the railway in the next 3-5 years as I think there is so much possibility.

I’ve got some customer visits planned to see how our software is used ‘in the real world’, so I am super excited to see how 3Squared software is used onboard a train, or behind the scenes in the control room.

Like most people, so far, I have only really experienced the rail industry as a passenger, so this will be interesting and, of course, hearing directly from end users will help us build the best products possible that have more chance of meeting end user needs.

What does a greener, digital railway of the future look like to you?

This is hugely important and one of the things I am most passionate about 3Squared solutions helping with. The rail freight industry has the potential to make a huge impact on the nation’s carbon footprint by supporting modal shift from road to rail. I read that the average freight train removes around 75 HGVs from our roads – with a high reduction in CO2 emissions as a result.

We are working with the logistics teams on the HS2 project to deliver software solutions that help them plan freight movements for the earth that is coming out of the tunnel boring machines – which again, will remove upwards of 6,000 HGVs off the road during the project. I believe that we will see rail traction go fully electric soon – this too will have a big impact in creating a greener, cleaner railway.

Thanks for sharing your interesting insights and marketing takeaways, Graham! If you would be interested in learning more about how you could join the 3Squared team, visit our careers page here and connect with Graham on LinkedIn or Twitter if you would like to say hello.

3Squared Named Winner in Department for Transport and Innovate UK’s ‘First of a Kind’ (FOAK) Competition

Freight Train

Rail software and solutions specialist 3Squared have secured funding from the Department for Transport (DfT) and Innovate UK’s ‘First of a Kind’ (FOAK) competition, to further develop its PathPlanner tool to improve freight operations and unlock network capacity, across the UK rail network.

The FOAK competition aims to support and enable new projects to help create a greener, more efficient railway for all. This year’s competition focused on new concepts that will transform rail travel for passengers and decarbonise the network.

PathPlanner is an innovative software solution designed to help freight operators run additional trains. It does this by utilising over 7 years’ worth of historical train records to help planners quickly identify available paths which can be bid to Network Rail through the Very Short-Term Planning (VSTP) process – therefore allowing them to take advantage of much needed spare, and potentially wasted, capacity.

Jason Durk, Principal Consultant at 3Squared, commented: “It is fantastic that 3Squared have secured prestigious FOAK funding to further develop and enhance PathPlanner, a system that we hope will transform the rail freight industry – especially at a time when the sector is undergoing significant growth and it has never been more important to focus on reducing carbon emissions.

“At 3Squared, we have been working hard to create solutions that support the drive towards modal shift, moving freight from road to rail and supporting the industry’s aim to be both greener and more responsive. Through innovative application of technology, we look forward to making this a reality with PathPlanner, bolstered by wider industry support.”

For more information on the FOAK competition, please click here.

3Squared’s Monthly Media Insights, November 2022

3Squared Monthly Media Insight - Martin Gleadow, Customer Success

After an eventful summer in the world of rail, Martin Gleadow, Solution Architect at 3Squared, reflects on the recent news stories making the headlines from across the industry:

“During the month of September, the nation lost its longest reigning monarch, HRH Queen Elizabeth II. Like many companies, we observed the mourning period by temporarily pausing all communication as a mark of respect. The loss of Queen Elizabeth II created a sombre tone across the industry and led the industry to reflect on the role of rail in the life of Queen Elizabeth II. We also look to the future and the impact that King Charles III and his environmental pedigree will have upon the industry and how the rail industry can support his aims in return.

“The modal shift has been a consistent theme over the course of the past few months, for both people and freight within the industry. For instance, The University of Birmingham and Pass Logistics, a multi-modal freight company, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to look at ways of shifting containerised goods from road to rail to support modal shift and decarbonisation; key priorities that resonate with us at 3Squared.

“Through this collaboration, they aim to help organisations better understand their carbon output, and the relative impacts and costs of alternatives. Pass Logistics estimates that a full train could replace 80 lorries and bring a 75% reduction in carbon emissions.

“The UK’s rail sector represents the most environmentally friendly option in terms of public transport, often seen as the most sustainable method for mass travel and commuting. In a further step towards creating a greener, more sustainable railway, Network Rail has revealed an agreement with EDF Renewables UK which will see railway stations, offices and depots powered through solar energy.

“There are increasingly positive stories in the rail media about the creative ways in which businesses are considering doing things to cut demand upon carbon. For instance, in a time of high temperatures and low rainfall, solar energy is making a bigger contribution than is generally realised, and rail has plenty of property where solar panels could reduce the demand on the grid.

“On the subject of greener rail, there is an interesting development on potential areas for decarbonisation. As an article in Rail Advent recently addressed, ‘[The TP-UK range of shunting locomotives] offer significant improvements over the Class 08, lower fuel consumption is an obvious benefit – for example, to move a 1,000-tonne train, the TPUK 3-63 (comparable with the TP-70 shown at Long Marston) will consume just 34 litres of diesel per hour, compared with a Class 08 which will consume 437 litres. Over a 16-hour working day (including five hours’ idle time), this could potentially save more than £4,000 compared with a Class 08.’

“It was fantastic to read about HS2’s annual Equality, Diversity and Inclusion report which found that the company continues to challenge its supply chain, and the wider rail engineering and construction sectors, to advocate for inclusivity.

“Across the supply chain, HS2’s performance continues to beat industry averages for the number of female and BAME employees working on the project, with the supply chain achieving 28% and 18% respectively. The article highlights the positive impact of rail on society, which ties into the industry working for the country.

“In September, we celebrated an East Coast Digital Programme (ECDP) key milestone with the successful completion of testing with digital signalling for High Speed Train (HST) Class 43 power cars forming part of Network Rail’s New Measurement Train (NMT).

“As 3Squared have been involved in the East Coast Digital Programme project, it’s great to track the progress and see another milestone achieved. Enhancing the railway through innovative technology is key to achieving the digital railway of the future.

“The last three months has seen a great deal of political change, which can’t be ignored. Although, at the time of writing, we are still awaiting updates on what the policy direction will be for rail including HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. There has been news of potential delays to Great British Railways due to other priorities in the legislative agenda, but we are hopeful the plans will still go ahead.

“With all the uncertainty surrounding the political landscape of rail, the ECDP continues to be a positive force and something we are proud to have played a role in. Rail Technology Magazine (Rail Technology Magazine : August September 2022), highlighted how pioneering the digital upgrade of the East Coast Main Line has been, and how it has remained relatively unchanged since the Victorian times, until now.

“More positive news in October came from a report by the Office of Rail & Road (ORR) which revealed that Network Rail had been able to make efficiencies of £840 million surpassing their target by £10 million, thanks to the adoption of new technologies. It is important to be able to showcase that rail is delivering on commitments.

“Finally in October, we saw a great initiative from Northern, offering residents of North Yorkshire and Cumbria half price rail tickets throughout winter. Not only will it help people to save money on travel, but it will also reduce the amount of cars on the road, cultivating new ways for the industry to contribute to society and build relationships with local communities.”

If you would like to hear more from Martin and the 3Squared team on how they can support your business, get in touch today.

Forging Connections Across the Rail Industry

3Sqared Forging Connections

An insight by Graham Cooper, Head of Product & Marketing at 3Squared.

“Since joining the rail industry earlier this year, it has been an interesting learning curve getting to grips with the sector. What strikes me is just how enthusiastic people who work in this industry are. Similar to my experience in the education sector, it is fantastic to be part of an industry which places collaboration and relationships at its heart, connected by the dedication its people have to make a meaningful difference.

“It has been brilliant getting out and about across the UK, meeting with industry leaders and a breadth of organisations to find out more about what makes the industry tick and how 3Squared can continue its work in creating technologies and solutions that make a positive impact on the day-to-day running of the rail network.

“A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting GB Railfreight’s (GBRf) HQ to learn more about how they are using a wide range of 3Squared’s RailSmart software suite to manage their rail freight logistics operations. I’m looking forward to working more closely with the team at GBRf to help further develop the software and help embed the RailSmart suite into their operational fabric.

“An impressive customer visit I had recently was at the SCS HS2 logistics facility in Willesden Junction. The team there are making use of an impressive range of technologies, including 3Squared’s specially built BulkSmart solution, which is sitting at the heart of the programme office on huge screens.

“BulkSmart is used to model, plan, order and monitor the removal of the soil on GBRf freight trains to various landfill sites around the country, ensuring the pile never grows too large. This is an operation that will take 1,000’s of HGVs off our roads during the project, freeing up roads and reducing CO2 emissions at the same time. It is fascinating work, and you can learn more about the HS2 logistics operation here.

“I also had the pleasure of attending the Rail in the North event sponsored by Modern Railways. There were a range of great presentations and topics, from how operators are evolving to deliver better service for passengers (Northern and TPE), to how Liverpool and Manchester are moving ahead with modern, integrated, and accessible transport ecosystems (I’m especially looking forward to this happening in my home city of Manchester).  It was interesting to hear how the Northern Powerhouse Rail project is forging ahead with impressive changes that will deliver a modern link between Manchester and York. Thanks to the team at Modern Railways for inviting me along to the event.

“I also recently received an invite to the CILT Rail Study Forum dinner, a great event for those working in rail to meet and share experiences and opinions. I’m in wholehearted agreement with the welcome note given by CILT RSF President Charley Wallace: “We are on the cusp of the most ambitious changes to our industry in a generation. It’s an exciting and bumpy journey but it is a journey worth making in earnest, and with purpose, and a great opportunity to deliver real and much needed change for our people and customers. The railway is well placed to help the country and realise the promise of our communities and the economy in the years ahead”.

“Many thanks to my new friends and colleagues from across the industry for welcoming me with such open arms and inviting me to the various events, meetings, and offices across the country. I look forward to forging more connections and discovering more about the fascinating sector I am proud to work in.”

 

If you see Graham out and about, do say hello and connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you would also be interested in discussing the world of rail and more with Graham, get in touch via [email protected]