3Squared are excited to announce details of their exclusive in-person event with community group Rail Innovation Group (RIG) and rolling stock experts Porterbrook, at their office in the heart of Sheffield on Wednesday 17th November 2021, from 4pm – 6pm.
The event, titled “Creating a culture for innovation”, will delve into what creates a supportive, open, and creative culture, for emerging and established transport and technology companies. 3Squared are renowned across the industry for their diverse and welcoming culture, as exemplified in their recent ‘Highly commended’ recognition in the ‘People, Skills and Diversity’ category at the Railway Innovation Awards 2021 (curated by Modern Railways).
During the event, Martin Gleadow, Head of IT and Technical Innovation at 3Squared, will be discussing the key ingredients for a culture for innovation. Joining Martin will be Steph Klecha, Head of Digital Services at Porterbrook Leasing. Steph is responsible for Porterbrook’s Digital Strategy and will be looking into the data that is available from Porterbrook’s nationwide portfolio of trains. During the session, she will also talk about how Porterbrook are engaging the supply chain to drive data-led performance improvements for track and train.
Competency management is a term that dominates the rail industry, but what does it truly mean and how can the industry harness its benefits to improve efficiencies across the network? This was something that Phil Hibberd, Engagement Manager at rail membership body RSSB (Rail Safety and Standards Board) and James Fox, Commercial Director and Co-Founder at 3Squared, delved into during our second Great British RailSmart Day online event, and more.
In its truest essence, competency management is the process of defining the competency needs within an organisation, assessing employees, identifying gaps, and developing capabilities. Competency management systems (CMSs) provide a framework and process through which an organisation manages health and safety in the workplace, by ensuring that the requisite number of staff possess, maintain, and review the necessary competencies at all levels.
CMSs have significantly improved since 1988, after the Clapham rail disaster which sadly resulted in 35 fatalities. The need for increased safety measures became clear after the incident, with the industry uniting to invest time and resource into enhancing CMSs across the network.
Innovation and technology have a key role to play in the overall improvement of CMS systems, with digital CMSs proactively measuring people’s competencies across health and safety, and organisational efficiencies. This is something that 3Squared have been working hard on over the years to implement across their tools and technologies, which became a key focus for the second half of the event.
RailSmart EDS (Employee Development System) is harnessed by a range of organisations across the industry, to improve efficiencies across their employee management systems. This was a key focus in session two of the event, with James Fox, Kathryn Beaty (Onboarding and Engagement Manager), and Becky Parry (Client Services Manager), leading the audience through an in-depth exploration of the software.
As explored above, competency management is a key consideration across all businesses, particularly ones with salient safety concerns. EDS allows managers to proactively oversee competency and safety, whilst alleviating administrative burdens and enabling managers to spend valuable time with their teams rather than in the office.
EDS was initially developed in 2014 in collaboration with Southwest Trains and East Midlands Trains. This unique collaborative approach makes EDS the only solution built from scratch alongside members of the rail industry, ensuring the system is highly effective particularly in this context. This smart solution has revolutionised the way companies implement competency management, especially for companies who previously used inefficient paper-based systems.
EDS can be used both online via desktop and laptop, as well as on a tablet allowing for greater mobility and is configurable based on the needs of its users. The software can store a wide range of essential information, from assessment results to key medical data, to support plans and recruitment information.
When it comes to assessments, managers can easily monitor employees’ statuses using the Red-Amber-Green (RAG) system which highlights when an assessment needs to be completed. You can create active competency cycles tailored to your company’s needs which ensures you will always stay in control of competency and safety across your organisation.
It allows you to continuously monitor and improve employee competency in a structured way and through interactions, including assessments, observation, classroom-based training, and eLearning. EDS is constantly evolving through its collaborative approach with its users, taking on continuous feedback to ensure the software constantly improves.
Thanks to those who attended our event, and we hope you found it an enjoyable day. If you would be interested in watching the recorded version of the event or learning more about how RailSmart can improve your operations, then get in touch with a member of the team today.
3Squared employees Rachel & Lucy at a careers fair. Lucy was previously a placement student at 3Squared but will now join the team as a graduate.
Successful academic partnerships can create amazing opportunities for all parties involved; the student, the business and the education establishment. A successful collaboration with a well-suited college or university provides a company with a multitude of benefits. However, it is important to remember that a fruitful partnership is built on mutual interest and investment in the students, the industry and the wider community, and it’s essential to ensure the student and employer are well-matched.
A year’s placement shouldn’t be a case of carrying out a year in a work environment for the sake of improving a CV or to acquire cheaper staff members, it should offer a wealth of opportunities for all involved to reap the benefits both now and in the future.
At 3Squared, we have a long-standing partnership with Sheffield Hallam University that has existed since the start of our business in 2002. Co-founders, Tim Jones and James Fox, both Sheffield Hallam alumni, have ensured 3Squared is well and truly committed to its partnership with the university. In the last 18 years, we have taken on 60 placements from Hallam, and our current workforce is made up of 60% Hallam alumni, clearly demonstrating a track record for converting work placement experience to real-world employment.
As with most placements, these are offered between the student’s third and final year, giving them the opportunity to transfer the skills they have acquired so far in the academic environment and build on those in the working environment. We have also recently been able to expand our partnership to include colleges, providing internships for students.
A successful partnership between a business and a university or college can create a scenario where all involved can reap the benefits.
Benefits for the student:
As well as the opportunity to build on their already learned skills and knowledge, a placement can help an individual to mature and grow personally, making them even more desirable to an employer upon graduation.
A well-placed student who is matched to not only the industry, but the business itself, has the potential to really shine. The student will also have the proven ability to integrate into a workforce, or more specifically, in a ‘team-based’ environment, as opposed to the individual working style of academia they are used to.
Placements students will gain skills specific to the industry or their chosen subject, while increasing their knowledge of the chosen sector. This offers a fantastic foresight into an industry, allowing the student to better consider their future choices in terms of employers or specific areas of a chosen field.
When a placement is a successful match and the student makes an impression on the business, there is the opportunity for employment after graduation, or at least the chance to reach out to those contacts made during their placement period for employment opportunities.
Crucially, for any student who undertakes a successful placement, being able to clearly demonstrate their ability to transfer their skills to the workplace, evidenced with references, will give them a distinct advantage in a competitive graduate recruitment environment.
According to Prospects, the graduate career experts:
‘Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can provide students with fantastic practical experience, so don’t discount them when it comes to work placements. They’re often overlooked, but small businesses are great for allowing you to act on your own initiative and develop your own way of working. What’s more, they provide superb opportunities for networking. If you’re a confident, creative and motivated team player who is prepared to get stuck in you could quickly become an asset at an SME.’
We completely agree.
There is no doubt that a placement at an SME can serve as a great stepping stone for students looking to climb onto the career ladder and gain invaluable insights into the working world. In fact, many of our past 3Squared placement students have gone on to have successful careers. Take former 3Squared placement student, Meg, for example. Meg used to work for 3Squared as an IT & Support Engineer and told us all about the vital experience she obtained and how it helped to shape what she is doing now. Meg said:
“My day-to-day responsibilities consisted of trouble shooting and solving any client issues, attending weekly check-ins with the clients, applying best practices and lessons learnt logs to improve current and future projects.”
She is now a project manager on the largest transformation programme within Co-op which is expected to bring in £70 million in benefits realisation and is currently overhauling the way it uses its stock system.
“My placement year helped me understand the next steps in my career as it gave me the opportunity to see what roles there are in the ‘real world’. I was able to figure out what I wanted to pursue after university.”
Like Meg, Simon Rose undertook a placement at 3Squared as a Software Engineer and has since gone on to achieve great things. He said:
“I worked in the .NET team at 3Squared from September 2013 to September 2014, then part-time (full time in the University breaks) until May 2016 whilst I finished my Masters”.
After graduating, he then left to do a PhD in Computer Science at Sheffield Hallam.
“I published papers and worked as a lecturer during that time (some of the recent placement students at 3Squared have been taught by me!)”
Since then, Simon has acted as the end point assessor for the Digital and Technology Solutions Specialist degree that is run by Hallam, gone freelance and started a digital marketing business. Simon added:
“I loved working at 3Squared and the skills that I gained there have definitely helped me in what I’ve done since. Both my programming & presentation skills improved hugely.”
Benefits for the education establishment:
The most obvious benefit to the education institutions who have proven placement partnerships with businesses is they can improve their reputation as a provider who not only offers the specialist education required, but is forward-thinking regarding a student’s future and employability, putting itself ahead of its competitors when attracting the best talent.
Working with local SMEs, as demonstrated by 3Squared and Sheffield Hallam’s partnership, gives an opportunity for the education establishment to form relationships with key local employers, clearing demonstrating its commitment to its surrounding community. This shows real social responsibility by keeping the skills and talent in its locale.
Benefits for the business:
Providing opportunities to placement students offers a host of benefits to your business. It is a fantastic opportunity to discover the next generation of talent that could be attracted into your industry, and the ability to fully engage those students before they enter the job market. Working closely alongside them as they take their first steps towards employment enables you to hone and develop the practical skills they need to succeed within your business. This gives you the chance to connect and build a relationship with them that can result in a permanent role in the future.
The management of placement students also offers the existing workforce the chance to nurture and mentor, building their skills and competence at the same time. For smaller businesses, younger people can provide fresh perspectives that may just change the way you do business – which is critical in an innovative company such as ours.
As with the education establishment, there is the social commitment to the local community that every business should strive to achieve where possible. Bringing in talent that has been honed on our doorstep is something we are committed to doing wherever possible.
Placements can also bring improved diversity and inclusivity to your business by attracting a wide range of individuals from all kinds of backgrounds. Diversity is beneficial in so many ways, helping your organisation to better understand its customers, boost innovation and increase company performance.
How it works in reality
3Squared’s alliance with Sheffield Hallam University has provided numerous benefits, across the board, for many years now. It not only gives us access to the next generation of digital workers and helps us obtain fresh perspectives into our industry, but it also enables us to cultivate top talent at a grassroots level.
Sheffield Hallam benefits by being able to develop students’ employability via a local business they trust and share a close relationship with, and students are able to gain meaningful experience. Working for a SME such as ourselves, as opposed to larger corporations, exposes them to different areas of the business. Working in an intimate environment means they are easily able to form valuable connections and make contributions that make a real difference.
Everyone’s a winner
In the rail and tech industries, many companies and institutions work together incredibly successfully, providing placement opportunities that are fit for purpose and mutually beneficial for all involved. The UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) is a fantastic example of the rail industry acknowledging the skills and knowledge available within higher education and how it can be used to accelerate new technologies and provide a step-change in innovation for the rail industry.
When it comes to forging successful academic partnerships, our view is that everyone benefits if the placement is carried out thoughtfully and when the student is matched with a business in which they will thrive. Many institutions and business offer placements, but crucially it is the partnership between the two that results in the success stories for all of those involved.
To find out more about our partnership with Sheffield Hallam University, take a look at one of our recent blog posts here.
Thanks to a fantastic collaboration with Sheffield Hallam University, digital solution specialists, 3Squared is celebrating the 18th year of awarding work placements to its students.
With each placement lasting 12 months, 3Squared has now provided placements to more than 60 Sheffield Hallam students, from its Department of Computing and Business School.
During 2020, 5 new placement students started their journey following 3Squared’s involvement in the university’s Preferred Placement Scheme, and next month sees the 60th graduate start a full-time position with the company along with 10 more confirmed placement students starting this Summer.
James Fox, co-founder and Commercial Director of 3Squared, comments:
“I’m really proud of our partnership with Sheffield Hallam. We have been working with the university since our business began back in 2002, following our own graduation from the university. We understand from our own experience how valuable work placements can be, particularly in such an innovative sector, and we’re delighted to be able to offer something back to the university and the local Sheffield community. Over 60% of our current staff are graduates of Sheffield Hallam, and the majority of our placement students have gone on to become 3Squared employees. This is a fantastic track record for us and the university, and really demonstrates both the power of the partnership and the calibre of the students in the area.”
Mike Heselton, Computing Employability Lead at Sheffield Hallam University, comments:
“We are incredibly proud of our relationship with 3Squared and the real depth of the partnership that has offered advantages to so many students, year on year for nearly two decades. The quality of 3Squared’s placements ensures our students are not just shadowing others in the workplace but are spending 12 months in a real, paid job and gaining valuable insight into the working world. The 3Squared team shows a real understanding of what creates a worthwhile placement, through the support they give, not only during the placement year, but also beyond. The success of our partnership is clearly evident in the number of permanent roles that have resulted from placements and we look forward to many more students working with 3Squared in the years to come.”
Simon Rose, who now runs his own digital marketing company, comments:
“I undertook my placement year with 3Squared from September 2013 until September 2014 and also returned to work there while studying for my Masters and during holiday breaks. I worked with the .NET team and the skills and experience I gained there have definitely helped me with what I have gone on to do since. In the three years I worked with 3Squared, my programming skills hugely improved and also my presentation skills and confidence developed through dealing directly with clients. I also learnt a lot about business processes from watching how clients were moved through the system. It was a great place to work with a really supportive team and I’d highly recommend doing a placement there.”
3Squared is based at Fountain Precinct in the city and offers pioneering digital software solutions, with high profile contracts and clients including HS2 and Network Rail. Founded by Sheffield Hallam alumni James Fox and Tim Jones, 3Squared was established in 2002 following their graduation and so began the long standing and incredibly successful partnership. James, Tim and the 3Squared team are committed to investing in the next generation of digital talent, especially if it comes from the local area and the ongoing partnership with Sheffield Hallam University is just one of the ways they are investing in the city and their local community.
The steel city’s historic reputation for metal means you might not immediately associate it with technology, but it is in fact, fast becoming a digital hotspot. In addition to its advanced manufacturing and engineering capabilities, Sheffield has a thriving digital scene, contributing over £2bn a year to the local economy. A digital report from the University of Sheffield cited that the number of digital jobs stands at 21,000 in the region, with a turnover growth rate of 47% a year. (Source: The University of Sheffield).
Tech clusters in the north
Sheffield and the north, in general, is bursting at the seams with tech specialists making significant contributions to the economy, particularly with regards to rail. The “Rail Innovation Eco-System” report from The University of Leeds and University of Huddersfield revealed that in Yorkshire and the Humber, 36 companies have created digital systems to optimise train planning and operations. These 36 companies contributed revenues of £0.4bn in 2018 (source: University of Huddersfield).
Tech savviness within the city
Sheffield has always had a brilliant creative scene and technically innovative culture. Companies such as 3Squared, and many others including PlusNet and WANdisco, that have grown up here have a real affinity with Sheffield, and a dedication to nurturing grassroots talent. It is perhaps the city’s real sense of a tech community as well as the availability of high-quality digital talent from two leading tech-fluent universities that has subsequently attracted larger organisations to locate in the city.
Sheffield’s importance on the northern tech scene is demonstrated by the fact that the city is home to the High Value Catapult centre’s Factory2050 at the AMRC (Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre), and the virtual Digital Manufacturing Meet Ups that explore the impact and reach of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, of which tech is a critical component. Sheffield is truly becoming an increasingly important digital hub.
The steel city also boasts clear buy-in from policymakers with tech-centred bodies such as Sheffield Digital having a strong presence. The Sheffield city trade association works hard to encourage members to work together to achieve a combined voice for the tech sector. From a community perspective, it works to support the tech sector in the Sheffield City Region, and helps individuals by preparing them for jobs in the digital workplace by providing skills bootcamps etc.
It is the passion and drive of organisations like Sheffield Digital and Factory2050 that helps to create a buzz around tech, putting Sheffield on the map as a thriving digital hub. From a rail industry standpoint, Sheffield is also on the cusp of realising the benefits of the Digi-Rail initiative. DigiRail is an ERDF part-funded project which provides innovative support for forward-thinking digital SMEs in rail, located within the Sheffield City Region.
Upskilling the workforce through better transport access
We believe that Sheffield’s digital prominence is due, in part, to its geographical position. Being in the ‘middle’ of the country makes it an attractive location for tech businesses wanting to set up shop there. Being close to larger cities such as Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and London means it is easy for businesses to expand into and travel to other areas nearby.
Better still, Transport for North and Northern Powerhouse have strong links with the steel city and are all about better connecting our “metro centres” to ensure that people can access a larger job market through a more accessible and affordable public transport system in turn addressing the north’s productivity and performance gaps (source: Transport for the North). The provision of better-connected transport systems engenders socio-economic mobility. Access to better transport means access to a wider job market, thus creating an increased demand for upskilling the workforce to satisfy the needs of the modern job market, including those needed to design, build and maintain the digital railway that will be Northern Powerhouse Rail.
Nurturing digitally capable talent from a young age
A growing and buzzing hub with an increasing number of tech businesses is no doubt a positive for young people entering the workforce. It is now time to take care as a city and look more closely at how tech sectors can work better together to recruit diversely and attract people who wouldn’t normally think about working in the city or pursuing a career in tech.
This is especially relevant in rail. Now more than ever, the rail industry needs to be working together, collectively, if it is to develop a workforce that is capable of meeting the demands of the digital railway. We know that as the railway continues to digitalise, new jobs and careers will emerge that are unknown to us now.
The industry has long grappled with an ageing workforce, in addition to its struggles to attract enough people with the necessary skillsets for STEM-related jobs. The speed at which digital technology is transforming the rail landscape means that work roles are going to be very different in 5-10 years’ time, making it ever-more crucial that the industry tackles the widening skills gap and recruits the best people for the future of rail.
It has never been so important for the rail sector to make every effort to engage with children early on in the learning process i.e. in schools. There is an ongoing need to make school children aware of career paths that will be available to them and the digital skills they will require. Stereotypically, our younger generations are growing up with constantly evolving technologies and so a workplace that does not require these skills might not be attractive in the first place. But to truly appeal to the future workforce, the current working population needs to better engage and show them the reality of an industry that puts digital capability at the heart of its own development. Engaging with schools to provide meaningful learning, whether that is sharing first-hand experiences, providing contextualised learning or work experience will prove invaluable in preparing the younger generation for emerging jobs.
Strong academic partnerships
Finally, we turn to the role of the Universities. As mentioned above, both Sheffield Hallam and Sheffield University have helped to power the recent wave of economic development in the city and there is a long history of collaborative academic partnerships between both universities and employers. These factors play a huge role in driving innovation and attracting forward-thinking tech start-ups, SMEs and enterprises to locate in the city region. Partnering with universities gives businesses better control over the career development process, ensuring they hire and train the right candidates from the outset.
At the same time, it requires a dual approach. Employers need to work closely with academia and vice versa to ensure that optimum outcomes are achieved for both parties. From day one of graduating, 3Squared’s founders, James and Tim, have cultivated a close relationship with Sheffield Hallam, having established a now 18-year-old company that has constantly nurtured talent from the university. 3Squared also works with Sheffield College to recruit employees through apprenticeship schemes, recognising that attracting, identifying and nurturing skills is not only just about traditional qualifications; technology can also provide a wealth of careers, and through a wealth of education and training paths.
To conclude, Sheffield has developed a strong symbiotic relationship with the tech sector, both as an incubator of a technically innovative community and as an emerging centre of digital excellence that will continue to pull more digitally dependent companies.
It is evident that the current and ever evolving pandemic has presented the rail industry with a number of exceptional challenges. However, due to the unforeseen circumstances, opportunities have also been created; one of which is the industry’s ability to take a considered look at how to create much needed improvements for the UK’s freight sector.
The restrictions on normal ways of working across the industry have paved the way to introduce and maximise on digital solutions that benefit the freight sector and the wider rail industry alike. By working collaboratively with freight operators and industry groups, we have delivered solutions designed for use throughout the pandemic and beyond.
Working with Rail Operations Group and Freightliner, we have developed our new Path Planner solution that allows freight operators to carry out very short-term planning digitally and more effectively. The software identifies and capitalises on the white space available on a route; this is pertinent to operators now, as the industry debates how to better share network access between freight and passenger, and when we emerge from reduced timetables, as it enables the network to be used to maximum efficiency and reduce the risk of paths going unused.
This integrated software solution provides planners with a historical record of train movements, quickly identifying schedules that are frequently cancelled or part-used. Armed with this data, operators can then bid for paths through the Very Short-Term Planning (VSTP) system, allowing them to take advantage of much needed spare, and potentially wasted capacity.
The ground-breaking Path Planner will host a real-time capacity exchange, offering operators the chance to relinquish scheduled paths on a one-by-one basis on any given day. The efficiency of the software not only removes the need for the previous manual and inefficient processes but allows operators to maximise their opportunities to move vehicles and make the most of the infrastructure available every day.
Path Planner is one of the vital innovative solutions available to support the drive towards modal shift: moving freight from road to rail where possible and supporting the industry’s aim to be more responsive by applying technology to realise the potential for future freight recovery.
The capacity issues that freight operators face have long been evident on the UK’s rail network and continue to be a challenge. Since the pandemic’s impact on the normal running of the railway, companies like ours have been able to thrive through providing innovative digital solutions that have allowed the industry to operate as remotely and safely as possible, while presenting long-term benefits to all involved.
Compared with road transport, one freight train moves the equivalent of over 70 HGV lorries, while emitting only 25% of the carbon emissions. Using the UK rail network as effectively and efficiently as possible for freight will play a huge part in the challenge to decarbonise our transport system.
Already identified by the Department for Transport as one of the most efficient ways of moving goods over long distances (policy paper on decarbonising transport – March 2020), freight operators continue to reduce their carbon emissions year on year, demonstrating a clear commitment to a greener railway.
Partnership with GB Railfreight
3Squared has worked with GB Railfreight for more than six years. The successful partnership represents a shared commitment to make the UK rail freight sector more efficient, cost effective and sustainable. The collaborative working relationship is testament to both parties’ commitment to advancing the use of digital solutions, while exploring even more innovative ways to add value to GB Railfreight and the wider freight environment.
We agree with John Smith, Managing Director of GB Railfreight, who stated recently:
“Technological advances have played a huge role in the development of the rail freight sector over recent years, but these have tended to be incremental improvements rather than quantum leaps. Digital technology is playing an ever-increasing role in the efficient and safe operation of the railway, and … is playing an important role in making the most effective use of the UK’s congested railway, which increases the opportunities to increase freight traffic.”
We recently agreed a further 3-year contract with GB Railfreight, further cementing our successful partnership and joined up approach to developing digital solutions. Through our award-winning RailSmart suite of products, we have created a platform to work together towards a greener and more efficient railway.
Back to the future
Traditionally, freight operators moved goods such as parcels from station to station, but this practice was brought to an end in the 1990s. The freight sector has used the pandemic’s impact on the rail industry to investigate the viability of bringing this service back by trialling converted surplus passenger trains as fast freight services.
With the increase in online orders and the resulting pressure on delivery services, the trains will provide not only an accelerated mode of transporting the goods, but lessen the environmental impact the equivalent road transport would have produced.
The ability to once again move parcels by freight is a fantastic example of how a service from a bygone era can be revitalised if the circumstances allow for innovative thinking. Bringing this trial to fruition would not only have a positive impact on the UK transport industry’s carbon footprint, but be the perfect example of how technology can bring an old practice in line with today’s priorities.
As the memorable 2020 draws to a close, it’s time to look back at what the last 12 months has meant for 3Squared…
With an unprecedented global pandemic hugely affecting both business and personal lives that none of us were expecting or prepared for, we take a breath and reflect on how 3Squared has not only got through it, but has managed to thrive throughout it.
Adapting to the ‘new normal’
Tim Jones, Managing Director, comments on the challenging, yet thrilling 2020 for 3Squared:
“This has been another landmark year for us at 3Squared, and like the rest of the world, we have had to adapt to a new way of working, not only to continue to operate effectively but to build even further on the amazing success we had achieved so far. We created Virtual Roadshows, webinars, online tutorials, virtual meetings and training sessions to seamlessly transfer to a remote way of working.
“Fortunately, we have always adopted a flexible approach to the work environment, nurturing a culture that encourages a positive work life balance and with so many of our work practices easily transferable to home, we didn’t stop for a moment to keep working hard for our clients.”
Our commitment to collaborative working has seen us obtain a series of important contract extensions throughout the year, demonstrating our successful way of working together with our clients to achieve the best possible solutions for them. We secured fantastic contract extensions with East Midlands Railway and LNER, providing them with continued support through our Employee Development System (EDS). We also signed a 3-year contract renewal with GB RailFreight, for continued and expanded use of our award-winning RailSmart suite of platforms. All these successes show our team’s commitment to constant improvement and our pioneering approach to the solutions we offer and our push towards innovation within the rail industry.
We led the consortium with Rail Operations Group and Freightliner to the successful bid for government funding to develop our innovative digital solution, Dynamic Freight Capacity Management (DFCM). We signed an amazing 3-year deal with Network Rail to supply our RailSmart Competency Management Solution, following a competitive tender process and seeing us secure one of our largest partnership deals in our company’s history to date.
In collaboration with RPD Inspire, we will be providing ETCS digital solutions for driver training on the East Coast Digital Programme (ECDP). Heralded as the ‘flagship digital programme’ for Network Rail’s Control Period 6 (CP6), 3Squared will provide the digital solutions to support the development of familiarisation and training of drivers on European Train Control Systems (ETCS).
In perhaps the biggest achievement of the year, we won a contract with one of HS2’s direct suppliers, Skanska Costain STRABAG JV (SCS JV), to provide them with our RailSmart suite, with added bespoke modules, to ensure they have exactly the tools they need to carry out the huge task of delivering the tunnelling programme between London Euston and the M25.
This project has seen us launch our latest software platform – BulkSmart – offering an efficient way of managing a complex supply chain and takes our RailSmart suite one step further. The innovative BulkSmart tool supports the wider industry bringing the railway of the future into the present.
We are incredibly proud of the work of our team to bring this amazing new business to our door. The commitment of our people to constantly strive to offer new technologies and processes for new and existing clients, accelerating the journey to a fully digitised railway, is something we nurture and pride ourselves on as a business.
Developing the next generation of talent
Throughout the year, Managing Director Tim Jones, and Co-Founder and Commercial Director James Fox, have remained fully committed to investing in their people. Showcasing their continued support to help the growth and development of new skills and talent for the industry, by taking on a further 5 placements students from Sheffield Hallam University throughout 2020.
In addition, Lucy Prior was instrumental in the development of the Rail Human Library event, which was run digitally due to COVID-19 restrictions, allowing 3000 students to gain valuable insight into future careers in construction, technology and manufacturing and further pushing 3Squared’s commitment to STEM learning.
Overall, despite the working restrictions of the pandemic, due to the flexibility to work effectively remotely, 3Squared’s team has grown by 20% over the past 12 months.
This year has seen a number of high-profile accolades come 3Squared’s way – a testament to the hard work 3Squared has put into delivering high profile projects for the rail industry; named in the Northern Tech Awards as one of the fastest growing companies, picking up the joint award as the fastest growing SME at the Rail Industry Association Awards, being named in the list of Top Tech Yorkshire and most recently recognised in the 12 Clusters of Tech list for Yorkshire and Humber, has ensured 3Squared has once again had a year to celebrate!
To sum up…
Tim Jones finishes:
“We could not be prouder of our fantastic and passionate team and can’t thank them enough for how they’ve adapted this year, remaining completely committed to our efforts to enable the rail industry to become safer, greener and more efficient through digitisation.”
Digital transport solutions provider, 3Squared today announced that it has secured a contract with GB Railfreight for renewed and expanded use of its award winning RailSmart software platform.
This renewed three-year contract marks the third successful renewal of the partnership between 3Squared and GB Railfreight which has continued to develop over more than half a decade. The renewal further cements the long-term commitment of both parties to advancing the use of digital solutions whilst exploring even more ways to innovate and add value to GB Railfreight. 3Squared and its freight operating client have a shared commitment to make the UK rail freight sector more efficient, sustainable and cost effective while keeping Britain moving through current challenges.
Tim Jones, Managing Director of 3Squared, commented:
“We are delighted to be working with GB Railfreight for another 3 years. This renewal solidifies a fantastic and successful partnership. This long-term renewal provides both parties with a strong platform to continue working together towards achieving an improved railway.
“This investment from GB Railfreight is a significant demonstration of its commitments to digitalisation. This is more pertinent than ever considering the current challenges that our industry faces at present. It is also testament to the value and benefits our RailSmart platform delivers for operations when implemented correctly. We look forward to our continued working relationship”
Alfredo Giangregorio, Head of IT at GB Railfreight, added:
“GB Railfreight first engaged with 3Squared back in 2014 with the introduction of its Railsmart EDS (Employee Development System), and they have been instrumental in partnering with us to deliver our digital roadmap over the last 6 years. Our latest collaboration, the award winning Railsmart RCM (Remote Condition Monitoring) provides us real time locomotive telemetry and alerts, allowing our Control, Engineering and Operations teams greater asset and resource management.
“I look forward to further collaboration with 3Squared in the coming years, not only benefiting GB Railfreight but also the wider rail freight community.”
RailSmart is an award-winning suite of software applications that support the operations, safety and compliance of today’s modern transportation companies. A platform that turns information into insight and helps drives efficiencies all across the business.
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.”
As we head into the second week of the new financial year for 3Squared, we take the time to pause, reflect and look back at key milestones from across the past 12 months. And what a momentous 12 months it has been.
Throughout the year, Managing Director Tim Jones, and Co-Founder and Commercial Director James Fox, have remained fully committed to investing in their people. To reaffirm its belief in its people, the team have been able to showcase their continued support to helping the growth and development of new skills and talent for the industry this year, by taking on a further five placements students from Sheffield Hallam University. The students gain valuable experience in a thriving business and get a taste of what life would be like after they graduate. In addition the team, led by Lucy Prior, were instrumental in the development of the Rail Human Library event. This event was due to take place in partnership with ‘Get Up to Speed’, an initiative that attracts over 3,000 students from across the North, East and Midlands, encouraging them to take an interest in the Construction, Technology and Manufacturing sectors. Scheduled to take place during the second week of the Coronavirus lockdown, Lucy and RHL founder Tracey Baber rallied the industry to run the event digitally through Twitter and Facebook, in turn generating some fantastic results and positive engagement.
As the team continued on their growth mission, an investment of over £1m was made to further enhance 3Squared’s RailSmart products. These developments will add increased functionality and improved user experiences, which existing customers will be able to take advantage of including East Midlands Railway and LNER, who renewed their RailSmart subscriptions in May and June respectively.
Finishing the year with a string of new contract wins
Tim Jones, Managing Director, comments on 3Squared’s landmark year:
“We have had a really busy and eventful year at 3Squared but it is only when you stop to reflect and list everything we have achieved that you really appreciate it. What is even more amazing about this, is that the majority of this work has been completed during the Covid-19 lockdown as the team and our customers work remotely and quickly adjust to the new normal.
“Our success is testament to our brilliant and passionate team and the collaborative relationships we have with our customers has enabled us to make the progress in the way that we have. We are excited for the coming year and beyond, and look forward to sharing more of our good news with you in the future. Thank you for your continued support.”