Social distancing has created a huge range of challenges for business across all industries.
However, in the railway industry we’ve seen our clients pivot quickly to embrace technology which is yielding improved results in terms of process improvement and efficiencies.
Usage rates of our technology solutions ACMS, AssessBook, AssessTube and the Bulletin module have all increased, as has the demand for our data and reporting functions. We recently interviewed Adrian Champion, Head of Operational Standards at West Midlands Trains Ltd. (WMT) and Stewart Player, Head of Operations at Great Western Railway (GWR) to find out how the technology is being used across their organisations during this period of social distancing.
“At West Midlands Trains we’ve been relying extensively on ACMS for reporting and data for competence management and verifications across the business since we’ve started social distancing. As we are no longer travelling to depots to gather data and information, we’ve realised that all of this information is stored in ACMS and available at our fingertips. There’s also been a reliance on ACMS for assessor verification where we’ve been able expand our data and evidence pool.
“We’re currently analysing as a business how we work smarter once lockdown is lifted and we realise there have been a lot of benefits of being forced to rely on the technology to improve our processes in the longer term. ACMS has helped with that element extensively and we will continue to explore how we use it even more smartly as things evolve”. — Adrian Champion, Head of Operational Standards, WMT.
GWR has also increased its use of the technology during lockdown.
“We’ve been using the AssessTech solutions more frequently at GWR” said Stewart Player, Head of Operations at GWR. “By creating additional factors around Covid-19 in ACMS, we are tracking and analysing overdue assessments against these Covid-19 parameters. ACMS has been instrumental in the increase in assessor verifications. As we can’t travel to venues due to social distancing, we’re using zoom to talk through assessor verifications and analysing submitted work against a template. This was a process we considered previously, however lockdown has escalated the process and has helped individuals overcome their technology fears.
“AssessTube has given us a platform to upload and share a lot more video content and we’re receiving 400+ hits per week. As well as route refreshing videos, we’re also uploading general information that helps our staff consider all elements of their situation.
“One of the areas where we are seeing the biggest impact is the use of AssessBook. It has taken over 2.5 years for GWR to ensure our drivers are fully compliant with their tablets. In 3 weeks, we have converted our safety and business brief into an online AssessBook self-learning style format and have made it really interactive by inserting content and short video clips. Where previously it would have taken 6 months to roster individuals and organise classroom training, this has been completed in 3 weeks for over 1400 drivers. Feedback has been very positive about the online learning as individuals have been able to stop, rewind, retake a module and spend more time carrying out the training. It’s definitely a better way of blended learning and is potentially an option we could consider going forward. We’ve also uploaded self-development courses eg computer skills, management skills and safety critical communication and are providing an easy platform for individuals to access and undertake the training from home or the workplace.
“We’re now starting to rollout aBulletin and have already integrated it in 2 depots, with 70 people signing up in the first few days. Managers at other depots have now been trained and we are in the process of rolling aBulletin out to all our depots this week. Trade Unions are 100% behind this module as it creates filtered notices to individuals based on their competence levels, rather than one message to all traditional method of depot notice cases.
“There has been a significant increase in the use of technology across the organisation. We offered additional support to help individuals adopt the technology. For the first 2 weeks we were answering 100 emails per day. This has now dropped significantly which indicates that individuals are now becoming more used to the technology.
“The data generated from all of the AssessTech systems has been extremely useful as it is helping us understand how people are learning. It’s become apparent that individuals ask a different set of questions in a closed learning environment than they would in an open classroom environment.
“We’re in the early stages of adopting AssessBook and AssessTube across the wider First Group network. First Group Trams and SWR already use AssessBook. We are now in the process of gathering email addresses of individuals who need to login. Our first approach is to aim it at management employees as these colleagues already have active email addresses and don’t need any specific agreements to use the technology, rather than drivers and guards. We have started to upload videos copied over from GWR and our initial approach is to monitor the take-up and usage of these solutions and see what the take-up is like. It will need passion and determination to ensure this works across the whole of First Group. Watch this space!”
There has been significant learning coming out of the last three months. Businesses have changed the way they operate to allow people to learn and work from home and many have created new processes that not only are better, but also drive significant efficiencies. It will be interesting to see if these will continue once the UK returns to normal.