When Abellio Bus entered the London bus market in 2009, the engineering team was under intense time pressure to implement a solution quickly. Dan Crumpton, Technical Sales Manager, explains how Freeway Fleet Systems covered all the bases.
With the establishment of Abellio London (following the purchase of buses from National Express), Abellio entered the competitive bus market in London. “Having worked with Freeway Fleet Systems previously, Abellio opted to work with a supplier that they knew and trusted with a system that was already proven for managing the fleet and compliance,” explains Dan Crumpton.
From the outset Freeway provided a procurement, scheduling, workshop management, cost control, and accounts integration solution. Today, Freeway is used across Abellio’s six workshops that employ 220 workshop operatives. It is used to manage Abellio’s assets which include 853 buses, 115 ancillary vehicles, and 220 additional assets such as lifts and tools.
Abellio typically raise 40 job cards a day across the operation resulting in allocation of labour for 370 individual jobs and the issuing of 300 parts. To improve efficiency, Abellio started the process of moving to paperless working in late 2018 with the introduction of mobile devices and a total of 160 tablets are in use across 6 London workshops. Technicians use tablets to manage their jobs and pick up jobs and are being deployed to replace paper recording wherever possible.
“Using the tablets in the workshop ensures staff follow a strict data entry process,” says Crumpton. “It takes longer, but everything is now complete and consistent and that saves a lot of time later, not only by eliminating keying in but also because everything is recorded properly in the first place – so we always have all the information we need at the click of a button.”
Streamlining the workshop
For management, Freeway automatically generated reports provide high visibility of the engineering operations keeping management informed and a handy smartphone app is used to view and authorise purchase orders. Managing labour is also a key application area with inspectors able to analyse the performance of individual technicians, assessing data entry accuracy and frequency to track productivity and performance issues.
“With Freeway, we can see what people are doing and we can run audits very easily. We have much better visibility and improved accountability. As a result, we are more efficient, the levels of accuracy and compliance are improved; the result is a better quality of fleet maintenance,” Crumpton explains.
“Freeway enables us to have meaningful evidence-based conversations about reducing impacts to our service performance. Managers can manage their workshop remotely, which proved hugely important during COVID lockdowns. And technicians not only have greater visibility of problems arising and ongoing but they can pass work to each other without having to deal with physical documentation.”
Earned Recognition bonus
Abellio has been accepted under the DVSA Earned Recognition scheme and Freeway plays a central role in managing compliance under the scheme; the system’s Earned Recognition Tracker ensures compliance criteria are properly managed.
“Earned Recognition is a key focus for us and Freeway’s software is playing a vital role here. In meeting the DVSA’s key performance indicators, everyone has confidence that we are correctly inspecting and repairing. We also feel it gives us a competitive edge with Transport for London (TfL) when tendering for new work,” Crumpton comments.
Freeway is also used for managing parts and stores stock control. The software has been used to improve the management of parts and materials ensuring accurate tracking and cost recording to enable benchmarking contracts and vehicle types as well as building whole life cost models.
In other developments, Abellio has installed large display monitors in the workshops to eliminate paper 24hr sheets with a real-time rolling display showing jobs and their live status. Future plans also include integration with Zenobe, the provider of charging and battery storage solutions for electric powered vehicles, and integration with Trapeze, Abellio’s operations system.
Abellio Bus is part of the Abellio Group, a major transport operator in the UK, running bus services across London on behalf of Transport for London. The operator carries 150 million passengers per year employing 2,500 staff across six depots in Central, South, and West London.
Beyond Abellio’s London bus operations, the company also delivers rail replacement services across the UK and also operates the Greater Anglia, Scotrail, East Midlands Railway, West Midlands Trains and Merseyrail services.