We have answered a number of follow up questions following our webinar last week:
Q1: How did you justify the expenditure of the project?

A1: Answered by Nottingham City Transport: The revenue and operating costs with respect to the software and license costs, the configuration and training etc. those costs are for discussion with Tranzaura and Freeway. I can talk about the cost savings.  They consist of the stationery used; if you are using bespoke multi-part stationery that can be expensive.  But more importantly the clerical and supervisory resource required to maintain the maintenance system is expensive.  With this new system the supervisory resource will be able to focus on managing the engineers, not shuffling paper around.  In the past, I have used defect systems where the various labour involvement in the daily preparation, issue and reconciliation of defect sheets – plus the subsequent inputting to the maintenance system – in total equated to one full time equivalent person for a 200 bus depot.  So there is significant savings there.  And of course we know better control of the maintenance activity and defect rectification will result in better efficiency.  But of course, as engineers we never like to quote this in a capex approval paper or the Finance Director will be asking who we will be getting rid of.  However, we know that it does enable us to improve productivity, reduce overtime and control costs.  For us the capital costs was actually much easier to justify.  The cost to equip over 300 buses with defect recording hardware, plus two depots, an out-station and all the associated engineers and support staff with tablets and monitors etc. for the maintenance system was less than half the cost of double-deck bus.  So to put it another way; if the improved efficiency and productivity eventually results in me being able to reduce the spare fleet by just one bus I will achieve a payback of under six months.  So that is essentially the way we justified it.

Q2: What challenges did Nottingham City Transport experience with the implementation?

A2: Answered by Nottingham City Transport: Successful implementation on this scale is about communication.  From the outset, we involved everybody.  And I think it makes that change a lot less scary.  So from the very start I have had the engineers, the union, the training teams all involved in developing the system and putting it in.  Even to the level of choosing the devices that the engineers wanted to use, we asked their opinions.   We also tried to keep the inspection sheets on the digital system as true to the inspection sheets that we use now.  So it is not unfamiliar.  It is something that is familiar to them on a different platform.  We then concentrated on training.  We had two or three weeks where we had all the engineers and support staff that would be using the system in for training along with Oliver from Freeway.  And then we ran the system for three to four weeks alongide the paper system and then just this last week we have gone fully paperless in the Engineering Department.  Obviously the current shutdown has not helped us in one way, but in another it has, because it has allowed us to bring it in a little bit slower than we would have otherwise.

Q3: How did the drivers receive not just a change in process but also having a mobile computing device as part of their process. I imagine 15 years ago it would have been trickier, but now drivers have got devices in their home lives. Does that make it easier?

A3: Answered by Nottingham City Transport: A lot easier.  As you said – everyone has a smart phone now these days.  My grandma and grandad have got them!  Everyone is used to using Apps, so it’s not a major stretch. But another important thing for me is that it was simple to use. And that is why we came to Tranzaura.

Q4: What sort of time does it take to complete a clean pre-use inspection - so a check that does not contain a defect?

A4: Answered by Nottingham City Transport: It’s faster in some ways, and any difference is time in offset by the quality of the information that you get back from the driver – the pictures of defects and the information that you can pull back out of the system afterwards.

Q5: What are the capabilities around open source data and how you integrate with 3rd Party systems through APIs?

A5: Answered by Tranzaura:  Both Freeway and Tranzaura are very good at passing information in and out.  Both systems have a fully documented layer of APIs around them that allow automated upload of vehicle fleet lists,  automated upload of user accounts.  Additionally – many companies have dashboard KPI screens that they have at a very high level to show operational data – and we have a layer of APIs there as well that can put that out into other systems.  So that is at the API level and that is the preferred way of integrating from both Freeway and Tranzaura, but there are also legacy systems out there that do not have API’s and we are open to connecting in all sorts of ways.  This is all about the power of information, so we have got to make it real and accessible and integration import and export is a key part.

A5: Answered by Freeway: Just to add to and endorse that – the data is Nottingham’s data and we have all sorts of tools, as does Tranzaura to provision that data to other systems.  And I think in today’s world that is what is required.  We each work with our areas, but they have to be communicated easily to other systems.  That has to be part of what we do.

Q6: Should it be used on any specific device? And could you have both bits of software running on the same device? Any issues with that?

A6: Answered by Tranzaura: We typically focus on using Android based hand-held devices.  Once you are operating on an Android platform the remote management systems that are in place allow you to put two or three apps in place and operate just in kiosk mode.  There is a huge range of devices out there, be they tablets, be they mobile phones (that have been locked down to turn off telephone and text message functionality and just leave it as a computing device).  We are comfortable accross all those ranges – we have a broad customer base that come at us with all sorts of devices and as long as we have a base Android system running we are quite happy.

A6: Answered by Freeway: Just to say we also lean towards Android.  So if you ask us which way to go we would point you in the direction of Android, but that is not to say that our solutions won’t work in an iOS environment.  Chrome is the browser that we recommend, so any device that supports Chrome – which includes iOS devices – is where we would direct you.  So what that means is that you might have a mix of devices in your organisation.  It might be that drivers and engineers have Android and a lot of managers have iOS devices and they want to see their KPIs on those devices – and that would not be a problem.

Q7: How long does it take on arriving at the vehicle for a driver to complete the process of being ready to leave with a defect free vehicle?

A7: Answered by Freeway: If a defect is found then this is instantly shown on the large workshop screen and can be actioned by an Engineer on their device immediately. The task is shown with the driver comments and photograph/s to enhance communication between driver and engineer. The defect rectification may take some time, but there won’t be any lag built in to the process by physical movement of cards, poor hand-writing and other analogue inefficiencies.

Q8: Is the driver able to record in service defects using the hand held device, and if so how are in service defects managed during the day?

A8: Answered by Freeway: ALL defects flow through from Tranzaura to Freeway. In the Webinar we focused on the first-use checks during a run-out, but there are in some ways even greater advantages to the digital flow when defects are found later in the day. These defects would normally only be visible to engineering when the bus returned to the depot. With the Tranzaura/Freeway integration, engineering (and particularly stores) can start planning and if necessary procurement as soon as the defect is recorded

A8: Answered by Tranzaura: Indeed the driver can report an in service defect through the same app. The driver can select the In Service Defect function to submit defects incurred throughout service. Provided the mobile device has access to wifi or mobile data, once the defect has submitted by the driver using the app the in service defect it will be available to an engineer in the Freeway system. The Tranzaura back office system will also be update to display an outstanding in service defect. The same levels of driver/engineer interaction is available as per pre-use checks.

Q9: How long does it take on arriving at the vehicle for a driver to complete the process of being ready to leave with a defect free vehicle?

A9: Answered by Tranzaura: This really is down to the customer. The number of questions, how they must be answered e.g. multiple choice, supporting imagery required etc, the sequence in which the questions are asked is completely configurable by the customer and of course could vary by bus type. So you can make the checks as complex or as simple as you wish. The vehicle check app is designed to intuitively take the driver round the vehicle, asking the right questions in the most efficient sequence. Each check is timed and further supported with the use of a step counter. The anticipated and satisfactory times to complete a check is again configurable with each check then measured and captured using KPI’s and dashboards to display those drivers completing checks in adequate or insufficient time – again, another measure to try and ensure a driver is doing a good check. Other bus operators are completing ‘clean’ pre-use checks within 4 to 6 mins.

Q10: Can the engineers sign off a defect on the device, i.e. out on the road, if so does this update Freeway?

A10: Answered by Freeway: Typically the engineer would use the Freeway app to record a rectification, and this is often completed out on the road.

A10: Answered by Tranzaura: Currently available in our Commercial Vehicle app and soon to be available for Bus & Coach. It would require some integration development but engineers will be able to log onto the driver app as an engineer and sign off a defect out on the road and in the case with Freeway will update the engineering system. So provided the maintenance system can accept updates as such the Tranzaura system will update it.

Q11: Operators already using Tranzaura, is there a specific type of phone/tablet needed to run, do operators have issues then with asset management on these units for a big fleet?

A11: Answered by Tranzaura: From a Tranzaura point of view Android is preferred version 4.1 and above although the Tranzaura application is available in IOS also.

Q12: In summary, what process is required when uploading historic compliance and defect documents, to ensure the effectiveness of searching through vehicle history and diagnosis purposes? And is the uploading done by the client or supplier?

A12: Answered by Freeway: When we install Freeway we provide a series of import templates. These are available to import Buses, Ticket Machines, Parts, Nominal and Cost Codes and also to answer the specific question the vehicle history. Freeway assists with this initial import, but the templates can continue to be used (for example when an additional depot is created and there is a new fleet to be imported).

A12: Answered by Tranzaura: The uploading is something that would be done by Tranzaura as part of the on-boarding process. Documents or masterdata required to be uploaded would be sent to Tranzaura to be quality checked initially. This isn’t something that is regularly required by the customer but it is possible.

Q13: With regards to the inspection element, whether that be a Drivers First Use Check or a planned inspection, has there been an increase in the time taken to carry out the inspections?

A13: Answered by Freeway: Our experience of the inspection itself is that there is no time-saving in carrying out the inspection itself. But there is a great deal of time-saving in the onward management of any defects that are found and in the reporting and management of the fleet.

A13: Answered by Tranzaura: No increase seen at our customers. We see a small spike in the time taken to complete a check during the roll out phase where drivers are getting used to the new format but it doesn’t take them long to grasp the app and after just a few occasions the average time taken to complete a check is reduced. The quality of information returned has lead to refinements of the checks process as the disconnect between drivers and operations has improved. Operations now have a real world understanding of the behavior around a bus on pre-checks that they didn’t have before. We’ve known of scenarios where the driver would do half his check and go for a coffee and come back to complete it. The cause of this behavior was investigated and found to be the ramp check could not be done until the bus parked next to the bus being checked was moved. Checks and the app where adapted to deal with the situation. The timer on the ramp check now has a ‘Start’ button which the driver presses when he returns to the bus to complete the ramp check. This creates full visibility to compliance – operations and authorities.

Q14: Can the engineers resolve a defect on the Tranzaura device, if so does this update Freeway?

A14: Answered by Freeway: The engineers would typically resolve the defects on their own devices as Freeway is optimised and designed for the recording of the rectification and associated parts. In situations where an end user may need to record an inspection and then follow up with a rectification – the same device that is used to run the Tranzaura app could also run the Freeway app.

Q15: With regards to hardware for driver walk around, do you recommend having one device to per driver, bus or other?

A15: Answered by Tranzaura: One device per bus is preferred and seems to be best practice adopted by our customers. The device is safely locked away and is powered through the bus.

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