Connection was the core theme at the Travel, Transportation and Logistics panel debate at Fujitsu Forum 2018. And it wasn’t just about getting passengers or goods from A to B; but about creative collaboration between organisations to tackle fundamental change in these industries.
Hosted by Jörn Nitschmann, senior director sales, head of transport EMEIA at Fujitsu, our panelists were:
- Johanna Randall, head of station operations, HS2
- Simon Reed, head of technology and data, Transport for London
- Kerry Reynolds Fernández, product development director, DHL
- Dr Apurva Kumar Sinha, head of innovation and information management, Network Rail
- Ravi Krishnamoorthi, head of manufacturing, EMEIA, Fujitsu
Customer demand and co-creation
Our panelists were united in their view that meeting customer needs was at the heart of change within the sector. Whether it be features on a new car, reliable wifi on a train, aircon on buses or a more sustainable supply chain, the transport and logistics sector is faced with unprecedented demand. As Ravi said:
“Automotive manufacturers didn’t used to be interested in customer engagement – they just produced as many goods as possible for the lowest cost, and sold them at the highest price they could. There was no differentiation. Now they are considering with what the end user wants from their product,”
That desire to meet the needs of the customer is forcing innovation and driving co-creation across the board: among rail operators and infrastructure providers; between big corporates and start-ups; and between manufacturers and service providers.
“Customers just want to get from A to B. They don’t want to pay one way on TfL, then use a different form of payment on HS2 and another on Network Rail,” said Simon. “That’s why TfL is working together with HS2 and Network Rail to deliver a good experience for shared customers.”
HS2 faces a monumental challenge to protect revenue at stations and on trains. Its new Old Oak Common station in north-west London will welcome 11,000 people every three minutes. Johanna explained they held a “design sprint” with partners to come up with solutions and are trialing check-in systems on trains.
“Co-creation is so important,” Johanna commented. “You don’t know what you don’t know, and it’s vital to work with partners to see what their ideas are.”
Co-creation to solve one problem can provide a surprising solution for a completely different issue, as Kerry explained:
“During austerity, DHL customers just wanted costs to come down. Now we’re seeing sustainability back on the agenda. So we’ve came up with solar panels mounted on the back of our trailers to generate the power required to operate tail lifts and lights. A global bus company approached us and said they were really interested in the same technology to enable passengers to charge their phones and to power CCTV, heating and aircon on board their vehicles. It’s a great example of logistics and transport companies working together.”
Data and trust
The ability to understand these customer conundrums and solve them effectively hinges more often than not on data, agreed the panellists. Johanna from HS2 talked about the importance of ethnography to fully understand customer behaviour, while Network Rail and DHL are collecting data on staff in order to improve safety and efficiency.
Ravi agreed it can be challenging. Fujitsu has worked with a customer to introduce an automated rostering system using palm vein technology at check-in and check-out.
“Initially staff didn’t like it, thinking we were just tracking the hours they were working. But we explained it would help us to get the most urgent work done quickly, ensure they took breaks and enable us to allocate strenuous work more fairly. Once they knew it was about the whole workforce and not about individuals, they understood.”
Of course, data collection is just part of the puzzle. Simon highlighted the importance of insights – to interpret and make decisions on the data to determine what we ultimately want from the transport and logistics system.
With that in mind, Dr Apurva ended the session with a note of caution:
“We must also focus on data management – if the data going in is useless, then the insights coming out will be useless. It doesn’t matter how good your algorithms are.”
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