Huddle is used in a variety of ways across Go-Ahead, but we originally deployed the cloud collaboration service to manage the complex contract bidding process. Responding to an invitation to tender involves an intense three to four week period, during which Go-Ahead needs to bring together a mix of specialist skills, including internal Go-Ahead staff, consultants and specialists. During this period, Go-Ahead has to capture all the required work streams, draft documents, and research, and then create a final submission for The Department for Transport.

One of the key issues we came up against was the fact that once the bid process was over we would lose that experience and knowledge of the individual consultants that then moved on to other projects. We were keen that, rather than let knowledge walk out of the organisation, the information should be retained and ideas developed as could be relevant for future bids. The other challenge was version control. Before Huddle, we managed the bidding process via a shared drive, but this proved cumbersome and confusing.

With so many people working on one document, it could get very complex, very quickly. It was difficult to establish which document was the right version, where it was in the editing process and who had responsibility for it. When you’re working with large teams based in different locations, file confusion can really slow the process down.

Huddle has proved to be a revelation, making a complicated process a lot more straightforward. Due to its successful roll-out for bid management, Huddle has now been deployed to our engineers. There are now around 200 using Huddle on iPads and we’re rolling the service out depot by depot so we’ll eventually have all 800 engineers using it. The engineers can access information from anywhere, at any time via their iPads, whether it’s ‘How to’ videos on maintaining and checking vehicle components, manufacturers handbooks, technical bulletins and web tutorials.

Having the most up to date information at their fingertips is vital for our engineers. They’ve got to be able to respond instantly to queries and issues, so buses are back on the road as soon as possible. It’s simply not efficient for us to have vehicles out of passenger service unplanned, not least because overcrowded buses and trains result in poor customer experience.

In a less progressive engineering environment manufacturers’ handbooks would be paper. Literally, folders in files. So, if files were removed and not replaced time could be wasted searching for information. With thousands of component parts, technical documents are also updated regularly. With a paper-based system, it can be difficult to maintain version control and be sure that the latest documents are available. With Huddle, all documents can be updated and shared instantly.

While most engineering depots have been computerised the reality is that this is usually just a desktop computer in a supervisor’s office. The limited number of desktop computers in a workshop or depot, as well as supervisors’ offices, meant it was often a challenge for engineers to access the required technical documents and created long periods of ‘down-time’ when staff were unable to continue their work, waiting to access computers.  With our engineers now accessing Huddle via iPads, this has all changed and engineers can be sent to sites and repair a vehicle in-situ clearly has many benefits. There are also instances when an engineer is able to talk a driver through a technical ‘fix’ – of on-board audio visual equipment, for example – without needing to even send someone onsite.

There’s also a great benefit to us when it comes to safety compliance as Huddle means that the management team can be confident that all staff have access to the very latest and up to date technical information. The service provides an audit trail showing whether an individual has received, read and acknowledged that they have checked and are familiar with the very latest technical documentation. We estimate that Huddle will save us tens of thousands of pounds, but it’s more about having buses and trains in service and working as efficiently as we can. Being able to do repairs as quickly and efficiently as possible keeps everything up and running, ensures we deliver a good service to our customers and ultimately saves the company money. It’s all about making sure our employees have the right tools in place to do their job and providing them with the equipment needed in this day and age. It’s enabled us to make the move to a paperless environment that has changed the way we work, improved safety compliance and increased efficiency

Jim Collins has held the role of Fleet Project Manager at Go-Ahead for the past five years. He originally started at the company as a graduate trainee.

Go-Ahead is one of the UK’s leading public transport providers. Every year around a billion passenger journeys are made on one of the company’s trains or buses. The company has around 23,500 employees primarily across the South East of England but was formed in the North East and retains a stronghold there. Its rail franchises carry around 30% of passenger in England and almost 25% of all London Buses are operated by Go-Ahead.

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