The British rail network is understaffed and this problem is not going away fast; Rail companies need to invest in the Internet of Things (IoT), adaptive software and real-time data to help fill the gaps, says Chris Chinapan, mpro5’s director general.
Staffing has been a constant problem in the last few years in most industries and in most industrialized countries. Previously, the main cause was a pandemic and either isolation or disease. Today, staff shortages are, at least in part, caused by a very different phenomenon; The Great Resignation.
This is a centuries-old problem, even with a new and compelling new cause. How can any industry, but especially one as vital and potentially dangerous as rail transport, continue to operate while maintaining quality and protecting the safety of staff and customers?
Although he states the obvious – they need to do more, with less, but as always, this is easier said than done. There is no magic bullet, but by taking advantage of the abundance of potential data that the smart grid can provide through the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the right software to manage it, train management companies (TOCs) can plan more efficiently and react in real time. This means that their trains, buildings and facilities are managed more efficiently; minimizing the impact of job vacancies or absenteeism.
The staff shortage dilemma
In the last year or so, industrialized nations, especially in the West, have faced the Great Resignation in response to the pandemic. Companies now need to target employees who leave their jobs in record numbers, as many re-evaluate their career paths. In the United Kingdom alone, ONS said job vacancies had risen to 1.2 million as workers changed jobs in October.
In addition, staff absences reached the highest level of all time during the holiday period, with almost one in ten being absent from work due to Covid absences. This wave of Omicron, combined with the “Great Resignation”, culminated in serious staffing problems – which meant cancellation in many, if not all, key lines.
Although the law on isolation will soon change as the guidelines for blocking and isolation continue to be eased, there is always the threat of a new option, a new block, a new cycle of staffing problems or even a different pandemic.
Industries such as rail transport are feeling the impact more than most. Rail transport is a vital part of the supply chains of many companies and the travel of many workers to the workplace and therefore has an impact on the whole economy. In addition, a station with insufficient staff not only creates a slower service, longer queues and facilities with insufficient staff and insufficient cleaning, it can also pose a real threat to life – which usually means that all services are canceled.
Smart Stations and the Power of IoT
It is vital that train companies use new systems to prepare for another wave of serious staff shortages in the future – for whatever reason. Intelligent technology and real-time monitoring allow intelligent decision-making and this technology is easily accessible for implementation from its first installation.
By using an IoT-driven workflow management platform, railway stations can easily collect and aggregate data; review models and create tasks from a central analysis platform. Operational teams can immediately review and act on data, not on schedules, to do what they need to do when they need to. For example, cleaners can respond to real-time events: if the toilet door sensor is open 100 times, they may be needed. If they go to clean, as their schedule insists, and no one goes in, it’s just a waste of time.
Ultimately, this means prioritizing jobs, prioritizing teams, and updating a schedule based on who is available when and what is needed where. Teams spend less time caring for missing staff or tasks that remain unfinished, and may instead believe that all tasks are reported and covered; improving overall operational efficiency and leaving no gaps.
After all, continuous supervision of unmanned or understaffed stations would not be possible without IoT. By preparing now, you can benefit in the long run by adapting to any challenge you may face, while enjoying increased productivity without losing service quality.
Quite simply, it’s about doing more with less.
Read the latest issue of the monthly PCR magazine here: