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KM provides vital links for transportation companies

This article appears in the issue July 1999 [Volume 8, Issue 7]

A smooth flowing transportation network requires more that fast engines and reliable maintenance. It also depends on the smooth flow of information.

The London Underground provides daily subway service to more than 2.5 million passengers and maintains a fleet of 470 trains. With ever growing passenger levels and customer expectations, officials decided that they needed knowledge management technology to handle information electronically.

Among other benefits, such a solution, they reasoned, would counteract knowledge drain from employee turnover by providing intelligent information that would remain when workers left.

A KM solution would also ease the difficult management of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) data, which requires heavy resources in terms of staff. Data was often out of date due to the length of the updating and delivery process. Maintenance and overhaul information for rolling stock was originally managed on LAN using "folders" and distributed as paper manuals. The new system was envisioned as an end-to-end solution for managing and distributing business-critical maintenance information without paper.

London Underground officials selected a solution that involves Insight intelligent content publishing from Enigma (www.enigmainc.com) integrated with a document management solution from Documentum (www.documentum.com). Key to the system are hyperlinks connecting related data, especially graphics to parts information. The system results in better, more efficient use of current information by depot users, lower equipment downtime and higher productivity. It also allows knowledge to be accessed and leveraged across the organization.

Other benefits, according to London Underground officials, include increased train reliability, more trains in service (trains-in-service percentage is up 12%), higher quality of maintenance, increased depot productivity (maintenance time per train has dropped nearly 8%), efficient information management and decreased production costs.

As an unexpected benefit, the new system has enabled London Underground to redesign many business practices, including ISO 9002 certification. The organization plans to install an intranet to make maintenance documentation accessible throughout the organization. It might be used in the future to publish other internal documentation, including rules and regulations, tracks and signaling and railway safety data.

CRM system for Viking

Transportation companies are learning that their legacy systems cannot handle new operational or information requirements they face, according to Randy Gardner, VP of IT at Viking Freight (www.vikingfreight.com). Viking is in the early stages of developing a robust and flexible customer relationship management database and applications system.

The goal, according to Gardner, is to capture all the transportation and information requirements for each customer and provide employees with the necessary information to proactively manage customer activities.

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems in the front office and in the decision support arena are two forms of knowledge management systems that can help organizations like Viking differentiate themselves from their competitors, Gardner said.

Viking has done a good job of capturing and managing customer requirements, he said, but the information has been in disparate databases, some of which are accessed only by individual departments.

"Our collections department has wonderful information about our customers’ A/P departments," said Gardner. "Our customer service organization understands the customers’ traffic department requirements. Sales understands the decision makers’ preferences. We are now developing the customer-centric view by consolidating all of this knowledge into an enterprisewide system."

Concurrent with its CRM efforts, Viking has developed a marketing database, which is used for marketing decision support analysis. The repository is populated via legacy systems and external sources such as Dun and Bradstreet (www.dnb.com) data. It allows Viking to perform market analysis by geographic areas, shipping lanes, shipment sizes and industry.

The marketing system is on an Oracle (www.oracle.com) platform. For the CRM system, Viking submitted an RFP to seven companies, selected Clarify (www.clarify.com) as its preferred vendor and is currently performing a proof-of-concept pilot with Clarify.

Staying informed in flight

Qantas Airways (www.qantas.com) considers the key to its success to be customer loyalty. Established in 1920, it is Australia’s leading airline with over 4,200 flights a week carrying more than 17 million passengers a year to destinations worldwide.

Qantas achieves that loyalty by understanding customer needs and providing prompt service to customer requests, according to Granville May, Qantas’ manager of performance and process improvement. That requires speedy data collection.

Of particular concern was the lack of customer information while planes were in flight. After a plane departed from an Australian airport, Qantas received no information on customer issues until the plane returned to an Australian airport, which could take as long as 15 days. In-flight customer action notices (ICAN) solved that problem by providing communication between the crew and airline at every stop a plane makes. Information is collected on each Qantas flight and faxed to the airline at each landing. Each month, more than 20,000 forms are scanned, read and distributed via Teleform from Cardiff (www.cardiff .com). Responses are provided before the plane leaves the ground again.

The system has been adopted by Qantas for use in additional applications. A Trip Performance Review form is used to evaluate each of the 6,000 crew members on every flight. Various forms are used in key performance indicator (KPI) reviews. For recruitment and training seminars, additional forms are used to survey attendees.

Via the Internet and eventually satellite communication, vital information will be exchanged with increasing rapidity, saving money and improving customer service. z


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