Managing the unexpected

Trapeze Group is renowned for its work with public transport authorities and their communities to develop and deliver smarter, more effective public transport technology solutions.

For more than 30 years, Trapeze has evolved with its customers around the world – including Australia – to help them move people from points A to B, and everywhere in between.

One striking example of the group’s impact can be found in Sweden, where Trapeze’s dynamic workforce management planning solution has resulted in immense efficiencies for one of the country’s biggest rail operators, Arriva Sweden.

Arriva employs about 2500 people and operates regional trains, commuter trains and trams throughout Sweden, as well as five major operational depots.

Like all rail operators, it needs to effectively manage its workforce needs which involve complex requirements and conditions. These conditions can change frequently and can be hard to manage using time-consuming manual systems and processes.

Since 2012, Arriva Sweden has used Trapeze’s rail commercial-off-the-shelf Workforce Management (WFM) software, which allows an operator to model all rail activities, workforce management requirements, and associated costs quickly and efficiently. In 2019, the system was upgraded with a new daily planning algorithm to help deliver on a new tender.

The system provides information on the personnel and financial impacts of all potential schedule changes, and the software allows for effective disruption management.  With the ability to view exactly who is where, and which people possess the right qualifications and capabilities, Arriva can quickly and effectively deal with changes. This in turn allows for sharper and more agile decision-making, especially during disruptions, and enables the company to be pro-active when managing staff movements.

The core system optimisation that Arriva uses to plan the day of operations gives staff complete visibility, enabling them to optimise train schedules and staff movements. Arriva saves around 700,000 Swedish Kronas (approximately $USD 85,000) every month in overtime costs on top of the increased efficiencies.

WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT

Managing the needs of the workforce involves complex requirements with unique conditions, regulations, and other standards. This complexity, which can change frequently, is difficult to manage using time-consuming manual or paper-based systems and processes.

To further complicate matters, disruptions that affect rail workforces mean it can be difficult to adapt to new operating scenarios and manage compliance. Handling these workforce requirements can also be an expensive undertaking without the right technology in place to automate tasks.

Arriva originally implemented the workforce management system to make processes automated and efficient to deal with such challenges.

THE SOLUTION

The Trapeze system enabled Arriva’s team to test multiple scenarios that have increased the speed and efficiency of personnel planning, and created a reduction in overtime.

This freed up staff for other tasks such as training, managing qualifications, licences and certificates. The system also handles disruptions and scenario changes that occur, including severe weather, natural disasters, and of course, pandemics.

This means long-term master plans can be created within a much shorter timeframe when compared to manual systems.

Arriva Personnel Planning Manager Araz Zeighami said the company used the Trapeze system to alter its long-term plans quickly, even on the day.  

“The system helps us manage our losses and estimate the costs, in terms of financial changes, as well as redo our forecast estimates,” he said. 

“Having a system that enables you to test different scenarios means you have the flexibility to develop solutions and plans that are grounded purely in fact, rather than concepts or ideas. Our business cases are now so much easier to put together and manage.

“We have information to hand and know the impact before it happens. Some of the team have taken to calling us ‘chaos pilots’ as a result. We couldn’t do these simulations without the help of the system.

“Guesswork is now reduced, and ideas are tested to give them credibility, and when it comes to tender work, we can use our knowledge from our existing businesses to put forward better, more effective bids.”

Additionally, when in negotiations with Arriva’s government owner and trade unions, the operator can produce robust understandings of cost impacts from potential work condition changes.

HOW TECHNOLOGY HAS HELPED DURING COVID

The system proved invaluable when helping the team manage the impacts of COVID-19 and rethink personnel planning – and played a crucial role in managing staff absences. As the system was built to adapt to rapidly changing events, Arriva was able to quickly revise and reorganise their plans as the pandemic unfolded.

Through the pandemic, illness sadly affected many of Arriva’s staff. Zeighami and his team were left with a much smaller workforce, requiring services to be reviewed and duties reallocated quickly. With almost half of the workforce on sick leave at once due to the pandemic, the team needed to act fast.  

“We had days where 40 per cent of all staff were sick or unable to attend work at the same time. This presented major problems for the business and our planners,” Zeighami said.

“We have had to redo our long-term master plans in the short term in order to be able to cope with the impact of changing scenarios.

“Far fewer people are travelling by train, but travel patterns can be completely different each day – as peak times essentially don’t exist anymore. We could no longer predict the demand, so our usual way of personnel planning was no longer appropriate.”

A PARTNERSHIP APPROACH

Since Arriva first started working with Trapeze, a trusted relationship has been formed.

Zeighami feels that his team has been well supported by both the Trapeze team, and the user-friendly workforce management software. Communication between the workforce manager and Arriva staff has become easier, clearer, and more timely when compared to their previous legacy paper-based communication system.

“I have always found that Trapeze has worked closely with us and been quick to fix any problems, and the team we work with at Trapeze are a gold mine of support,” he said.

“And when it comes to user-friendliness Trapeze systems are by far the best for staff training, as it is easy to understand and work with. We would never change back to our previous system after working with Trapeze for so long, as they understand what we need and how to make it work for us.”

For more information, see the Arriva Sweden case study, or contact Michael Zink at Trapeze Group.