Keeping Track of Gear in the London Underground, Wirelessly

asset management

Workers in the London Underground can get engineering and safety equipment from vending machines. A wireless solution enables real-time tracking of inventory.

Name of Organization: Transport for London (London Underground)

Industry: Transportation

Location: London, UK

Business Opportunity or Challenge Encountered:

The famous London Tube Lines crisscross one of the world’s busiest metro areas, covering 320 km — almost 200 miles — of track. There are 254 points and crossings, 255 trains, 100 stations, 4,314 bridges and structures, and 80 km (or 50 miles) of embankments and cuttings. There are also 231 escalators and 110 elevators. All these components need to be maintained, upgraded, and tested on a regular basis.

The employees tasked with performing this maintenance often have to put themselves in harm’s way – by scaling tall structures, avoiding passing trains, and coming into frequent contact with hazardous materials.

To ensure that work is performed safely, employees are required to wear proper personal protection equipment (PPE). This includes protective clothing, helmets, goggles, or other garments or equipment to protect against a variety of hazards: electricity, heat, chemicals, biohazards, and airborne particulate matter. Placing accessible PPE equipment close to the production line with availability 24/7 is an essential must-have so that every procedure performed is carried out with the correct equipment.

That creates a challenge, however,  for inventory control or gear management. To make equipment available and always ready for its workers, the London Underground system installed self-service PPE vending machines across all of their sites. Known as ‘Audit Stations’, the vending machines accept employee smart cards to dispense a range of equipment tailored to each aspect of Tube Lines’ engineering processes. The benefits are many: reduced PPE spending as stock control is fully controlled; increased employee protection; improved health and safety; and better operational efficiency.

However, the challenge was to be able to track and monitor PPE usage, and thus keep the vending machines properly stocked at all times.

How This Business Opportunity or Challenge Was Met :

The Underground contracted with Sell a Vend to manage the system-wide deployment and maintenance of PPE vending machines. The machines incorporate Circum Tec remote vending technology to ensure the machines are always in touch, and the GPRS airtime solution from Wireless Logic delivers connectivity.

Sell a Vend’s machines provide Underground managers the ability to purchase PPE stock from a variety of sources and not being tied to any one PPE equipment supply chain. Within the vending machine’s operating platform, Circum Tec technology creates the conduit between machine and client control delivering a number of key remote reporting lines including inventory tracking, cash accountability, dynamic scheduling, stock/machine alerts, cashless systems, detailed financial/sales reporting and integrated Google mapping. With real-time wireless data, the entire vending process has made the PPE stock and retail management responsive to the ongoing requirements of maintenance engineers and employees.

Measurable/Quantifiable and “Soft” Benefits From This Initiative:

As an inventory control system, the vending platform delivers total control in real-time to create a delivery platform for Tube workers. London Tube managers now have real-time visibility on personal equipment being used by individuals is proving vital for audits and inspections that track safe working procedures.

The platform enables the provisioning of each machine on a just-in-time basis. Vending machines are only connected once in the field with tariffs tailored to the expected data traffic for each unit. Along with keeping track of inventory in each of the machines, the system “can also alert the team to any unusual patterns of data activity and respond as necessary,” according to Justin Godfrey Cass, business development manager for Wireless Logic.

(Sources: London Underground, Wireless Logic)

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