ALBUM Conference 2014
Innovate – Integrate – Motivate
The traditional formula for staging the ALBUM Conference was turned on its head this year and instead of the usual country hotel location, Lothian Buses opted to locate it in the centre of Edinburgh using two hotels within a short walk of Waverley Station, holding the conference itself at the Murrayfield Stadium where the trade displays were also located. It required a considerable logistical operation with buses laid on to ferry delegates between these sites and also the locations of the evening entertainment venues that are an integral part of the ALBUM experience. Delegates even had the opportunity to ride on the new tram in advance of its public opening on 31 May, though a lightning strike did put this out of action for around two hours on one of the afternoons. The provision of a Ridacard for all delegates enabled them to sample Lothian’s services, including the open top tours, at their leisure.
BBC North West’s Dave Guest has become an indispensable part of the ALBUM experience, facilitating and keeping the proceedings flowing. He made light of what must be the widest, shallowest conference hall in the UK covering miles with his microphone to reach those asking questions in what he noted is ‘a big year for Scotland’.
Rt Hon Donald Wilson
The Lord Lieutenant & Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh, the Rt Hon Donald Wilson, officially welcomed everybody to Edinburgh, pointing out that it was over 20 years since ALBUM’s conference had last been held there. Confirming that the city’s new trams would start carrying passengers from 31 May, he said that ‘under Ian Craig the business has gone from strength to strength’, adding, ‘this service is in good hands’.
He believed, ‘It’s the atmosphere in the streets that makes Edinburgh what it is’ and his assertion that ‘you haven’t got time to do it justice, so I absolutely insist that you come back again,’ was one that many will have been minded to heed by the end of the conference.
Repeating the Lord Provost’s welcome, Ian Craig, Chief Executive of Transport for Edinburgh, ran through some of the transport milestones in Edinburgh with the help of an audio visual presentation. This detailed innovations in the city from Edinburgh’s first tramway in 1871 and first electric trams in 1910 through to the present day.
Chief Executive of Transport Scotland, David Middleton, talked about the delivery of integrated transport projects in Scotland, running through the many schemes currently underway and planned. Over the period 2012-13 to 2014-15 Transport Scotland will be responsible for a £5.99billion transport budget covering: sustainable transport; rail and trunk road networks; impartial travel services; ferries, ports and harbours; the blue badge scheme; engaging with delivery partners; road safety; local roads policy; aviation, bus and taxi policy; appraising and modelling; national concessionary travel schemes; and canals.
He said that Government had sought to prioritise investment in transport with an eye on the longer term, investing in infrastructure in order that the country can perform. Transport Scotland’s focus was on the national network. It wanted to improve connectivity for Scots by different modes. This was why quite a lot was being done in a time of austerity.
Among the projects with which it was involved were: the Helix Project at Kelpies near Falkirk; the Airdrie-Bathgate rail link; Hardengreen Bridge on the Borders Railway; the introduction of new ferries; upgrading the Glasgow subway prior to the Commonwealth Games; and the Queensferry Crossing – the third crossing over the Forth.
The central Scotland motorway network was now nearly complete with the upgrade of the M80 and the completion of the M74 through Glasgow. Improvements to the M8, M73 and M74 had been completed in 23 months when the average for such projects was 34 months. A preferred bidder for the new Aberdeen Western Peripheral route would be announced during the summer. Still needed was an upgrade of the A9 to Inverness, 80 miles of which would be dualled by 2025.
Asked where buses came in the pecking order, he said, ‘Very high indeed. Ministers understand how many Scots catch buses.’
Podium Supplier Debate
In the conference’s only ‘nuts and bolts’ presentation, four senior representatives of leading manufacturers looked at innovation, largely in the context of their own company’s products.
Professor Edward Jobson
Environmental Director of Volvo Bus, Professor Edward Jobson, believes the industry is going through something radical at the moment, though in small steps. He explained the way Volvo saw the bus market moving away from diesel and gas propulsion to concentrate on hybrid as the standard product as a step towards full electric power. It would use less power overall and result in cost savings for operators. In the company’s own range, gas had been discontinued along with certain diesel models, with new hybrid, plug in hybrid and full electric EL models offered. A slide display revealed a new plug in hybrid version of the Volvo 9700 coach.
Volvo would also be looking, with partners, to make a complete transport system offer rather than just supplying buses.
Some delegates told me afterwards that they didn’t realise Volvo was to stop building diesel city buses. This is not the case, it is just the fully low floor 7900 model that will offered only as a hybrid. While Volvo believes the trend is towards electric propulsion, the B5L double deck and the B8RLE single deck remain its principal offering in the UK alongside the 7900H and the B5LH.
Mark Nodder, Group MD of the Wright groups of companies, considered innovation in a broader sense, going beyond products and services to take in business models and relationships with customers. He asked whether we all knew who our competitors were, or where they were going to come from in the future? He used the example of Kodak, who invented the digital camera in 1975 but failed to recognise its importance and develop it and instead became embroiled in a fight with the other major producer of print film until it was too late, because nobody wanted prints any longer. He put this in context by saying that the Chinese bus producers BYD and Foton had started out as battery manufacturers. Google aims to have a driverless car on the market by 2017.
He believed customers wanted more than a transaction, they wanted a relationship. Customers would define what was important to them.
Jonas Stromberg, Scania’s Director of Sustainable Solutions, looked at the challenges facing the attainment of sustainable transport and the green toolbox available to meet the challenge. It was important to save energy of all kinds, replace fossil energy with renewable energy and move to smarter transport for people and goods. There were many options, including hybrid and electric, but they were costly. Biomethane was another good option and a more cost effective one. There were concerns over land needed for food production being given over to gas production but this, he said, was a myth. Only a fraction of the 25m hectares of abandoned farmland in Europe would be required to reach the 2020 biofuel goal and help the EU escape oil dependency.
Scania had engines that would run on the three main biofuels: bioethanol/ED95, biodiesel and biogas/CNG. All greatly reduced CO2 emissions. At 40% thermal efficiency, the latest Euro6 gas engine was approaching the 42% thermal efficiency of a diesel unit, and only 40 parts were different to a standard diesel.
Switching to sustainable fuels was only part of the answer because it didn’t overcome the issue of congestion. A move to smarter transport systems, for which the bus was ideal, was also necessary.
He concluded that: the vehicles sold and developed today would be on the streets in 2030; it is technically and commercially possible, even without silver bullets, to have carbon neutral transport by 2030; all green tools are necessary in parallel; and all procurement must have functional demands for CO2 reduction and allow all tools, focusing on CO2 per £.
Ken Scott, Group Engineering Director at Alexander Dennis, described the customer engagement process that ADL had gone through in developing the innovative new generation ADL Enviro400, two examples of which appeared in the demonstration park and attracted a huge amount of favourable comment. He noted, ‘To get feedback that your doors are rubbish and noisy and rattle all the time is pretty cathartic.’
He summarised his presentation by saying the Enviro400 was the result of a motivational engagement process from which we have integrated many ideas from customers and suppliers to ensure a product which is fuel efficient, reliable, easily maintained and has a reduced cost of ownership. The quick release glazing system was just one area ADL had innovated to create a feature that is ground breaking in the industry. It should end up 800kg lighter than its predecessor (400kg better than announced at the launch) and be at least 12% better on fuel.
There are few if any Scottish Rugby players who have captured the public imagination in the way that Gavin Hastings has. His feats as first a player and then captain of the Scottish national team in the amateur era saw some of the nation’s greatest achievements, some of which were recalled (in colour!) in a presentation in which he drew parallels between the importance of motivation in elite sport and business.
The main points I took from it were leading from the front, establishing the right tone, never giving up and also celebrating your victories together. Passion was important; the task in hand had to matter. You had to keep setting targets and new goals because whatever you achieve this year will never be good enough for next year.
Cllr Lesley Hinds & Sue Bruce
Two formidable ladies who clearly knew what they were talking about, Cllr Lesley Hinds, Convenor Transport & Environment at City of Edinburgh Council and Sue Bruce, Chief Executive, City of Edinburgh Council shed more light on the organisation of transport in the area as well as an insight into what had been achieved in the last few years. Neither lady was in their current post when the debacle over the tram reached its lowest point but both had done all they could to salvage the situation.
Speaking first, Lesley Hinds said she had thought the job a real challenge when she took it on two years ago and had been embarrassed by the reputation the tram had brought to Edinburgh. Since joining she had developed a good relationship with Lothian Bus, saying ‘we have the most fantastic bus service from Lothian. People trust it and use it.’ It had been arranged that Lothian would run the trams in an integrated manner; a strategic policy had been developed for all other bus operators and modes including walking; and the different modes now worked together and looked at how they could be helpful to each other. An Edinburgh Local Transport Policy had been drawn up for 2014-2019 identifying ten issues where a significant choice had to be made. These included supported bus services, city centre parking and 20 mph speed limits.
When Sue Bruce took up her role on 1 January 2011, friends thought she was ‘nuts’ to take the job but though the tram situation was difficult she thought it was unreasonable to think it could not be resolved.
She identified that both the contractors and the City Council were in a similar situation, concerned about the financial, reputational and legal risks. All wanted to emerge at the other end reasonably intact.
Rather than face a long slog through the courts, the outstanding issues went to mediation and a fixed price was agreed with the contractors for the section between Haymarket and the airport, with the Council taking what it saw as the relatively small risk on archaeology. The full route should have gone from the airport to Leith and on to Newhaven, and she remained hopeful that this would be achieved, ‘in our living view’.
By September 2011 everything was in place and a new era began with all parties signed up to a new budget (£766m) and committed to delivering to the revised timetable, which will be achieved. Rather than scrap the dysfunctional contract at the heart of the problems, which would have required re-tendering, it was retained but the approach to it changed. The approach was now to manage the contract in a more grown up way with absolute clarity about decision making and who owned decisions. She had been very tough on contractors over their health and safety responsibilities, because it had been necessary.
Looking back, there were three main problems. Firstly the contract was faulty. She advised; ‘don’t sign any contract until everything is sorted out’. Secondly had been that there had been political division over the project and it was important with such a scheme that there was buy in from all sides. This was exacerbated because the Scottish Government, which was part funding it, withdrew its people from the working groups – their return was part of the turnaround.
Cllr Lesley Hinds added that as a council, they had needed to lead with humility. You had to see it from the public perspective. ‘We are £276m over budget, years late and only have half a line.’ However, there had been a change in public opinion because all of the promises made in the past two years have been kept. The crux would come when it started to run.
Standing in for Dr George Hazel who had been called away to the Middle East, John Murray, Technology Engineering Manager with Scottish Enterprise, packed an immense amount of detail into his presentation on the Smart Mobility programme, billed as one of the conference’s innovation presentations.
He said worldwide research showed that transportation was the number one factor in achieving city growth; three times more important than any other factor. To meet the needs of the passengers of tomorrow, operators would need to offer services that were user focussed, seamless and value for money. He predicted a move to focus on customer needs and their lifestyle choices and said there would be a need to balance user needs and the needs of the transport system. He saw Smart Mobility as that balance.
He wanted to position Scotland as a living laboratory to create seamless, integrated, valued, mobility services. From an industry innovation perspective, the transport industry was converging with the ICT industry as well as the energy industry plus the retail dimension of working together to deliver these services to customers. A Mobility Integration Challenge had been run to encourage companies from these separate industries to come together to run proof of value demonstration projects in Scotland, geared towards creating the world’s first mobility management system at a country level. ADL was participating in one of these schemes with a hybrid bus and vehicle charging demonstration in Glasgow. The intention was to create a smart mobility technology cluster in Scotland.
He predicted what he referred to as an ‘internet of moving things’ in which the customer was at the centre and there were rings expanding outwards from there. The first ring was mobility integrators, who would be smart mobility service providers. The second ring was networks, the third vehicles and the fourth ‘things’ (defined as people and goods).
It was estimated that the global market for smart mobility would be worth £13billion by 2020.
Claire Walters was appointed Chair of Bus Users UK 18 months ago with the brief of raising the profile of the organisation. Having first said she found it hard to believe how much the industry had achieved yet how little recognition it got, she went on to say that she was aiming to encourage operators to work more closely with Bus Users UK.
With more than 2,000 motivated bus users in its membership, the organisation watched what happened in the industry from the passenger’s point of view. It was not just about complaints, and they were not just bus enthusiasts; things were changing at Bus Users UK which was becoming more outward looking and it hadn’t finished yet. The organisation wanted to see more people on buses and buses made as appealing as possible. The motivation was that it wanted buses to succeed.
In representing passengers Bus Users was frequently on the side of operators, she said, pointing out that Bus Users UK was in favour of shorter registration periods because it was madness to wait three moths to make a change that benefited passengers. If things did go wrong, there was the complaints service. She noted, ‘Operators have got more astute at nipping complaints in the bud so these days more of the cases we get involved with are more complicated.’ She believed operators were quite shy and reticent about promoting their successes and urged them ‘to vaunt their successes.’ She promised Bus Users would loudly promote operators’ successes and quietly discuss any failings with the operator.
Claire revealed that the organisation would run a campaign for more bus priorities later in the year. Later in a question session she said they were working on a code of conduct and agreed terms which local groups would have to sign up to. They would not be able to call themselves part of bus Users UK if they did not sign up.
Brigadier David Allfrey MBE
Brigadier David Allfrey MBE, Chief Executive & Producer of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, retired from the army after 34 years in 2011 to take up the role. He majored on motivation, a subject he clearly knows all about. To him, at every age from a child’s first bus journey with the chance to sit upstairs, travelling on a bus was an adventure with people going through life’s milestones on and around buses. ‘Do you and your staff see your business as part of this adventure that your customers are undertaking, or are you merely functional?’ he asked.
He had come by bus, would be going home by bus and used 22 buses every day during the festival to bring in the 1,000 strong cast to the Tattoo. Giving an idea of the scale of the operation, he said it was a business, only part of which was a show. It sells tickets worth £8.5m annually, has sold out for the last 15 years, brings £77m into the Scottish economy and attracts a bigger audience than selling out the O2 Arena for 12 nights in a row. ‘It is part of the fabric of Scotland and our great nation, but that is only a tiny part of what the show is, it is its linkage into society, it’s its linkage into the tourist business, its linkage with other people, with defence, with trade and investment, with foreign affairs, with tourism, current affairs and culture, heritage and the arts – all of that is part of the story.’
‘I’m proud to be an ambassador, not only for the tattoo but also for the City of Edinburgh, for Scotland and for Britain’, he said, adding, ‘the business of being a national sales person is something we should all be doing. I have no monopoly on the role, we should all be doing it, anyone who is customer facing, including drivers. We should be selling all the time at every level.’ As a nation we were not very good at trumpeting where we are doing well, we needed to get much better at it and compare ourselves favourably with other countries. He argued that we should all be selling the benefits of our country because although that selling may not deliver benefits to our businesses at the time, at some point that indirect influence would have some bearing on our own bottom line, because we are all interrelated.
Integration, innovation and motivation were singularly and collectively important but the words themselves were meaningless unless you understood where the elements of the three were going to impact on your own business. They had to be translated usefully for your operational business. As a manager you had to decide which one came first, whether they were addressed in sequence or in parallel.
In the information age, everyone made decisions immediately based on real information. ‘The customer is king, king and king now and all it takes is one shitty little remark on Trip Advisor and your business takes a knee in the groin.’ He suspected there were very few people in the country who really understood the depth of the social revolution which was absolutely massive and was happening at a faster pace than ever. Google promised the driverless car within ten years, the driverless bus could not be far behind.
It was important to understand the macro environment – the land you were living in. You had to consider the physical and environmental, socio demographic, science and technology, economic, legal and ethical and political dimensions, and though a slide he used also included the military dimension, he conceded that not many operators would be needing an attack helicopter in close support. We all needed to keep a constant check on them rather than just burrowing into the minutiae.
Business effectiveness, or the ability to be competitive and generate a profit, he divided into three parts. There was the conceptual (principal, practice, development and creativity), the physical (infrastructure and equipment, manpower, information and intelligence, training and finance) and finally the moral (motivation, leadership and management). He believed that the balance of the three was that the conceptual and the physical together counted as one and the moral alone as two. The moral part was why small armies beat large ones and it was all about the people.
Lessons had to be recorded and acted upon; there was a massive difference between a lesson identified and a lesson learned. Innovation was simply identifying and learning faster than somebody who was not innovating. It was having a very short decision cycle. Some operators took every customer comment, cycled it inside and did something about it, involving managers and staff. To be truly creative you had to involve everybody. If you did it without involving everybody it got labelled as a change programme, and nothing scares everybody like a change programme. If you involved everybody it was just developing. Innovation had to be needed and create value for which customers would pay. If it didn’t create value, it was not truly innovative.
Having been round the trade display he felt that there was only a little bit of innovation, ‘I think there could be more,’ he said, ‘some of the really innovative things in technology are not showing in your industry.’ He later revealed that he felt what was missing had been stuff for the bus stop. He also wondered whether people shouldn’t have been more to the fore.
Leadership was all about the unexpected and the difficult, he said. Commanding 22,500 people in the armed forces had been much easier than managing 22 in a business. The difference between being in the army and managing a business was that in the army it was command and control, and in business it was command and convince.
Defining leadership, he put up a slide which read: ‘Leadership is visionary; it is the projection of personality and character to inspire people to achieve a desired outcome. There is no prescription for leadership and no prescribed style of leader. Leadership is a combination of example, persuasion and compulsion dependent on the situation. It should aim to transform and be underpinned by individual skills and an enabling philosophy. The successful leader is an individual who understands him/her-self, the organisation, the environment in which they operate and the people that they are privileged to lead.’
Summing up his presentation, he said that he could not think of three more appropriate watchwords than Innovate, Integrate and Motivate for the conference, or indeed, any conference. He concluded with a tale from his early military career when he was given the advice: ‘learn how to thrive in chaos because if you can you will have a march on your enemy because he too is trying to thrive in the chaos. And if it isn’t chaos, cause it!’
As was repeatedly pointed out from the platform, it would not be possible to stage the Conference without the support of the trade through their sponsorship and the purchase of trade stand space. With close to 80 stands taken by 62 exhibitors, getting to see all of them represented a challenge made easier by the ingenious positioning of the lunch and tea fare within the exhibition area. This was supplemented by a vehicle display area in front of the Murrayfield stadium which afforded many their first opportunities to see new generation products including two examples of the ADL Enviro400 MMC, Lothian’s Wrightbus Gemini Volvo B5TL demonstrator and Euro6 Volvo 7900H hybrid, a 10.6m Mercedes-Benz Citaro, a door forward Wrightbus Streetlite for Bus Vannin on the Isle of Man, and a former Isle of Man East Lancs DAF DB250 that had been fully refurbished by Busworld and especially liveried inside and out by McKenna Brothers to match the conference venue.
Lack of space dictates that the innovations I saw on the many stands will be covered on our On the Move pages rather than in this article.
I had intended to go back after the last session for a further hour of research but despite this being advertised as a possibility I found the stands had been almost completely vacated during the final business session, the upside to which was that it afforded me the chance to take a tram ride and a tour of the city one of Lothian’s Mac Tours open top Routemasters. Somewhat confusingly this was a five bay example, when I had thought they were all built with either four or four and a half bays.
For some, one of the highlights of the event is the golf challenge on the day preceding the main conference, which this year was supplemented by a go-kart challenge. After more than a decade arranging the tournament, this was the last to be organised by Optare’s John Horn who presented trophies to Robert Taylor of Grayson Thermal Systems for finishing first in the main competition as well as achieving the longest drive. Other winners were, Alan Robertson of Lothian Buses for coming nearest the pin, Dave Clack of Hants & Dorset Trim (second in the tournament) and Ryan Thomas of Parkeon (third in the tournament). The Go-Karting winners were: 1st Place: Nicholas Hornsby, General Manager, Hornsby Travel. 2nd Place: Keith Finlay, Scheduler, Lothian Buses. 3rd Place: Richard Easden, National Accounts Manager, PSV Glass.
With networking a vital part of the ALBUM mix, the various evening entertainments are a good opportunity to meet other operators and suppliers in a relaxed atmosphere. Monday evening saw many of the group board the ‘Forth Belle’ for a cruise on the Firth of Forth with on board barbecue that allowed a view of the local seal population as well as the chance to see the new Forth Crossing taking shape. Tuesday night it was a change of tempo with a visit to Ghillie Dhu to enjoy the musical and dancing talents of ‘Whisky Kiss’ while Wednesday’s Grand Dinner was held at Dynamic Earth, close to the Scottish Parliament building, with excellent entertainment provided by Hazel Irving and Fred McAuley.
Extremely well organised throughout, the event was thoroughly enjoyable. The multi-site staging did not appear to undermine the networking element as I had feared it might, and although the hotels used where perhaps not of the calibre to which ALBUM has become accustomed, this was made up for by the advantages of the city centre location and the opportunities this presented. The papers were interesting though possibly not as focused on their target audience as usual, they provided an insight into the Scottish transport scene at a potentially momentous time for the country. The trade display area was widely thought by exhibitors to be the best laid out and most accessible to delegates that it has ever been, and the entertainment was both varied and enjoyable. As a whole, the event and the warm welcome provided by all of the many Lothian staff we encountered during the stay, showed what a thoroughly professional and forward thinking organisation the Lothian operation is.
The next ALBUM Conference will be held under the auspices of Travel Warrington at Carden Park on 11-13 May 2015