PwC launches UK drones team to help clients profit from aerial data

09 January 2018

PwC’s UK wing has established a team of drone specialists in Britain to help clients take advantage of the airborne technology. The professional services firm has a growing network of drone-focused facilities, including a global centre of excellence focusing on the commercial use of drone technology on the continent, as the group bid to help clients extract value from drone data.

PwC has already been undertaking client work with drones globally, largely led out of a Centre of Excellence team in Poland. The Drone Powered Solutions team was formed in 2013, and now has a team of around 50, taking advantage of the more expansive drone regulation over Poland – the first country in the world to have introduced a complete legal framework and institutions regulating the commercial use of drones. Following the recent step by the British Government to announce an upcoming drone bill, UK regulations involving the use of drones in business will make ground on Polish law, opening up a space for greater commercial use in the country.

The UK drones team will now begin work with six dedicated full-time employees to cater to the growing needs of the British drone space, with plans to scale up their staff according to demand. The team will concentrate primarily on helping clients with asset maintenance and monitoring of their drones, strategic planning for the deploying of drone solutions, and with capital projects and construction monitoring involving the technology. In addition, drone specialists will be embedded in each of PwC’s main business areas – assurance, tax, deals and consulting – as well as in particular sectors, such as power and utilities, national security and construction. The UK firm has more than 2,100 technologists, and aims for drone data to become a ‘business as usual’ part of the insight it delivers to clients.

PwC launches UK drones team to help clients profit from aerial data

Despite a controversial start to life for the technology, which initially became infamous for its military and surveillance applications, demand from consumers for rapid delivery, as well as companies seeking to use drone data to anticipate consumer demand, have seen a growing commercial appetite for drones. According to PwC’s Big Four competitors Deloitte, there were over 1 million commercial drones employed by the end of 2015. Since then, the market for the aerial machinery has continued to expand rapidly, leading Marsh analysts to predict that their market value may exceed $100 billion by 2030.

Meanwhile, PwC’s own research has found that drones have the potential to disrupt a variety of industries, estimating the market for current business services and labour that could be done by drones at over $127 billion globally. This is the value of current business services and labour that are likely to be replaced in the very near future by drone powered solutions. Industries with the best prospects for drone applications, such as infrastructure, agriculture and transport, will be the main focus areas for the new team.

Elaine Whyte, a former RAF engineer, who now takes office as PwC’s new UK drones leader, said, “The majority of organisations are still using drone data at project stage, rather than embedding the technology into their strategy. I believe we’ll see drones becoming part of business as usual within the next ten years. We’re already seeing early adopters in large-scale capital projects using drone data to enhance insight into their investments, allowing for better control of building sites and creating that definitive golden record of information.”

Jon Andrews, Head of Technology and Investment at PwC, added, “Technology is central to our strategy. By combining our business understanding and services with investment in emerging technology, we are developing innovative new ways to support our clients. Our drones team is the latest example of how we are helping clients embrace and respond to disruptive trends. The combination of our expertise in cyber security and data analytics with the drones team’s insight is at the heart of how we will help businesses unlock the full potential of drones for their future success.”



How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

11 April 2019

Amey Consulting has leveraged data insights to assist Network Rail with the improvement of its South-Eastern route. Using the Quartz tool, which monitors train movement, Network Rail will now be able to commit to data-enabled interventions to quickly improve underperforming train stations.

With rail services in the UK coming under strain from the demands of modern commuter life, while the infrastructure and service delivery of the nation’s railways has come in for sustained criticism in recent years, a period of regeneration is on the cards at last. Network Rail is the owner and infrastructure manager of most of the railway network in Great Britain, and has subsequently tapped the consulting industry on a regular basis to help find areas of improvement.

The group recently drafted in consultancy BearingPoint to conduct a thorough organisational evaluation and advise Network Rail (High Speed) on attaining a ‘fit for purpose’ organisational standard – for which the consultancy was nominated at the 2019 MCA Awards. Meanwhile, ArupArcadis and Aecom have been contracted to help Colas Rail and Babcock Rail implement a decade-long framework for Network Rail, aimed at supporting the delivery of the next generation of rail systems, with the contracts said to be worth as much as £5 billion

How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

As Network Rail further aims to improve its performance and customer service offering, another area it has sought help from the consulting sector for is its South-East route. The network of railways connects London with the southern parts of the country, as well as with Europe, making it the busiest in the country, with more than 500 million passenger journeys per year. This crucial expanse of rail was plagued with small minute delays, which were impacting millions of passengers every day, while reducing the efficiency and capacity of the overall network – something Amey Consulting was selected to help solve.

Amey Consulting soon determined that with the sub-threshold delays to services only lasting for 1 or 2 minutes, most were not the subject of detailed root cause analysis, and this made their corrections almost impossible – with dire consequences. Without addressing these delays, passenger satisfaction would fall, while the capacity and efficiency of the network would be reduced, stinging the income of Network Rail even before a host of delay-related fines would hit the company.

In order to help the client gain a better understanding of where, how, when and what these small delays occur, Amey Consulting looked to demonstrate the value of data-led consulting, with a significant reduction in delays within the first month of rolling out changes to key stations. The consultants embedded themselves in Network Rail’s team, helping them learn the key skills needed to support and apply data-driven solutions.

Agile transport

This involved the deployment of the Quartz tool. The system utilises to-the-second train movement data to present the performance of individual stations across the South-East route. It allows users to effortlessly understand station performance with a high level of detail, and use this information to identify losses caused by small-minute delays. The granular data allows for targeted actions to drive efficiency savings and performance improvements. More importantly, it allows users to understand the impact of small process changes on performance. 

Steve Dyke, an Executive Partner at Amey Consulting, said of the project, “We looked to identify the physical root cause on the infrastructure, building a case for change then managing that project implementation and tracking the benefit/value.  In doing so we are working to define a data performance improvement service to the operational and infrastructure owners.”

Just as important for the project as the technology, however, was teaching the Network Rail team how to leverage it after the consultants were gone. The Amey Consulting team worked to develop an agile working culture within Network Rail’s South-East division, helping staff to be confident in using data to improve the journeys of millions of people per year by attacking the problem from the ground up.

Dyke concluded, “This is less about the tools and about the approach to managing performance.  It meant using by-the-second analysis, data science, and then agile development to visualise and identify areas where improvements can be made.  We then worked with NR to change the way they approached the management of the infrastructure changes.  So rather than pass the information down the value chain, any of which could have been missed, we managed the change end-to-end.”

The project was so successful that Amey Consulting was also among those honoured at the recent MCA Awards. The firm scooped the Performance Improvement in the Public Sector prize for its work with Network Rail, at the 2019 ceremony in London.