New technology helps monitor drugs in transit

17 March 2015

Cambridge Consultants has developed a service that tracks and monitors the condition of drugs in transit. The new service uses the firm’s wireless app-based DropTag technology which consistently uploads and updates the condition of the medicine, allowing logistics companies to intervene when necessary.

Drugs shipping
During shipping, drugs often need to be kept between 2°C and 8°C in order to be preserved. Products like biological vaccines that come above or below this range might deteriorate and become less effective. As a result, shipments might be rejected and patients might have to wait for their much needed medication. To prevent this, end-to-end monitoring of the drugs in transit is needed. This is especially crucial when there are multiple carriers, transport modes and climates involved, as even the smallest change in temperature might have large effects on the product.

Cambridge Consultants helps to preserve medicine

Journey loggers exist to track and monitor drugs while being shipped, however, 20% of these loggers get lost en route or don’t have their data uploaded. To help improve the monitoring system, product design and development firm Cambridge Consultants has developed a new monitoring technology for cold-chain logistics in healthcare industry, making use of its DropTag condition monitoring technology.

The wireless DropTag* uses smart sensor pucks to monitor the environment inside drugs packages (are sensed) and continuously uploads the data to a secure server within logistics companies or any smartphone. The technology senses temperature, vibration, humidity and shocks, giving the companies the opportunity to intervene during the distribution process if a problem is flagged up.

Cambridge Consultants’ DropTag used to help preserve medicine

Pharmaceutical company Accord Healthcare has been involved in the DropTag trials. Commenting on the technology, their Senior Director of European Strategic Operations Tony Cordrey says: “We strive to be ahead of the game in improving our processes and ensuring quality assurance – and this new DropTag application has been a tremendous enabler of that. It’s revealed some opportunities for real improvements in our shipping process – by improving the transparency of information where temperature variations are most likely to occur during a journey and giving us the confidence to safely optimise our use of shipping routes.”

* DropTag is a wireless, app-based condition-monitoring system, comprised of smart sensor pucks, an app and a secure server. The solution allows individuals and businesses to understand how goods have been treated at any given point during the journey.


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.