Cambridge Consultants revamps air park radio system

10 September 2015

Cambridge Consultants, commissioned by long-standing client Northrop Grumman, developed a new generation of the air traffic control radio system Park Air T6, which is used to manage air traffic around the globe. The new system is smaller, lighter and greener, and above all performs better.

Northrop Grumman is an American aerospace and defence technology company that was established in 1994 when Northrop Corporation (founded in 1939) purchased producer of military and civilian aircraft Grumman (founded 1929). The company provides, among others, innovative systems, products and solutions in unmanned systems and cyber security and logistics to its clients worldwide. One of Northrop Grumman’s products is the air traffic control radio system: Park Air T6, which is used to manage the movement of aircraft in the majority of the world’s airspace.

For Northrop Grumman it continues to be important to differentiate itself from its competitors, for which the Park Air T6 system needed a complete make-over. It needed to be “half the size of its predecessor, less than half the weight, more power efficient – and still deliver significant performance improvements.” With the aim of revamping the Park Air T6, and creating a ‘wow’ effect, Northrop Grumman asked its long-term partner product design and development firm Cambridge Consultants to redevelop the system. “Make it smaller, lighter, lower power – and don’t forget the performance improvement.”

Cambridge Consultants revamps air park radio system

“We started by exploring the ‘art of the possible’ in air traffic radio design with the Park Air T6 engineering team,” explains Richard Davies, Professional Radio Technology Director at Cambridge Consultants, about the design phase. “With some experimentation and modelling, preferred architecture options were identified. We then planned a rapid prototype development to de-risk the design – resulting in a jointly developed ‘works-like’ prototype to show performance.”

As Northrop Grumman not only wanted a better and greener system, but also one that is smaller, the next step in the process was “fitting the technology into a small package that would be easy to manufacture and enhance the Park Air T6 reputation for high reliability and high performance,” says Davies.

Commenting on the end result, Neil Upton, Technical Director at Northrop Grumman Park Air Systems, says: “We are very proud of what the collective team has achieved – it has definitely exceeded expectations. The secret of success in our long relationship with Cambridge Consultants is the way we work together. It’s a collaboration in which we are able to gain experience and knowledge – and benefit from technology transfer from other industry sectors. That has always worked fantastically well for us.”


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.