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Source: Financial Times, February 14, 2005
Getting data on the right track
CASE STUDY: Nederlandse Spoorwegen
Armed with 10 years experience of mobile computing, Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), the Dutch railway operator, might reasonably have expected a recent upgrade to transmit data via Bluetooth, GSM and GPRS would be straightforward.
Shortcomings in network coverage and software and hardware of the pocket PCs almost undermined the project.
The story goes back to 1995 when train managers swapped cumbersome printed timetables for handheld computers called Railpockets. Railpockets were upgraded in 1999 when SMS was introduced, enabling staff to receive real time alerts on delays or changes. By 2002–2003 the handsets needed replacing again.
The aim was to ensure staff were always up to date. At the same time the company wanted to improve management control and health and safety by getting staff to feed back updates.
Wireless network coverage cannot be guaranteed along all of NS's track, and so most information is transferred on memory cards. But staff would complete the registration process and then find the card would not work. In the meantime the PDA powered down and the PCs started to reboot for security reasons. The problem was solved only by switching the cards from the Secure Digital format to MultiMediaCard.
Recent opinion surveys show that travellers have noticed an improvement in the quality of information.
Gather more information on the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) and find out in which areas and to which degree(s) the NS really improved its performance.
Compare the NS with results of other railway companies, for example the Deutsche Bundesbahn (DB), Swiss Railway (SBB/CFF) and French Railway (SNCF). Give specific attention to economic results and operational results such as punctuality, customer satisfaction, and so on.
Is there any reason to believe that the NS outperforms international 'competitors' and on that basis can 'export' operational railway systems and procedures to improve railway performance elsewhere in Europe (such as in the UK)?
Is the NS an organization 'really in search of excellence' and scoring quick positive and core competencies? Give your arguments for this and centre on the basis of your own fact finding.
Section 9.6 - 9.9