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The business problem we were trying to solve when we first came across Alfresco was that we used to be owned by three governments: French, English, and Belgium and a few years ago we merged into a single entity a UK limited company, and as part of that we had to take responsibility for all of the engineering drawings from all three countries.
We're a regulated industry so we're constantly being audited, so actually being able to prove that we have proper version control on our documents is hugely important to us. So, so far it looks like Alfresco is meeting those needs. So we went through the process of looking at different tools. We looked at SharePoint, we looked at Documentum and we looked at Alfresco. It was really important to have something that was web-based for the accessibility. It doesn't matter where our users are or what platform they're using.
They can access it from home, they can access it from their iPhones, their iPads. We currently have probably around 200 active users but this is a program that we're hoping to roll-out to get more and more people using it. They just liked the look and the feel of it. It's much more natural that we didn't have to sit down and teach people how to use Alfresco.
People naturally took to it . Alfresco is used throughout the business. We started with the engineers but since then we've also put all of our policy documents into Alfresco, which hits every department across the business. We've started doing IT requests for equipment through Alfresco as well. Looking to the future we have a mobile workforce, not just our staff on the trains, whizzing around Europe but our engineers are quite mobile as well.
We've got offices in the UK, France, Belgium but we've got satellite offices, so I think the mobile technology side of things is going to be a really big asset for us for mobile collaboration.
We're in the process of upgrading to Alfresco 4 at the moment and once that's in place then we're going to do a bigger drive to get all users actively using Alfresco. So far it seems to be working for us.
- Store engineering documentation in a central repository, making it instantly searchable and available to international offices and enabling a mobile engineering workforce in the future
- New and powerful digital asset management capabilities
- Versatility to deliver information resources at the point of need
- Delivering capability for the elimination of complex, manual and paper based systems and processes – enabling fast digital access to key Safety, Engineering and Operational information
- Comprehensive audit trail and governance to comply with regulatory and safety requirements
- Streamlined information distribution, management, and access controls.
- Enable secure collaboration and information sharing across international boundaries, with plans to incorporate up to 360 on board, station-based and roving operational personnel.
Eurostar is the only high-speed train service directly linking the UK to France and Belgium via the Channel Tunnel. With a simple change in Paris, Brussels or Lille, passengers can connect to over 100 European destinations, including the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany.
Since the first Eurostar train was introduced in 1994, the company’s fleet of 28 trains has carried more than 140 million passengers between London and the Continent. With ambitions to expand its destination network and encourage passengers to choose high speed rail over plan for short haul European travel, the company recently introduced services to the Swiss Alps and Provence in the South of France and announced a new direct service between London and Amsterdam that will launch in December 2016.
A company at the cutting edge of innovation in its industry, Eurostar aims to set the standard for international train travel. For the past two years the company has been using Alfresco to manage vital operational documentation that’s essential to the smooth running of this trail blazing international railway.
The starting point for Eurostar’s journey to enterprise content management began when the company completed the legal transformation to become a single unified corporate entity in 2010. Prior to this, the rail company had operated as a partnership between French, British and Belgian national rail operators – each of which was responsible for running and maintaining Eurostar trains in their own territories.
The new UK-based company now had to take ownership of the engineering drawings for the entire fleet and make these available to operational and engineering staff wherever they are based. With over 60,000 digitised drawings held in PDF and TIF formats in three different country-based systems, Claire Smith, Information Systems Business Relationship Manager at Eurostar, reviews the scale and complexity of the task that lay ahead.
“We needed a single unified repository capable of managing and distributing huge volumes of technical documentation, but that was just part of the challenge,” she explains. “To support fast retrieval and manage access permissions, we also needed to add specific searchable metadata – including drawing numbers, modification levels and tri-lingual document titles.”
When it came to selecting an ECM platform capable of supporting Eurostar’s complex information sharing needs, usability proved a critical requirement. During early end-user testing of a selection of platforms – which at the time included SharePoint and Documentum – Alfresco quickly emerged as a clear favourite.
“Alfresco scored highly with users from the outset,” confirms Smith. “They liked the look and feel of the interface and found it highly intuitive, and simple to use. From a user adoption perspective, people have taken to it naturally, with little or no training.”
Following the initial rollout of the Alfresco platform to the Engineering and Operations side of the business, more and more departments now use Alfresco as part and parcel of their daily work. While just 200 of the 1800-strong workforce are nominated active users, most employees unwittingly use and benefit from Alfresco every day through indirect usage.
“Having first implemented Alfresco as a specific solution to manage technical and engineering documentation, we now have an Alfresco champion by way of the Local Document Controllers in every department responsible for publishing all policy documents on the intranet,” explains Smith. “We’re also using Alfresco to enable the controlled access and sharing of confidential material at all levels of the organisation up to Board level.”
“Alfresco is helping us to automate previously cumbersome paper-based internal processes,” says Smith. “Furthermore, as a highly regulated industry, being able to demonstrate rigorous version control for our documents is hugely important for us.”
For example, Alfresco is currently in trial to be used to support company-wide IT requests – employees simply submit an electronic request form via the intranet that’s then managed through an approval process powered by an Alfresco workflow and delivered to the IT service desk for fulfilment. The trial has been successful and we are now looking at wider roll out.
We’ve been working with our partners Zaizi for nearly three years in implementing and supporting these business enhancements using Alfresco.
Getting on board with mobile collaboration
With the help of Zaizi a major mobile collaboration project is now being piloted to further extend the benefits of Alfresco to the company’s 360-strong train crew workforce.