Monday, 13 November 2017

Parallel Learning - UK Emergency Service Vehicles - Investment in Scaled Efficiencies for an Ever Broadening Multi-Task Spectrum

Part 4 : Inspiration of the 'Modular Methodology'

To highlight the gains to be obtained from the use of 'modularisation' – and its foundation of 'the rational method', the following consists of diverse examples that have transformed the productive capacity of society at large.

Best Practice Examples -

As previously described at the beginning of this web-log, “modular systems” have been in use for hundreds of years, indeed in simplistic form, for millennia.

However, there is obviously a world of difference in scale and complexity between the geometrical optimal factory packing of say chocolate Easter Eggs, to that of the pin-point 3D space identification and overtly automated utilisation in Amazon's massive warehouse facilities, to that of the 'box within a box within a box' mentality necessary of a global logistics company such as FedEx, DHL etc for maximum transport space utilisation.

Modularisation then, in its many forms, is in the world around us, and not just the obviously man-made, but also in nature as seen with the fractal, modularised replication of a complete tree echoed in the veins of its leaves.

However, it is modern built infrastructures, and where man-made vision has been made material into reality, that mankind's best practice should once again be recognised so as to inspire a better created future.

The following inspirational examplars from various fields:

1. Military
2. Commercial
3. Public Service
4. Education
5. Automotive
6. Television


Given the sad history of human war-mongering over resources and riches, it should come as no surprise that innate logic was earliest applied to this arena, this discipline leading to the term 'logistics'.

The efficient transportation of men, supplies and machinery was always paramount, and so the importance of 'vessel' type devices was always much considered, from the humble food-box, to the back-pack to the water or fuel 'jerry-can' right up to the latch-down layouts of heavy transport, from off-road 12-wheel drive TATRA trucks to the floor systems of heavy-haul aircraft like the Lockheed C-130 Hercules or new Airbus A400 Atlas.

Unsurprisingly, the common theme across much military equipment is that of optimisation through standardisation. This well underway in logistics by the early 19th century, this tangibly recognised and popularised by the dimensional accuracy of inter-changable parts for 'deconstructable and reconstructable' Colt revolvers.

Such examples helped the cause of standardisation and so efficiency, especially for any logistics corp. Thus arguably, as advantageous as the standardised weaponry has been likewise in transportation and on the ground deployment.

Of specific interest to this web-log is the seemingly humble transport container has evolved enormously over the preceding decades, especially so in within military use.

Effectively gestated in its modern form during WW1 for train to truck loading by both sides, it evolved again through WW2, and dramatically so by the US immediately after WW2 with creation of the first recognisable modern steel, 'hand-clap' door container – the 'Transporter'.

Thereafter, especially through the Vietnam War, modularisation via the transport container has formed the backbone of the US and thereafter international military operations, which led to the CONtainer EXPress system, or CONEX, allowing for greater modular configurations, improved stacking and storage.

By the 1970s the maturation of commercial systems encouraged use of both 40' and 20' length containers. These set the two typical set sizes used and range from being stored wholly empty with thousands of others awaiting dispatch, to deployed 'dress-ready' into 'the field' whether a stand-alone generator-house, or a conjoined mass, specially kitted-out to become as a unified operations base (possibly including command post, stores, medic, mess, sleeping quarters etc)

The military container has then been developed through space and HVAC rationalisation, user ergonomics aswell as aspects of packaging engineering; from low-level flight drop tests with crushable 'cushion' bases to airtight or vacuum sealed units for highly sensitive equipment

The development of the US Dept of Defense Container System is a story unto itself, affecting NATO and others, a story and productivity phenomenon which the UK Emergency Services would do well to reacquaint itself with.

Commerce :

Obviously, containers in a myriad of forms have been central to the thousands of years of local, regional and worldwide trade.

The first identifiable development with relation to the transferring of specialised carry-boxes between water, rail and road vehicles were thanks to James Brindley and Benjamin Outram in the late 1700s; these morphed into the earilest form of recognised 'containerization, by way of 'loose boxes'. By 1917 Benjamin Frankin Fitch had created his own design of 'demountable bodies' soon used by US railroads. And other efforts were made in Poland and the UK, centred around rail.

But it was only after the devastating effects of the 1929 Great Depression, undermining, fragmenting and halting trade worldwide, that the idea of internationally collaborative containerization came to the fore. Fitch re-entered the scene with 2 dimensions of container (either open or closed) and the 'Fitch Hooking System', and upon this the first container terminal was created by the Pennsylvannia RailRoad Co in 1932.

The ability to move a unified load from one form of transport to another via a standard container is officially called the 'intermodal freight container', spanning sea, rail and road; the first example of this in Canada in1955 between North Vancouver and Skagway, Alaska, USA. Similar efforts were made in mainland USA a year later between Newark, New Jersey and Houstan, Texas.

Success of the general system led to a proliferation of container or “box” sizes, and it was over a decade until ISO standards and regulations were ratified (between 1968 and 1970).

The gains of containerization in terms of speed, efficiency and so cost were enormous, whilst the general operations of ports, rail-heads and haulage depots altered likewise with a reduction of manpower required to transfer loads between transport mediums.

And to befit the now powerfully convenient system, manufacturers changed shipment packaging sizes and methods to suit, with periodically even the dimensions of the innate product itself so as to maximise the utilisation space of the whole container.

Thus the very effect of modularisation had a consequential effect of whole or partial modularisation throughout the supply system.

The influence of the ISO standards latterly meant that (non-stackable) truck bodies – known as 'swap-bodies' – would come to match similar dimensions, and that freight pallets (wooden, plastic and metal) would likewise be sized to fit.

Critically the worldwide adoption of these container standards means that even though there may be regional differences in other transport standards (such as narrow, standard and broad gauge rail) transport of the standard container is largely assured.


The simple Lego brick (and its myriad of shaped successors) has become itself locked into the minds of adults and children all over the world regards educational play. Today the company is second only to the enormous Mattel Inc in terms of ranking, but has perhaps an unrivalled brand persona, given that the popularity of old favourites like Barbie, Cindy, Action Man have declined, overtaken by the impact of film, video and internet content related to character based toy merchandising (Disney Corp the obvious beneficiary).

The story of Lego itself has become the stuff of legend, from rustic roots in a carpenter's shed to multi-billion dollar empire, with its own ability to ride trends in popular culture franchises and business alliances.

A succinct article was published in the December 2013 edition of Octane Magazine (p142), which provides a pertinent perspective.

“Near bankruptcy in 1990, Lego fought back.

Founded in 1932 in Billund, Denmark by Ole Kirk Kristiansen a local master carpenter who added toys to his repetoire, the name 'Lego' derives from 'Leg Godt' meaning “play well”, it highlighted later by an external scholar that in Latin it means “I put together”.

The first injection moulding machine was imported in 1946 and Kristiansen decided to use this innovative device to create quicker and more cheaply produced plastic toys to accompany the hand and machine-made wooden ones. His primary plastic creation was “the Automatic Binding Brick” in 1949, which would be re-made as the 'stud and tube' brick in 1957, the coupling system patented in 1958.

[NB The idea itself sprang from the British toy 'Kiddicraft' of 1932, an original creation of the latter large Fishercraft company, slightly modified to include a 'peg' design].

A factory fire destroyed Kristiansen's wooden toy plant and so the company became reliant upon its plastic output.

In 1962 the Lego kits were made more versatile with the introduction of the Lego wheel, and thereafter the bricks adapted in shape, colour and texture to befit various themes, from housebuilding to automotive to characters to iconic architectures, and much else.

Construction with the modular brick(s) is nothing new (Egyptians to Romans to the efforts of a Victorian builder from Ware, Hertfordshire to produce a range of lightweight hollow kiln bricks, to reduce manual input and so costs, which when in situ concrete could poured to set.

But it is the devotion of Lego's founder, his familial successors and the raft of ever so typically Danish executives, until of late, that created the modular icon.

Public Service:

A prime aim of government procurement at national, regional and local levels is to ensure maximum utility/service advantage for minimum cost. As such 'tenders for contract' will seek to best balance the pros and cons of an array of product or service providers.

Thus increasingly procurement officials “go to the market” to evaluate what different firms promise to offer. But depending upon many variables - from the longevity of trading, level of internal efficiencies, ability to tailor standard service – means that in one way or another the product or service offering will rarely be truly optimal. This especially so since to gain best price and supplier flexibility any offered contract will be of a relatively short duration.

This negates the idea of long-term planning and with it the ideal of a long-horizon product / service solution. As such local, regional and even some aspects of national government are not permitted to view their forward requirements in the same manner as say the Armed Forces; these seen as a core requirement which befit long-term planning and related research, development, manufacturing and roll-out.

Increasingly the ideal of “fit for purpose” relates to “befitting the purse”, especially in a budget contrained age such as today. And as such even what should be big impact public projects tend to become watered down.

This the case with London's “New Routemaster” bus in 2012, a bus which whilst housing a hybrid engine, was in reality a basic adaption and trendy re-skin of conventional engineering, replacing the Mercedes 'bendy-bus'. Intended to add renewed identity and pride to Londoners and employment in Northern Ireland, the home of its manufacturer WrightBus.

But this was not always so.

There was a time when long-term planning of 'public good' products was innate to the ambitions and capabilities of Britain.

None more so than the original Routemaster, its own ideal, engineering brief and that of its infrastructure centred around the 'Modular System' for long-term service duration and so a macro-perspective on much reduced 'long-life-cycle' running costs.

Original Routemaster's launch year (as with original Mini) was 1959, the same year that the Conservatives won their 3rd term election.

This is mentioned because only because it appears that it was the expected stability of a single ruling political party – and so the stability of policy and funding – that allowed the lengthy planning and delivery time-frame for what would be a watershed vehicle and holistically integrated transport programme; both using the 'modular approach'.

Whilst the vehicle designers at what was then a very centralised London Transport looked to advanced engineering techniques to incorporate into the future-forward project, infrastructure planners and architects likewise sought to maximise the operations system that would underpin the expected 50 year maintenance and overhaul schedule to keep the buses running long into the future.

London Transport's bus facilities had been used during WW2 to build the Halifax bomber, a process which established the vital importance of standardisation of interchangeable parts via dimensional accuracy. Much had been learned which was utilised in the 1948 mass production of the RT bus (the Routemaster's predecessor). By the mid 1950s London had the world's biggest standardised bus fleet.

Ambitions regards the next generation bus grew commensurately bigger, buoyed by the new engineering age within car design – primarily: monocoque structure, lightweight aluminium, independent coil-sprung suspension, cabin heating, power-steering and automatic gearbox; the central aspects of the Routemaster, many of which were seen years ahead of mainstream cars.

The next bus would likewise use the large Aldenham overhaul centre, but with more designed-in modularity, to allow for even greater efficiencies and so even quicker service, maintainence or full refurbishment turnaround times.

The modular 'space-frame' or 'birdcage' body design mimicked that used on the best of aircraft, and was even more sophisticated than that deployed by the tailor-made Italian carrozzeria on specialist sports-cars. Whereas that type of strong tubular frame carried unstressed panels, the far more modularised Routemaster used its panels to re-enforce the strength of the basic frame. Attached to that frame are front and rear sub-frames to carry axles and engine.

It took 8 years from concept to production via an exhaustive design, engineering and testing programme, the first prototype in 1954 and put into test-service in 1956 to wean-out in-service problems, with SOP (start of full scale production) in 1959, with components made by AEC in Southall S.W. London and build at Park Royal in W. London.

As such a prolific 'public good' achievement, the name of Bill Durrant, Colin Curtis and Douglass Scott should be recognised.

They knew it would be the holistical understanding and application of 'The Modular Approach' that would balance the cost-quality-speed equation and so provide good long-term efficient service through deliberately designed-in cost constraint.

Television / Popular Culture :

Since the writings of HG Wells “going to moon”, Isaac Asimov's ideas about the “ROBOT” and Fritz Lang's cinematic presentation of a future 'Metropolis', the merging of science fact and conjecture has generated science fiction; this 'hyper-contextualisation' – ever since and latterly created at 'warp-speed' on our screens, considered the philosophical nebulous for heralding “the shape of things to come”.

The second-half century backdrop saw the corresponding rise of Sci-Fi hero vs villain comic books, and so as to better animate such figures, by the time the 1960s arrived a broad cast of 'save the day' puppet-based characters were adventuring by air, land and sea; from Captain Scarlet to Joe 90.

The largely Anglo-American televisual popular culture of the time used as an effective 'soft-power' exercise, first for domestic audiences, thereafter international recipients. Plots devised across the world - from the London Underground to Amazonian Rain Forest - to demonstrate a paternal influence regards globally relevant social issues; with of course much of that stemming from lookalikes of Cold War enemies.

None are better known than 'Thunderbirds', especially so in its original 1960s puppet format. (Though also known to younger generations in both live-action and computer generated depictions).

The Tracey sons took on the mantle of highly collaborative modern-day guardians, able to reach the farthest distances of the planet and even into space with a full suite of specialist aircraft and associated equipment; assisted by their 'London Agent' Lady Penelope in her (then ironically) “chinese wheeled” pink Rolls-Royce.
But of particular note to mission success was the big green cargo carrier: Thunderbird 2, its launch sequence the joy of the 1960s school-boy.

Arriving after Thunderbird 1 (the reconnaissance craft), TB2 operated as the multi-role strategic and tactical heavy hauler. It's basic form could be termed a “perimeter air-frame” or “void chassis frame”: an arrangement which allows for the swallowing carrying one of a range of modular cargo 'Pods'.

Each of the 6 pods dedicated to a specific task with suitable equipment inside.

So, unlike the fast response, 'TB1', Thunderbird 2 was the task-master, dedicated to the successful outcome of the specific challenge encountered. Critically it achieved this because of its ability to fundamentally reconfigure itself, in what is essentially a “bolted-on” format for the urgent need.

Thanks to its speedy reconfigurability the functional flexibility afforded meant that in this fictionalised (yet largely factually correct) world, that the right equipment was 'put on the ground' using a highly rational 'mix and match' approach of a separate transport vehicle accompanied by a specifically tailored functional box.

The functional inspiration for this vehicle was undoubtedly the Sikorsky S-61 'heavy-lift' helicopter of the period for its 'empty belly' airframe, whilst the Fairchild C-119 airplane, nicknamed the “Flying BoxCar”, was used for general aero-aesthetic.

Thunderbirds in Context -
The TV series producers, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, had come from affluent sociological academic backgrounds. Together with bright and informed script-writers, set designers, model-makers and puppeteers, they could see how the best-practices of the armed forces of the period could be adopted for the global social good; from 'Recon to Clean-Up'. This central idea of a worldwide 'International Rescue' task force was a knowing complimentary parallel to the then growing humanitarian remit of the United Nations, itself largely led by the US.

[NB Interestingly in this very vein, in 1981 a real volunteer organisation named the International Rescue Corps was established in Scotland. The work of the UN itself obviously much expanded during the past fifty years].


As states previously the auto-industry has long sought forms of modularisation where feasible, whether from complete vehicle architecture, down to specific fitments. This spanning the rationales of 'Common Components', 'Re-Positionable Items' and 'Changable Parts'

From 'common components' perspective, this the longest industry trend given the obvious cost gains, with application across various different model types of similar segments (eg door frames, door handles, door locks, door hinges, front lamp units, side-lamps, the industry norm right up the the 1990s. This often provided the advantage of an obvious brand style, but increased public design conscious and higher stylistic aspiration began to limit the obvious use of such as ploy hence the need to gain component commonality and cost savings 'under the skin'. This leading to much deployed 'module sets' of sub-systems (as pioneered by VW Group) and reduced aesthetic quality-enginering in “invisible areas” such as the unseen paint coatings behind the dashboard (led by Toyota-Lexus).

[NB Nonethless the drive for as much unseen commonality across as much of the model range as feasible has been, and continues to be, a prime engineering goal, both 'horizontally' across a specific model's variants, 'vertically' typically across two neighbouring segment classes, from city cars to large SUVs, and 'extended horizontally' in the form of JV programmes with other manufacturers].

Historically, vehicle styling trends fluctuated over the decades (in sine-wave pattern) from 'geometric' to 'organic' and back and forth in form, and 'clean' to 'ornamental' and back and forth in accoutrements. With specific broader socially related fashion trends also leading and periodically impacting the designer's mind, from 1930s Art Deco pseudo-intellectual 'Streamlining' to 1950s 'Pop-u-Lux' colour and Chrome' to 1970s New Modernism inspired by the dual impact on the public consciousness of both the Scandinavian-look and the Space-look adopted from futuristic films.

It was the latter which influenced many in the car world, and led to the 'modular' gaining ground where appropriate, best seen through to the use of specifically inter-changable items, such the trend for LHD-RHD 'switchable' instrument binnacles by many makers, the 'Basic-Beauty' idea taken further by others to enhance utility and reduce skin-panel and glazing tooling costs (best shown by the orginal FIAT Panda), with the 'switchable' ideology deployed for the intended mid 1990s revolution of the original SmartCar, offering the ability for owners to easily swap the car's outer panels.

However, whilst the tenets of modularity regards product commonality and re-congiurability / inter-changability is undoubtedly more amenable to utility orientated commercial user-buyer, since the Panda's 1980s heyday the increase in apparent wealth related 'status symbolism' in all things consumerist, over the idea and advantage of functional rationality, has become increasingly entrenched in private car ownership. Differentiation and (believed) uniqueness rates much higher, and so the need for greater stylistic freedom which in turns undermines the foundations for modularisation.

Even so, the idea of 'symbolic utility' remains – even if not used fully – in the premium badge SUV and Cross-Over, with even a noted return of the utilitarian by typically older people, with the popularity of car-based van derived MPVs (PSA's Berlingo/Partner, FIATs Doblo/Qubo, and of course Japan's 'Tall-Boy' kei and small cars still very popular domestically for their comparative 'TARDIS'-like functionality.

Yet carrozzeria and automakers have sought to explore and try to popularise the modular, three of the best illustrations being...

1982 - ItalDesign 'Capsula' Concept -
Further to the MegaGamma Taxi concept of extreme space utilisation, the 'Capsula' was what could be later considered as the first 'skateboard' platform for an ICE package, the term and basis later adopted by GM, Tesla and others regards EVs.

Given Italy's, Europe's, Japan's and South America's small urban roadways Guigario believed that FIAT (or another VM) could create something akin to an updated small 'everyman' Model T : the factory configurable 'task-body-built' car for a myriad of applications and users. It was shown as a full scale model as a private car with enhanced green-house visibility and wide 'gullwing' side-door, to heighten its social interactiveness with the city. But was illustrated with alternative body types on its double-belt-line: School-Bus / Ambulance (Van) / Drop-Side and Canvas-Top Pick Up / Tow-Truck and 'Jolly' (Beach Car).

[NB a short personal conversation with Fabrizio Guigario (Giorgetto's son) in 2001 at the Goodwood FoS (Style et Lux), led to the received understanding – by reading between the lines - that the car was destined as a design exercise to tempt FIAT into targeting 'Capsula' for Brazil so as to grow its local market share and create a true 'Brazilian Car' to surpass the VW Brasilia].

1995 - Mercedes Vario Concept -
At this point in time (before its ill-fated purchase of Chrysler to expand product range and market coverage) Daimler sought to explore the increasingly important issue of dealer-based customer contact as 'service depth' became as hot topic, and lateral thinking regards solutions provision for what was still a somewhat select, comfortably-off luxury audience that had broad lifestyles, and so possibly sought greater vehicle flexibility, depending upon 'mood and mode'.

The outcome was the original Vario concept (not related to the later passenger-taxi van). This mooted the possibility that the vehicle owner could swap body-styles depending upon need or desire, so spanning Coupe, Convertible and Wagon variants.

The base car itself was complete with doors, all except for the upper rear portion behind the A-pillar to mid-point on the rear quarter-panel and inner structure, wherein a descrete shut-line was used to merge a different upper-body style, and the use of a pillarless (ie non-existant B-post) architecture.

The concept itself was soon overtaken, and so still-born before true market testing, by the big picture strategy regards the merger-acquisition with Chrysler.

1994 - Renault 'Modus' Concept -
Though the name is now familiar as the small Modus MPV of 2004, this concept arrived a decade earlier..

The vehicle itself was akin to the new functionality trend being set-out by Japanese automakers, themselves seeking to maximise their own medium, small and kei car related urban and rural functionality, that would themselves range from yet more camping cars to the extremes of personal pods to micro semi-trailers.

The concept Modus drew its inspiration from Renault's other divisions and beyond, from its Van division in terms of innate utility and its Heavy Truck division in terms of a tall passenger cab with tall 'bubble' glazing.

Less technically sophisticated as 'Capsula' the intent was nevertheless to create an urban adaptable vehicle for many different uses.

The central idea was for the vehicle's low rear deck to accept various alternative rear body types, ranging from standard panel van, to glazed passenger unit (so akin to latter city MPVs), to Pick Up, to task specific 'pod' (camping, refrigeration, security, and much else).

In concept it appeared to evolve upon the same principles as the 'camper back' seen fitted to American full size and small pick-ups in the 1970s and 1980s, unlike those retro-fitted campers, with a specific technical solution to allow the pod to slot-into and lock-into the vehicle deck's lower frame and inner-sides.

In Summary -

Across many diverse fields, the central rational of proposed and implemented 'innovative modularisation' has both promised and delivered transformative gains across the realms of lifecycle costs and long-term continuation, overall operational quality and a reduced time-scale of ultimately very necessary repeat procurement..

To this end, those that directly lead and fund the UK's Emergency Services, could and indeed should “create the future” for both the nation itself and the myriad of opportunities for international export sales into tomorrow and far beyond.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Parallel Learning – UK Emergency Service Vehicles – Investment in Scaled Efficiencies for an Ever Broadening Multi-Task Spectrum

Part 3 : “Re-Imagining the Box” as the Central Idiom to a Re-Configurational and Cross-Configurational Highly Adaptive Emergency Services System.

Starting with True Strategic Thinking -

Just as the armed forces undertake Strategic Planning exercises to ascertain the inputs and likely outcomes within 'theatres' of combat, and so the specific types of equipment and vehicles required, so the leaders and tacticians of the UK's core Emergency Services should theoretically be positioned to understand - with perhaps even greater clarity – their own operational remits and operational contexts.

[NB The Economist magazine/newspaper recently published an article in which it illustrated how some American and European Emergency Services had used what was in essence 'parallel learning' from the Armed Forces when dealing with Terrorist related casualty incidents].

This said, it must also be recognised that the armed forces typically have innately simplistic hi-level goals and hi-level methods for achieving them, whether defence, attack, peace-keeping or humanitarian.

In comparison the Emergency Services face a broader set of 'on call' challenges for those on the ground, so although needing to deal with a far narrower 'operational theatre' have many more 'call variables' when actually in the field, even with standard procedures in place.

Thus perhaps even more so given the nation's immense reliance upon the three services, the nation would gain from the Police, Ambulance and Fire-Rescue services undertaking similar 'deep-level' thinking.

Wherein all facets of vehicle use and solutions provision would be extensively re-considered, with the guiding principles of efficiency and effectiveness promoting fresh thinking for exploratory alternatives.

The prime alternative being the major task a complete re-design of the UK's inter-connected ES system upon a highly rationalised, modular-tech based, logistics-hub basis.

Ordinarily it is perceived that higher effectiveness can only be obtained through higher public spending, but the challenge of improved effectiveness can be matched by the spur of fresh thinking and solutions innovation.

Seen time and again in UK industry when facing severe problems, it was new and original thinking about the problem faced, and the solutions sought that altered the trend-path of history. One of the greatest being the original 1959 Austin Mini, designed 'from scratch' with Issigonis's innate modular thinking, from technological, user and production standpoints.

Hence the car was effectively designed as a 'traction head' (transverse mounted engine, gearbox and half-shafts to wheels on subframe, itself attached to various 'back-end' body types). But moreover it had unrivalled internal space for driver and passengers for its size, because of innovative engine and suspension/wheel packaging, and critically was engineered to meet the requirement for speedy body welding and paint; hence the external seams for easy access by welders and a central dash binnacle through which the vehicle body 'paint-line skewer' passed.

As Issigonis proved with aplomb, it often lateral thinking – not simply a 'good money after bad' – will very likely generate new cost-savings and productivity improvements.

[NB As part of the Western World's necessary eco-based structural re-invention, fresh thinking is needed more than ever, and the edicts of Edward de Bono ripe for reconsideration].

Given the typically expensive leasing, and through-life running costs of Emergency Service vehicle fleets, a major re-think about vehicle types and indeed the whole system (from both geographic or service category perspectives) is needed.

[NB to this end the recently rebuffed integration of London's City Police into the Metropolitan Police should be reconsidered, since much could no doubt be learned by both Forces, the City service assisting the Met with anti-attack and the Met assisting the City with more proficient cost amortisation. With the City Police's iconic red vehicles now serving most obviously, but descretely, as diplomatic protection, much of the former 'Red Dragon' identity of has diminished].

The Task Vehicle Paradox -

To state the obvious, different vehicle types undertake variously different roles, each typically chosen and adapted to either balance the cost v performance equation, or bias to one side of that equation, depending upon budget and context.

Hence Beat Officers in one region may have to try and bundle a suspect into the back of a small cheaply leased Hyundai hatchback, hand-cuffed to a 'make-do' hand-strap in the roof, with no decent restraint or separation; whilst a Traffic Officer in the same constabulary may have had the comparative 'tool efficiency' of a high-powered Volvo T5 estate of yesteryear, or today a similar Sport or M series BMW or Audi RS.
Thus we see that whilst some dedicated or highly adapted vehicles enable police personnel in their roles, others effectively impede. Inevitably not all vehicle solutions are perfect, but it appears that (as with road-side cameras) since the 1990s there has been budget provision for those vehicles which could be termed 'money earners' through driving fines, whilst budget constraints have been obvious in the everyday traditional urban policing roles.

It should therefore be remembered that “the better the tool, the better the job” for all concerned.

Vehicle Types -

Land-based vehicles have evolved in relation to general automotive engineering – as will be simply discussed hereafter, with specific reference to the opportunity for vans.

Perhaps most prolific has been the use of aircraft by the Police and Ambulance services. Helicopters notably able to cover large distances quickly, and respectively able to provide eye-in-the-sky surveillance (general or call) and to speedily reach and recover injured persons from otherwise problematic off-road and remote locations.

At the more conventional ground level, the last decade has seen the introduction of more localised quick response vehicles, notably so on two wheels given their urban speed advantage with both motorcycles and bicycles. Two wheels long been deployed by the police, though in and out of favour at different times; for both intentionally slow pedal-based high visibility, friendly “Dixon of Dock Green” type 'community policing', with an increased use of powerful motorcycles to meet quick response situations and high-speed on-highway pursuits.

Similarly, yet more so, the use of specific car types has evolved to meet various role requirements. From the standard 'Patrol (or UK 'Panda') car used for the everyday, to the high-speed, increased equipment needs of traffic units, the quick-response needs of armed 'weapons-deployment 'units, through to the needs of 'search and sniff' dog units typically for drugs and other contraband.

However it may be the case that effectively operating as specific role mobile accommodation devices - varying in volume and 'fitted-out' for one of a myriad of tasks - it appears likely that it is the van that offers the greatest possible progress toward advancing the “CapEx Cost vs Service Quality” equation.

The Van -
From 'Paddy Wagon' to C4I Comms Centre -

For decades from the 1920s to the 1970s the standard police van remained virtually unchanged. The once simple trusty 'black maria' or 'paddy wagon' itself little more than a side-bench, grille-divided panel van fitted with by the 1960s a service radio; used for the housing and transportation of both “cops and robbers” as the situation required, whether that be crowd enforcement or bank villains.

Yet with the growth and specialisation of police tasks the once simple van has evolved into a wide suite of very much task-tailored van types, so requiring a range of volumetric body-sizes, security devices, and a broad spectrum of function specific internal fittings.

Today in operation police vans span everything from needs of old-style 'paddy wagon' (though updated) through to highly technical “C4I” (Command, Control, Communication, Computers and Intelligence) centres operating in-situ.

The following list provides a general insight into the models used by London's Metropolitan Police:
(layman's description).

(Standard Body, Low-Level Adaption - Constabulary Marked)
1. Personnel Van -
standard crew-cab (std or mid top) – police personnel only

2. Protected Personnel Van -
mid or hi-top crew cab – for possibly violent situations.
(mid or high top, given long hours in van and need to periodically stand)

3. 'Duty Van' –
half-window, std or mid top - police personnel and arrest suspects (rear section cell)

4. 'Dog Section' Van –
half-window, std or mid tope – akin to std crew-cab (rear dog kennel)

5. Equipment Van -
standard panel van – equipment only

6. 'Commercial Unit' -
standard panel van or half-window – for roadside repair of police vehicles

7. 'Camera Van' -
standard panel or crew cab – traffic safety use (camera hidden or visible)
(Bespoke Body, High Adaption – Constabulary Marked
8 Equipment Van (large) -
'Luton' body, large volume - for equipment

9. 'Observation Van' (large) –
'Luton' body, large volume – for crowd observation

10.'Command Unit' -
'Luton' body (with few windows) – C4I unit for in-situ reporting

11.'Secure Transport' –
Strong-box 'Luton' body (with security windows) – high-risk prisoners

This illustrates the diversity of van types currently in use within the UK

Although effectively task dedicated, with a requirement to maintain or better functionality, the crucial point is that to not view these vehicles as pre-designated complete vehicle types.

In reality, each van consists of its general systems: body, trim, chassis, powertrain, electrical, plus its dedicated systems specific fittings.

The body much modified to suit the desired application; whether that be a standard bodied van straight off the production line, with requisite low-level adaption, or a wholly dedicated bespoke body mated to an ex-factory standard 'chassis-cab' using the consummately professional but also relatively expensive services of an authorised vehicle conversion specialist.
[NB as the term denotes, “chassis cab” being a normal front-end of van or truck, but with the rearward portion of the chassis left open for fitment of specific body type: eg large “Luton” box, frame rails with drop-curtains, cage, 'drop-side' bed, lift-bed etc].

It is here in the 'Modularisation' of the rear body section that fundamental gains could be achieved.

“Function, Not Form” -

Of course, the larger and heavier the vehicle becomes because of the size and weight of those fittings the greater impact it has upon the performance of a vehicle, especially important if a quick response unit such as an ambulance.

[Eg. in the 1980s the London Ambulance Service actually had Sherpa vans fitted with Rover V8 engines to address the much increased vehicle mass, so increasing fuel costs].

Nonetheless, ultimately in use terms, 'the van' simply consists of the forward located driving area (the cab), with the major portion of its dimensions related to the task related functionality – whatever that may be.

Beyond this prime spacial and task utility, the ideals of product-service quality, good ergonomics for driver and passengers, and invariably (as exemplified historically) bias toward either good on-road performance (engine and chassis) for quick response, or toward markedly improved fuel economy for general use, so as to obtain this advantage in the reduced running costs of the fleet.
[NB it must be noted that this once invariable trade-off between performance and fuel economy is now being reduced with the use of petrol/diesel electric hybrid power-trains; an electric motor for fast acceleration, sustained with internal combustion engine, set out either in 'series' or 'parallel'].

Thus, in this new-age of propulsion possibilities, it is high time that Emergency Service Vans be not viewed from their historical perspective – which itself stemmed from sadly inevitable ad hoc evolution – but in a new light recognising the fundamental intersect of chassis/powertrain and body; and the vital roles each must undertake for both broad society in the ecological sense and the individual(s) (personnel and public) when the contextual need arises.

Such a new perspective would allow for a revolution in new thinking about the very construct of the 'box-van', its internal and external reconfigurability and critically the opportunity to achieve better regional and nationwide cross-fleet inter-operability and so marked efficiencies.

These to be gained from flexibility improvement of the overall logistics system – Standardisation as its philosophy and Re-Configurability as its technical approach.

By viewing best practice in other operational fields lessons may be learned and 'ideology transfer' prompting an interpreted 'technical transfer' of those high efficiency solutions.

To Follow -

A few 'best practice' examples in which such a philosophy and approach has revolutionised the cost benefit equation.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Parallel Learning – UK Emergency Service Vehicles – Investment in Scaled Efficiencies for an Ever Broadening Multi-Task Spectrum

Part 2 : “Thinking Inside the Box”

The phrase “to think outside the box” has become the archetype of increasingly meaningless 'corporate-speak'.

Yet, from time immemorial - long before the invention of the wheel – the first incarnations of the box began with a folded large leaf and hollowed-out tree trunk so as to carry water and food and the creation of four walls and roof for shelter, thousands of years of incremental technological development leading to boxes as the case of a palm-held e-device, itself cyber-connected to more and more satellite relay boxes that orbit the earth.

We live in a world wherein 'the box' of whatever material, size and form derives its basic utility from a contained space put to functional use. Yet as the Zen Buddhists well recognised in their own teachings, it is not the shell itself that is the specifically useful component of the vessel, but the empty area within.

Beyond the plethora of increasingly sophisticated boxes that allowed civilisation to prosper materialistically, societies themselves must be well governed via speedy and efficient implementation of its codes of conduct, so as to operate as peacefully and productively as possible.

As described previously, very much 'part and parcel' of such an aim is the central role of the emergency services, spanning Police, Ambulance and Fire-Rescue. These public services around the world have evolved from basic volunteer roots (still so in many rural areas) through to civic-run highly structured and increasingly mechanised regimes.

Throughout each services history their development and effectiveness can be seen as either evolutionary or revolutionary.

An example of the evolutionary manner was the way that in some US regions the large, heavy and laborious horse-drawn steam-powered fire pump was at the turn of the 20th century fitted with a new motorised 'traction head'; a truly hybridised machine that on paper provided both cost-savings by retaining the rear wagon construction and pump, and much reduced long-life costs and comparative reliability after initial expensive outlay; its secondary function to encourage the popularisation of motor vehicles so as to clean-up urban areas from the dirt and disease of street-dropped manure.

An example of the revolutionary manner was by the mid 1970s seen with the introduction of very specialist large and capable fire appliances for rapidly changing airport and military-base applications. The size, material and fuel-type of then modern planes – led by the 'Jumbo Jet' – meant that standard appliances became increasingly impotent. Much increased needs in water capacity, foam capacity, spray-reach and response time meant that a new radically different generation of new dedicated tenders were required, to be known as 'Crash Tenders'.

Thus we see that given specific circumstances an evolutionary or revolutionary approach has been determined by commensurate authorities, but each has its own pros and cons: evolutionary typically cost-related, revolutionary typically task-related.

What is required is the ability to merge both 'evolutionary cost efficiency' and 'revolutionary task efficiency'.

Everyday Observation -

“Scaled Modularisation”

From simple observation of the world around us, investment-auto-motives believes it sees opportunities for, and multiple gains to be had, from a “box modularisation” approach for what have become ever more broadening remit (yet also task-tailored) Police, Ambulance and Fire-Rescue vehicles.

Modularisation has been with us for thousands of years, as seen from the building of the Egyptian pyramids through to the scaled basis farming which underpinned Britain's 'Enclosure Act' in the 18th century.

Critically it sat at the heart of 20th century industrial age, from the layout and 'cabinetisation'of the electro-mechanics of early automated telephone call-relay sub-stations, to its focus in 'Modernist Design' led by the Bauhaus, to commercial and domestic shelving units, to kitchen cabinets, to the open-plan modular office, right through to 'modularised sub-systems' in car platform design, so allowing greater cross-vehicle type applications and so much reduced unit costs.

Yet, whilst very well exemplified by the tea-carrying crates of the 18th century for better arrangement of a tea-clipper's ship's hold, and seen again in most things mass-manufactured, such as shoes, the nadir of modularisation – indeed 'adaptive modularisation' - came with the creation of the Multi-Modal Transport Container in the mid to late 1950s that eradicated the bottle-necks between sea, rail and road transportation.

Thus intelligently designed Prime and Sub-System Commonality sits at the centre of cost, efficiency and effectiveness.

In the automotive world modularisation has been periodically in vogue since the Model T Ford given its multi-functionality, critical to the deployment of 'carry-over' platform engineering and the increased use of 'module sets' in chassis and electrical engineering, and perhaps most visible to the consumer when the likes of Rover and FIAT used a modular instrument binnacle respectively in the 1970s on SD1 and 1980s on Panda models in relation to RHD and LHD variants.

Thus is used as a CapEx reduction ploy on such relative small in-vehicle parts, ultimately the same philosophy's adoption at a whole vehicle level, would provide for a prosaically far more important 'mix and match' / “plug and play” system used upon the Emergency Vehicle vans fleet.

So providing a true leap-forward regards the big-picture of logistics rationalisation

At this critical juncture, with the UK still much affected by governmental spending constraints, and the need to fundamentally re-organise and rationalise the public sector over the long-term, it now that the methods of the Emergency Services should be holistically reconsidered.

Thus, instead of having to invariably order a specific body-type on a specific wheelbase from a specialist 'body-building' firm – so wedding forever body on frame/mechanicals - the fleet would consist of independent 'rolling chassis' (with possibly extendible and retractable wheelbase) and independent body structure, conjoined with appropriately standardised mechanical and electrical connectors.

Ultimately, in the medium-sized van segment – obviously the central basis for such a scheme - a designed suite of conventionally purchased ('COTS') “Mobile Platforms” and specifically task-tailored “Modular Bodies”; attached as necessary.

The Emergency Services' Budget Challenge -

Although ingrained in the citizen's consciousness, the very brevity of their titles do a disservice to appreciating the spectrum of tasks undertaken.

As societies develop to become ever more humanitarian, sophisticated and diverse, so these services inevitably become increasingly more complex. This so in terms of social and commercial activities, public and specific regulations, improved and new technologies etc. Numerous PESTEL influences which put ever greater demands upon the everyday operations of each emergency service.

Central government and local operational budgets inevitably swell and diminish over time, themselves directly affected by the broad economic cycles of the national economy. With this fluctuation senior-level decision-making likewise becomes concomitantly more complex.

Which areas must be expanded so requiring new technical and manpower investment? Which areas can remain effectively static? Which may be reduced?

An overtly simplistic observation, but unlike in the corporate field, where the outcome is that of increased profitability, stagnation, or bottom-line losses, these services directly impact upon the population, at a group and personal levels, and even indirectly and so sub-consciously, in turn determining individual and social habits.

As has been experienced with negative social effects, the impact of the 'Great Recession' has been felt across all western nations, now also similarly seen since 2012 or so in the once booming EM countries.

The desired outcome of Quantitative Easing did indeed have the desired effects of systemic financial re-stabilisation, and new stimulus within the nation's banking sector - albeit with substantial flows of such QE funds actually invested abroad by proprietary trading banks even with rebuilt Chinese Walls between Retail and Investment - the fact is that at governmental level the UK has been forced to endure prolonged “Austerity Budgeting”, as unpopular but seemingly necessary major cut-backs in government expenditure seek to 're-balancing the books'.

The Credit Boom and Bust of the 'Social Good' -

Here it should be noted that during the mid 1990s to mid 2000s (the boom years), the various portions of the Public Sector – excluding the Emergency Services – seemingly grew in bureaucracy far beyond a socially useful level. This expansion of the public sector, using debt, to essentially create a vast array of 'non-jobs' so as to keep the housing and consumer economies growing. When Britain should have been developing ever more advanced production and services internally and attracting FDI for notionally called 'post-industrial' areas to then be re-exported, it instead relied upon short-termist gains, much of this based upon the internalised holy-grail of management consultants and 'corporate speak' to equate to the dynamic corporate world; yet in reality adding little fundamental true value to most citizen's everyday experiences in terms of positive social good.

The 'snap-back' of such a blinkered approach toward real value is that the few truly useful 'social services' with profits to be had will be taken-up by private enterprise at lower cost (such as satiating the mobility needs of comparitively well-off OAP's), whilst other demographic groups experience “service retraction” and so even greater socio-economic exclusion.

Herein, the monies of the newly expanded payroll budget for state-worker's increased salaries would have better served society by helping those – often socially invisible because of their inability to interact – in most dire need.

The Corresponding Social Cost -

So the social cost of the now induced and seemingly everlasting “Austerity Budgeting” has been huge. From the single person relying upon very scant benefits, to whole families now hit hard by the loss of those previous parental 'non-jobs', to the multi-aspect external consequences of a 'broken society'; which the Police, Ambulance and Fire-Rescue must deal with, and best 'patch-up' in the moment.

This ranges from the breakdown of family and inter-personal relationships because of scant or unwisely spent monies, such stresses leading to to an increase in alcohol and substance abuse, and so increasingly erratic and unthinking behaviour. Causing often unintentional but very destructive situations. Such outcomes appear across a vast field of human activities: from severe motoring accidents causing death or disability, through to the development of a 'them and us' mentality amongst tribal-like social groups (including middle-class adults aswell as street gangs) to the inevitable effects upon children, developing poor playground and classroom behaviour, which eventually results in the societal dilemma of the disaffected teenager and so disaffected adult.

Thus it is sadly paradoxical that during such periods when the emergency services are called upon the most, that they themselves have proportionately reduced resources by which to fulfil their expanded roles.

Budget Reality vs Social Expectations -

Unfortunately within advanced nations, the very economic success over the preceding 150 years which underpinned creation of the modern emergency services – with budgetary peaks in the 1950s/60s and 1980s/90s – has perhaps led to an over-expectation of what can now be achieved without internal implementation reforms of varying magnitude.

This high expectation perhaps especially so the attitude amongst older members of both the emergency services and the public at large, those who have themselves enjoyed the heyday periods when society was calmer and budgets proportionately bigger.

Such reforms, understandably resisted by those at the coal-face, have been under-way for some time, mostly in more subtle, less immediately visible 'back-office' and operational ways – so affecting civilian staffing capabilities as much as the prime concern of numbers of 'beat officers' and core staff numbers.

Over a decade ago the London and York Fire Brigades themselves sought to reduce costs by leasing its Fire Tenders from an external private equity backed supplier called AssetCo. What (on the surface) appears either bad management or more likely a case of deliberate over-leverage to allow for personal rewarded 'financial engineering'. The apparent deliberate 'run-down' of service support to the London Fire Brigade meant as the firm faltered caused very real problems for the LFEPA (the Brigades Planning Authority) and resulted the AssetCo Premier division's liquidation in Novermber 2012, thereafter sold to the military and civil services group Babcock International for a nominal fee.

This case highlights the manner in which some Municipalities, keen to off-load budget responsibilities for such services – can be drawn by the 'easy money' of Private Equity deals whilst the services themselves (and the public) suffer the consequences of value-extraction ploys.

Elsewhere, even with a firm negotiation stance by locally independent vehicle procurement managers, seeking to maximise budget stretch by offering their own 'tenders for contract' to the manufacturers and body-builders, it is noted that the car-parc age of many Police, Ambulance and Fire vehicles inevitably increased as internal assets were sweated ever harder.

Having done so to cut costs, the new crop of replacement vehicles, from tactical-response Police BMWs to multi-role Vauxhall estates to NHS 'quick response' MPVs, will have no doubt been procured with sizeable discounts, especially after 2008.

But herein procurement is typically undertaken on a regional/county basis often using local dealerships (though price compared to other non-regional dealers to ensure reduced prices).

However, the fact remains that given the relatively small number of model specific vehicles needed at the local level, such discounts on smallish volumes will inevitably be less than if cooperatively bought with other regions to boost the volumes purchased.

As such, there is a strong argument for inter-regional and cross-service collaboration when replacing vehicles or indeed adding new.

Budget Reality vs Technologically Improved Practice -

Such cost-saving efforts across the board by the Emergency Services as seen to date have undoubtedly had a positive effect on CapEx and Operational cashflow drain; obviously relating to the overhead costs and unit-based costs (from head-count to fleet-count)as recognised in everyday standard practice.

Given central government budget allowances and targets, Police Commissioners, NHS Transport CEOs and Fire-Rescue Heads together with their various supporting departmental managers, have sought to cut as “far back to the bone” as they dare.

Whilst simultaneously trying to maintain visible levels of law and order, medical response and other categories of emergency response, from burned-out stolen cars to the proverbial 'cat up a tree'. Whilst also knowing that the criminal element sees such cut-backs and response times as manna from heaven, recognising that response times, effectiveness and outcome may inevitably suffer and so allow greater opportunity for crime.

Thus any alteration of conventional practices because of budgetary expansion or contraction simply alters the size of the 'traditional pie', which inevitably result in consequential acclaim or criticism as political, union and public perception notes the changes made - usually pertaining to the number of publicly seen 'beat officers', police cars, ambulances and fire trucks.

To combat this and seek scaled efficiencies some regions have created the role of Cross-Service Commissioners, so as to merge commonalities.

The role of such men and women is to sure 'visioneer' the strategic and operational futures of both their region and importantly the complete UK Emergency Services network.

One of the few very useful reality TV series have been those following the everyday workings of a local police constabulary or unit. Whilst filmed in a somewhat sensationalist manner, it does allow for that large portion of viewing public removed from such, to far better understand at least some of what actually goes on underneath the veneer of a seemingly 'civilised' society.

These TV shows have illustrated how various technology have allowed for rationalised and so improved law enforcement, ranging from at the lowest end the use of a simple 'zip-tie' as restraining instrument to the tyre-shredding 'stinger' to much improved communications to heat-sensing helicopter cameras.

Similarly the modern ambulance is a far cry from the stretcher shuttle of decades ago, today operating as a minuscule medical-centre on wheels, in which paramedics can assess far more than the vital signs of life, and so provide a useful briefing to the staff and doctors upon arrival at a hospital.

Indeed it is often able to offer the appropriate medical aid on the spot, so negating the need to even travel to hospital which itself takes up far more resources.

And the Fire Brigade long ago took on far broader responsibilities in the areas of urban, rural and highway rescue; the latter most prolific. The implements used for cutting occupants from the body-shells of crashed vehicles – inflatable airbags to upright overturned or precarious vehicles through to the sensitive air-controlled pincer cutters which act as 'tin-openers' - have become ever more sophisticated through experience, research and development by specialist supplier companies.

Technological applications and their advancements, whether low-cost or high-cost, have assisted the Emergency Services almost immeasurably as their multi-various fleet vehicles and trained personnel undertake ever more socially assistive responsibilities and overall productivity increases.

Yesteryear was about operational centralisation, best seen by the example of a large 1960s General Hospital. It has to deal with everything from the results of self-inflicted stupidity (eg Johnny's head stuck in a saucepan), through to highly emotive 'life or death' situations.

Today and tomorrow seemingly continues to see the decentralisation of operations, again the hospital example proving most useful, seeing far more specialist centres set-up to deal with important cases, the 'accident and emergency' department dedicated to important tasks rather than having to deal with facile cases, and the less serious being dealt with in situ.

This trend of decentralisation, assisted by technological progress, means that the very shape of the Emergency Service fleet looks to continually evolve.

Long-Termism over Short-Sighteness -

But critically it must evolve along truly long-term rational lines and not simply in a short-termist reactionary manner to the immediate 'commercial imperative'.

The leadership committees of the Emergency Services together with government ministers should explore into how the very fundamentals of conventional practice could and should be intelligently and radically altered so as to provide more for less.

Both in terms of direct and in-direct expense and the effectiveness of functional service implementation.

Time to Think Afresh -

Recognising how a system might be improved through both cost-saving and performance improvement is the raison d'etre of management science. And it is typically only at times of crisis, or those of fundamentally changed conditions, that any organisation seeks to adopt meaningful change.

With regard to the Public Sector we have seen how the seemingly more adroit eye of private enterprise has sought to raise efficiencies and cost savings.

But alas, we have also seen how overtly commercial (and indeed personal-reward) parent company pressures can severely undermine any one Service; the AssetCo experience will long live with seniors of the London Fire Brigade.

The UK's utilities (telecoms, water, electricity) were privatised long ago, with the NHS currently under-going a slow process of re-organisation and rationalisation from Trusts to next generation entities through Trust consolidation or new entity introductions – with good, mediocre and some reportedly bad results.

Public Sector services plainly originated from the desire to improve society, with the utilitarian edict of “the greatest gain for the greatest number”. And so whilst rightly seeking the reduction of waste, government must also ensure that the tide of gradual part and full privatisation should be properly weighed against the likelihood of “profits before people”.

And this is where a nation-based long-term planning schema for Emergency Service vehicles, by an independent body, needs to be asserted, so as to span much from high volume procurement to future-facing powerful Research and Development.

Herein the roles and multi-various functionalities of the Emergency Services is a hot topic for debate.

Unlike the wholly dedicated building infrastructure required, from hospitals to police stations to fire-rescue training facilities, the issue of transportation (and its increasingly task specialisation) looks to be prime for creative review, perceived – pun intended - from a very high altitude “helicopter viewpoint”.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Parallel Learning - UK Emergency Service Vehicles - Investment in Scaled Efficiencies for an Ever Broadening Multi-Task Spectrum - Part 1

[NB. Before continuing it must be stated that given the present Political Party Conference season, investment-auto-motives continues to remain resolutely apolitical.

Appalled by the left's seemingly successful deliberate ploy to ferment identity politics through enormous cultural capital so as to actually further fragment society, then to apparently serve the unified marginalised social interests of all such segments so as to gain a combined  en mass politicalised power.

Similarly dismayed by the still apparent smug hypocrisy of the typically comfortably off and highly nepotistic right, which praises the advantages of an only slightly reformed neo-classical economics model, still not properly safeguarded against a current and future repeat of high-finance abuse.

Common-sense centricism in society and economics - to nurture vital stability - still has yet to come into being, but is desperately needed asap].

To continue with this now very prescient web-log....

“Back to Basics” to Re-Configure Tomorrow.

The Emergency Services that are taken as common-place in UK society are in historical terms only a relatively recently created infrastructure; evolved along with the expansion of civic power and pride from essentially the very start of the 19th century onwards as a social dividend from the results of industrialisation, urbanisation and social stability.

[NB Prior to this evolution of the Municipality in what was largely a feudal agrarian system no professionalised infrastructure existed, much left to the responsibilities of 'squires' and local 'common-folk' with very differing requirements, outlooks and capabilities, and little or no connection to the upper olde county heirachy. The format being 'watchmen' and 'constables''].

Today's modern services and their organigram structures began not in London, but in Scotland's Glasgow in 1800 with a Parliamentary Act.

Police -

This with the formation a central and professionalised police force to deal with the problems of a burgeoning port (drunkeness, theft, prostitution etc); though operating largely on a part-time reactive basis. It was 29 years later that Robert Peel, in situ as Home Secretary, would create London's Metropolitan Police.

This structure thereafter copied throughout the country on a county and borough basis in the following two decades to create a nationwide standing by the mid 1850s. The Peelian qoute that “the police are the public and the public the police”. Vitally to extinguish the public's previous fearwith the power based relationship - open to both abuse, blackmail and bribery – the 'Met' was based from first principles of cooperation and trust nurtured from a meaningful selection process for the right character, so providing the approval, respect and affection of the public : “policing by consent”.

This would thereafter prove the functioning basis for all territorial, nationwide and specialist polices services, from 'the Met' to 'Transport Police' to Specialist Police Units (eg Diplomatic Unit). Each of these with a plethora of focused responsibilities, from Community sections to Criminal Investigation Departments to road-centric 'Traffic'.
Quite obviously these demand numerous technical enablers, equipment ranging from C3/4 IT for Databases to a wide spectrum of vehicles, from pedal cycles to rapid response motorcycles and cars to a diverse range of task specific vans to the helicopters of cross-services 'Air Support'

[NB the crux of this weblog is to focus upon motorised ground vehicles, specifically vans but also with basic thoughts on cars and motorcycles].

Ambulance -

The seeds of today's NHS service was through the private initiative of London's Metropolitan Asylums Board with its creation of six ambulance stations strategically positioned around the capital city. At the time almost all of London was within a three mile reach of one of the six locations. The first motorised vehicle was introduced in 1904 for a single occupant patient. Capacity and capability grew as suitable commercial vehicles became available, so allowing for greater hospitals income and thus re-investment in growing fleet.

In 1930 it was regulated that local county councils would take on strategic and administrative responsibilities. Additionally, in the late inter-war period, the government created the Civil Defence Service with its own separate national (not local) ambulance fleet. The formation of the NHS in 1948 combined the efficacy of both the locally run and nationally run fleets made available to anyone in need under the auspices of the new welfare state. But things were still administratively fragmented for many parts of the UK, with London's own ambulance authority arriving nearly twenty years later in 1965, after enveloping nine different services. In 1996 the service became the remit of various regional hospital trusts.

The Hospital Trust's own 'business models' have evolved to suit changing society, and whereas ambulance transport was once defined as 'life threatening' or major issue transit to hospital the types of cases and needs have themselves become broad, notably because of an ageing population and the growing 'ferry transport' needs between treatment centres. Different locational and treatment situations have been better catered for with a range of responder vehicles. So whilst the typical ambulance is still that of the Standard Emergency Unit, other vehicles which have come into being include: Quick Response Unit (car, motorcycle or bicycle), Patient Transport Unit, Specialist 'Off-Highway' Unit (4x4 or ATV), 'Medevac' Helicopter.

The Standard Emergency Unit is the typically understood ambulance and is mostly in medium-sized van form, as had been the case since the establishment of the NHS in 1948 and massively strengthened in the 1950s, and the van used because of overall internal volumetric size, good road conditions and the desire from early NHS days to best equip the vehicle.

[NB Internationally depending on national procurement policy to support national companies, road surfaces or local budget availability beyond vans ambulances also span light trucks, medium trucks and high roof, long tail converted estate cars]

The government's expansion of the health industry as a past, current and future strong growth economic sector – long before since depicted in the Industrial Strategy Boards conclusions - inevitably led to the NHS's own in-house drive toward departmental expansion and multi-aspect service provision and improvement.

Fire and Rescue -

Today's 'Fire and Rescue Service' likewise evolved from similar localised requirements, and whilst increasingly professionalised in the latter half of the 19th century on a borough basis, did not actually become legislated and so empowered until a century after the Police.

Formed on a nationwide basis in 1941, so as to quickly relay best practice and shared capabilities after 'the Blitz' for all cities and towns. This started and maintained with the Acts between 1938 and 1959 and the regionally centric 1999 issuance for Greater London., Thereafter with new legislation in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Governmental responsibility has shifted over time from the Civil Defence Service to Communities and Local Government, which oversees what is effectively still a county and city based system, itself apportioned as either 'Command', 'Area', 'Division', 'Borough' depending upon scale and practice, with over time increasing administration undertaken by Local Authorities.

Vitally, whilst the public only really sees FRS's persona as fire tenders / appliances / trucks on the street, the responsibilities of the historical fire services has extended into the fire certification of buildings; this issue now back under the spotlight with the apparent change and 'degredation' of responsibilities and standards, as privately run authorised agencies replaced the reach of the regional FRS itself.

In 2002 a Review was undertaken by Sir George Bain with intention of modernising the service via “recommendations on the future organisation and management”, leading to an Act on 2004. The Bain Report did much to reorientate and reform including manpower, budget and responsibility alterations (given criticism about the costs of keeping a typically dormant or in-training retinue of people and equipment, and the proclivaty of firemen to also have other second jobs given generous on-off shift schedules). However, one other key aspect of the Report concerned “Emergency Preparedness” of the service with focus upon natural and man-made issues from flooding to terrorism (including chemical, biological and nuclear threats).
This then extended the remit of the FRS to create a 'readiness' into fields previously concentrated within the military - under the scantily termed 'Fire Resiliance' programme – but was also seemingly adequately provided for with extensive new equipment and vehicles.

The first of these efforts included the 'New Dimensions' programme within which three new types of vehicle were provided: an Incident Response Vehicle, a Detection/Identification/Monitoring Vehicle and critically the first modern example of an interchangable and so task specific 'Carry-Pod' transported by a standard a 'Prime Mover' (Medium Truck) Vehicle; itself adopted from decades of Military use by American, British and NATO forces. The two types of 'Pods' were for Search and Rescue command co-ordination and as a water tanker.

The programme ran from 2004 until 2016 when the vehicles were decommissioned, presumably because of a mix of increased substitutional capabilities elsewhere, retracted project funding and a likelihood that the vehicles were only rarely used by individual FRS groups, if indeed at all by some.

Nonetheless, the instigation of the 'Prime Mover' and 'Carry Pod' approach was usefully revolutionary in its innate philosophy.

[NB Indeed instead of retracting the idea, the Brigades should have been given the remit of suggesting more than the two overtly very basic (and themselves easily substituted) 'Pods' provided.
The programme should have been implemented not 'top-down' as a seeming political exercise merged with seeming operational enhancement, but the start of a 'bottom-up' (user-incorporated) approach to innately enhanced operational flexibility and improved overall capability].

Summary -

The evolution of the UK's Emergency Services has by natural default been in reaction to the societal needs of the day, ranging across a massively diverse – and seemingly growing - spectrum of activities.

Unfortunately it seems that is reactionary politics that drives change, whether that be service agglomeration as seen with the copy+ of 'The Peelers' the fire-fighting regimes of The Blitz to a new 21st century 'Readiness' against potential Terrorism. All within the opportunities and confines of general operational budget expansion when national coffers allow, and conversely, budget retraction when 'austerity' prevails.

However, the everyday disjuncture within the socio-economic realm means that typically the greatest social need and so operational services span will come during periods of economic retraction such as post '9/11' and ever since the 2008 Financial Crisis.

Unfortunately history illustrates that the Emergency Services themselves suffer from a lack of proper long-term planning, with seemingly instances of forced operational change instigated not by foresightedness, but by political and budget expediency and problematic PFI; the 'lend-lease-lend' practice of London's and Lincoln's Fire Brigade's appliances via the failed company AssetCo one obvious instance.

What is required is proper centralised long-term planning to eradicate the inefficiencies of the Emergency Services systems far beyond the facets of IT integration, and toward a truly rationalised basis underpinned by a 'First Principles Design' approach that identifies the strategic and operational aspects served by product and service Commonality vs Co-Functionality (matrix) vs Specialisation.

With a recognition of the need for efficient multi-tasking the 'New Dimensions' project provided a small glimpse of an approach of what should have led to a new philosophical age regards general equipment, and very specifically fleet vehicle, Purchasing policies.

One of long-termism with greatly amortised capital expenditure in vehicles that allows both improved productivity from a human resources perspective and improved upfront and overall vehicle life-cycle benefits vs costs.

Both areas much aided by expanding and exploiting the Emergency Services' Research and Development ties with the automotive and specialist engineering arenas, and to strengthen ties with Military and alternative Commercial sources to seek-out new-era product design approaches that transform the all round quality of any 'COTS' (commercial off the shelf / factory) purchased vehicles, also transform the time/quality/cost vagueries of the ad-hoc and piecemeal body on frame UK coach-building sector, and possibly create a new industrial and automotive sub-sector for product and services export in a post-Brexit world.

Long term operational success and efficacious budget management will rely upon :

- Scale Efficiencies in collective purchasing, product designs and operations
- Standardisation of vehicle architectures, powertrains and on-board Ops systems
- Modularisation of vehicle architectures and fitments/equipment
- Expansion of 'Matrix' capabilities for 'First Responders'
- Expansion of 'Core' capabilities of Specialist Units
- Redesignation of nationwide responsibilities to new central organisation
- Creation of substantive R+D agency to liaise with industrial sectors and firms.

It has been “Considered Re-Configuration” that has slowly evolved the Police, Ambulance  and Fire-Rescue Services, but usually done after watershed events.

Now much effort should be put into designing the 'Intelligently Simple' Public Service Infrastructure of tomorrow.

[NB And for the sake of clarity in doing so, the use of plain and proper English instead of the tiresome and prolific use of  'management speak' and jargon].