One question to clinch a software deal with Angel Trains

Angel Trains asked shortlisted software suppliers one question, which resulted in a deal to take a suite of software from Oracle

When choosing a supplier, Angel Trains asked shortlisted suppliers one question: “How will your solutions change our business?”

The answers resulted in a deal to take a suite of software from Oracle.

Angel Trains has a fleet of 4,000 trains leased to train operators. The company had expanded since privatisation in 1994, but had not integrated its core systems, which were bespoke applications developed over the years.

When it realised it had to cut costs through better management, the company went to suppliers with a challenge. It eventually chose a combination of off-the-shelf software from Oracle and bespoke software for asset management.

Steve Lamey, programme director at Angel Trains, said that when the company shortlisted suppliers, it asked them how their products and services would improve its business: “The suppliers’ approaches to this is why we chose Oracle.” 

The business is a mixture of finance and engineering, said Lamey. This is because it is providing the up-front capital for the trains on behalf of rail operators and needs to coordinate engineers to make repairs.

It replaced bespoke systems with Oracle software. These were Oracle Financials, Oracle Procurement, Oracle Sourcing, Oracle Projects, OBIE and Hyperion. For its more bespoke requirements in asset management, it created its own applications but used business rules to integrate them with Oracle software. The project took 12 months and cost £4m.

 “We came out of the privatisation in 1994 and our systems have grown with the business, but they were bespoke and not very well integrated,” said Lamey. “The systems were fit for purpose but a year ago we decided to look at systems and see if we could do it differently.”

Lamey took part in a government report which looked at making the railway industry more efficient. This included looking at supply chain issues.

Roy McNulty's Department for Transport sponsored independent Rail Value for Money study, published on 19 May 2011. It recommended ways in which the industry could deliver a safe and efficient railway which representing value for customers and taxpayers, it said.

Although Angel Trains began the project before the McNulty Report, the benefit will meet the report's emphasis on cost-cutting in the rail industry.

Lamey said one of the changes resulting from the industry review is that trains will be leased for longer. “In the past, trains would be leased for seven years but in the future it will be 15 years. This is extra risk for us, so we have to make sure we understand the costs as they come in and have a high level of detail.”

“The Oracle software will allow Angel Trains to provide detailed analysis of its vehicles and identify and plan modification work, with improved forward planning for both customers and suppliers,” said Lamey.

Lamey said trains can last 35 years and it is essential the company makes the right decisions so trains' lifespans are not shortened. The asset management and Oracle software enables the company to carry out its engineering and financing activities more effectively.

The new software means the company has sophisticated project management, procurement, collaboration and planning tools, taking advantage of a synchronised database to create a single version picture, with all information held centrally. Previously information was spread across a number of databases.

The project is now at the stage where the company is developing bespoke asset management systems and transfers high volumes of data. 

“This is a big project for a company of our size,” said Lamey. Angel Trains has about 100 employees.

The Oracle roll-out is part of a wider business project known as Cosmos, which includes changing business processes as well as implementing Microsoft’s CRM and SharePoint technologies.

Read more on Database software