Ric Kirman is the Rail and Monitoring Manager at KOREC Group and the driving force behind this growing area of the business. With a background in business development, team leadership and customer engagement and with extensive experience within the rail industry, he is renowned for his motivational skills and excellent communication.
KOREC specialises in providing measurement solutions, surveying equipment and mapping systems for the geospatial, engineering and construction sectors in the UK. If you want to know more about KOREC, get in touch via the contact information at the end of the article.
What is your role within KOREC Group?
I am the Business Area Manager for Rail and Monitoring. Rail and Monitoring is one of the specialist business areas within the KOREC Group; each area offers industry specific advice, support, training and consultancy ensuring we can deliver the very best service for our customers. KOREC Group offers an award-winning service in geospatial solutions to its varied customer base as well as a range of digital construction solutions.
We are one of Trimble’s largest distributors which enables us to bring world class solutions to our customers but always tailored to the demands of a UK market.
Key to the success of this team is our focus on using dedicated industry specialist sales consultants and industry certified Applications Engineers. Within my team alone we have over 50 years’ experience in the rail industry and over 70 years’ within the monitoring sector, this is what helps set us apart from our competition, we understand your challenges.
Tell us about KOREC Group
Our mission statement sums up KOREC Group perfectly: Our mission is to empower you to measure, map and manage the natural and built environment.
We’ve been established for over 50 years and our strength lies with the relationships we have with our customers and our partners. We have a strong company culture, (KOREC Group is an Investor in People and an Investor in Wellbeing). Our customers often share their appreciation of the KOREC team’s willingness to go ‘above and beyond’ to help support them in the more challenging situations.
How have the products and services you offer developed over the years?
KOREC is the vital link between Trimble’s global leading solutions and the UK Rail Industry. We have a very strong relationship with Trimble Rail and that means that feedback from UK customers can directly influence developments from Trimble and consequently our customers see the results of this in later generations of hardware and software. A great example of is the Trimble IMU going from a wired system to wireless.
The GEDO Track Survey System’s been with us for a number of years and there have therefore been many iterations of this modular system that make it extremely versatile and at the same time, incredibly user friendly. Several GEDO developments we’ve seen were driven by UK customer feedback.
We also have our own KOREC in-house software development company called K-Matic. This year K-Matic has developed field data capture and data sharing software specifically for Network Rail. This ability to offer full workflows and customised applications is a huge strength within our rail systems portfolio.
When a client comes to you with a particular problem, what’s your process for coming up with a solution, and how closely do you work with clients throughout the projects?
In almost every situation, there’s a 99 per cent chance we’ve come up against this problem before and can usually offer a solution straight away. Our team has over 50 years’ of experience between us and we can also draw upon Trimble’s global rail knowledge. However, our first priority is always to listen and to truly understand the challenge before we move on to advice, demonstrations, site trials where required, and of course a solution.
We work in partnership with our customers and regard our approach as a relationship, not a transaction. We offer our customers the highest level of consultation and comprehensive training and when they are out in the field we offer 24-hour support because they tell us that ‘the best ability is availability’. Going back to all of that experience we have, it means we understand the pressures of the rail industry and how important it is that our customers can deliver their projects safely, effectively and on budget.
What would you say is the most exciting technology in the industry?
For me, without a doubt, the ability to collect, use and share point cloud data captured by 3D Laser Scanners. 3D laser scans are so incredibly easy to undertake. This is one of the reasons they’re so powerful and one of the reasons they’re being embraced by the rail industry to great effect. The use of point cloud data is not standardised yet, but I predict that within 5 years it will become the norm.
What’s particularly important with point cloud data is of course how you can turn it into usable data for informed decision making and that’s where the office software comes in. In KOREC’s case, this is Trimble’s GEDO Scan Office. Features within this software enable you to carry out so many tasks: platform gauging, clash detection, height and stagger surveys, asset data collection and much, much more. GEDO Scan Office is tailored to the rail industry and its predefined reports, tools and easy workflows make it incredibly useful in this time constricted industry to get the results you need quickly.
As well as using a 3D Laser Scanner mounted on the GEDO track measurement trolley, let’s not forget that they can also be used on a tripod to provide data for hard to access areas such as tunnels and bridges and for other applications such as asset management and station refurbs. In short, a point cloud captured once can be revisited for many different purposes. Think of the cost savings.
What are some of the biggest challenges this sector currently faces?
Looking ahead, it’s evident that the rail industry faces three particular challenges; a people and skills shortage, increased pressure to deliver more work of higher accuracy despite a decrease in track access time and finally, the constant challenge of keeping our railways safe both for those who use them and those who work on them.
Our customers come to us with very specific needs that reflect the challenges they face, namely to get ‘boots off ballast’ which means achieving much more whilst you are actually on site. With the solutions we have, gathering data on site has never been so quick, easy or safe.
Whilst there is a wealth of knowledge within the industry, we are all growing older and that means we need to recruit young and talented people to retain this level of knowledge. This has always been a challenge, it’s not common to hear a child saying they want to be Track Maintenance Engineer when they grow up!
We also have the demands of Europe’s largest rail project, HS2, to contend with as the track installation phase draws closer. Whilst this is very exciting, it will draw professionals from other areas of the industry which could have a knock-on effect resulting in staff shortages elsewhere.
What are some potential solutions?
Technology! Or more specifically, technology that can tackle safety, efficiency and accuracy. It has to be user friendly, fast, efficient and accurate. We’re not always dealing with surveyors in our industry but with rail professionals and technical staff, so from a manufacturer’s point of view, we must create systems that not only have a fast, easy learning curve and are therefore usable by anyone on track, but they must also deliver excellent survey results.
A great example of this is Trimble’s GEDO CE 2.0 IMS GX50 Scan Solution. Our customers are achieving results 50x faster than traditional methods for overhead line surveys. We’ve seen these results in practice on a trial in the Severn Tunnel. The GX50 completed the job on site within 8 hours compared to the same survey undertaken using traditional methods (height stagger gauge and laser measurement) which took 450 hours and five members of staff. The GEDO GX50 IMS Scan solution, required just one member of staff, (but we sent two) so we allowed three other engineers to focus on other important works. (https://bit.ly/40CAOlu).
This is a perfect example of achieving great results, far faster and with fewer people on track, plus we now have a digital twin of the tunnel that can be used for many, many other applications and other departments.
Our industry uses some really cool hardware and software and can be at the forefront of global rail. We should embrace this and let it help us attract a tech savvy generation of new workers who have grown up with the smart phone.
How do we attract them? Cool tech and professional education. Apprenticeships are a great place to start along with working with Network Rail and academia in general. We are constantly impressed by the level of apprentices that we work with in the private sector and now is the time to ensure that we are upskilling them sufficiently to take on the challenges of the rail industry over the next 10, 20 or 30 years.
What are your views on collaborative working?
As both technology and working methods evolve, it’s vital that the whole industry moves towards a more collaborative approach with a focus on reducing any duplicated effort. Our customers are aware that this is the way forward, we hear it from them every day.
What’s holding them back? The ability to share data that they have in a meaningful way to induce that more collaborative approach. In particular, 3D Laser Scanning is a major driver towards collaborative working – why not share point cloud data for multiple uses? In this area, we’ve seen a great addition with Cintoo Cloud technology. Cintoo Cloud allows users to stream huge 3D data from any desktop or laptop via a web browser, and provides the tools and technology to compare scans to CAD models or scans to scans and enable large-scale collaboration and management of the reality data.
An added benefit of this collaboration is that if the engineer who gathered the data is on leave, that data is still available for everyone on the project via a securely hosted cloud server (ISO 27001 accredited). Whilst we are familiar with BIM models as a useful ‘single source of truth’, digital twins are still not commonly found within the rail industry despite their vast benefits. This would definitely be a fruitful step towards better collaboration.
We’re seeing evidence of this approach on flagship schemes. For example, we’ve been working with several of Network Rail’s key delivery partners who’ve embraced Trimble’s GEDO technology and KOREC solutions whilst working on key projects. They’ve seen tangible benefits of using the GEDO system and allowing collaboration by sharing data with other project partners.
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