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Java IoT Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Esmeralda Swartz, Christopher Keene

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Sybase Success Story: Kowloon Motor Bus Company

Increases mobility and provides better customer service

The largest bus operator in Hong Kong, the Kowloon Motor Bus Company (KMB), is responsible for carrying around 2.7 million passengers a day and coordinates the movement of 4,040 buses. By utilizing Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE), PowerBuilder, and PocketBuilder, KMB built two mission-critical systems: the Traffic Operations Management System (TOM) and the Terminus Management System (TER).
Using these systems, KMB can now better handle the company's resource allocation, improve the effectiveness of depot staff in their daily duties, and provide greater mobility to its workforce at the terminals.

Key Benefits

  • Streamlines workflow
  • Standardizes working procedures across depots
  • Increases work efficiency
  • Optimizes resource allocation
  • Increases staff deployment flexibility
  • Reduces training time
  • Reduces clerical work
  • Improves staff communication
  • Increases mobility

Sybase Technology

  • Adaptive Server Enterprise
  • PowerBuilder
  • PocketBuilder

Industry

  • Transportation/Logistics

KMB Keeps Buses Moving with Sybase
The Kowloon Motor Bus Company, widely known as KMB, was established in 1933 after obtaining a franchise to operate bus services in Kowloon and the New Territories. When it was founded, KMB's bus fleet consisted of 106 single deck buses.

Today, KMB is the largest bus operator in Hong Kong with 4,040 buses, around 12,000 staff and a network of 402 bus routes transporting around 2.7 million passengers every day. KMB is now one of the world's largest privately-run public bus companies and recognized as an international leader in public bus transportation.

Replacing Manual Processes
KMB had traditionally used a manual-based approach to managing processes and information around duty assignment sheets - information essential to the smooth operation of the company. KMB was looking for a technology solution that would allow it to manage this information with greater efficiency.

A mainframe computer system was used to produce duty assignment sheets that were printed four days in advance and contained information such as the route number, vehicle registration number, and the bus captain duty schedule. The duty dispatch staff would reallocate resources such as assigning replacement bus captains in place of those who were sick, or reallocate spare buses in place of those that were unavailable due to maintenance. These allocations were done manually and the dispatch staff would be required to be familiar with the training information of bus captains and with particular features of the buses so as to assign the right person to the right duty. While staff could accomplish this task, the process was time-consuming.

As job allocation and duty scheduling is a complex process, this "manual" approach also meant that it took several years for an employee to become skilled at performing the reallocations. This meant the task was often restricted to being completed only by very experienced employees.

"With such a large fleet and the need for our business to be able to quickly respond to unpredictable incidents such as road work or accidents, as well as regular occurrences such as holidays and scheduled maintenance of buses, we knew we needed to find a better way to deploy our resources," explains Tommy Leung, head of the Information Technology Department.

Increase Mobility and Provide Better Customer Service
KMB was also looking for a way to make their depot staff more mobile, particularly when they found terminus supervisors were spending 50 percent of their time managing bus schedules and logging arrival and departure times of buses. Staff also spent a considerable amount of time managing traffic control issues and assisting passengers, while also liaising with the KMB control center and other bus termini.

"When we were looking for ways to automate our processes and make things easier for staff, we also recognized the need to make this technology more mobile.

"In the end, if our staff can do their job more efficiently, it helps our customers who use our services on a daily basis - customers can access up-to-the-minute information while staff have more time to attend to passengers," says Tommy Leung.

Automated and Mobile Operations
Using Sybase technology, KMB developed an in-house system called Traffic Operations Management System (TOM) to better handle the company's resource allocation and assist depot staff in their daily duties.

Sybase's Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) and PowerBuilder technologies were used as the core components of TOM, which has transformed the way KMB stores and accesses information. Using ASE and PowerBuilder enables TOM to automatically generate the daily schedules, including the route timetable, bus captain's schedule, and operational requests.

The system is able to look at various requirements, such as the familiarity of the bus captains with a particular route and a particular bus, to generate an appropriate duty schedule. Should an unpredicted event happen, the system is designed to always have a back-up schedule.

ASE and PowerBuilder also allow TOM to record precise data such as overtime hours and duty information, which is transferred directly to the payroll system for wage calculations.

KMB also uses Sybase's PowerBuilder and PocketBuilder in another core application called the Terminus Management System (TER) to automate terminus operations covering bus termini around Hong Kong. Terminus Supervisors access and record essential information such as operational data and real-time bus schedules using a PDA that runs PocketBuilder. This system has replaced a paper-based system and gives employees even more flexibility and mobility when working around the terminus. With the TER architecture in place, staff are also able to liaise directly with the KMB control center and other termini.

A New System - Better Efficiency, More Access
Implementing the TOM system powered by Sybase ASE and PowerBuilder has transformed KMB, delivering immediate benefits to customers, employees, and KMB's back office. TOM has replaced many manual processes including the manual sign-in procedure for employees that used to take up to 10 minutes and now takes only seconds. Each duty assignment sheet containing the location of the bus, route number, vehicle registration number, and a remark column is now automatically produced.

Training time spent on depot staff has also been shortened significantly as the system negates the need for staff to memorize bus features, bus captain experience, and particular route requirements. Route information and assignments are now automatically generated - faster and with much less required human intervention.

"One of the major advantages of Sybase PowerBuilder technology was time-to-market. It took us under three months to implement the mobile application and have it up and running - we were very impressed," summarizes Tommy Leung.

TER, using Sybase PocketBuilder, gives Terminus Supervisors greater mobility via the use of PDAs. Using PDAs, KMB staff have been able to greatly improve efficiency as it allows for instant communication with the depot and related departments. In addition, the use of Pocket Builder has helped the KMB minimize paper waste by saving around 250,000 pages of terminus log paper.

"PocketBuilder had the added benefit of being really easy to use, so for staff the learning curve was almost non-existent. Getting people familiar with new technology is usually the biggest hurdle of any implementation and with PocketBuilder it wasn't an issue.

"All three Sybase solutions including ASE, PowerBuilder, and Pocket Builder have greatly enhanced our business and the service we provide customers. The technology has been essential in taking our business to the next level of efficiency," said Tommy Leung, KMB.

Why Sybase?
"Introducing the TOM system and TER with its unique mobility capability was very challenging. We knew we needed a technology provider that would not only provide seamless implementation but, more important, remain our partner long after the implementation was complete.

"Sybase was able to demonstrate the superior performance of its products together with the ability for these products to grow with our business," said Mr. Tommy Leung, KMB.

•   •   •

Reprinted with permission from Sybase

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