The Anonymous Widower

The Longevity Of Light Aircraft

I am just watching the travel section of BBC Breakfast, where Cat Moh is taking a flight in a light aircraft to Le Touquet from Blackbushe.

The aircraft they are using is G-BJDW, which I have flown many times, when it was based at Ipswich Airport. It was the plane that many, like me, used for instrument-flying training in the 1980s.

I remember flying three Metier employees to Denham from Ipswich one day.

Delta-Whisky looked to be in good condition, as it was thirty or more years ago.

August 12, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

Contractor Chosen For The Work On London Overground’s East London Line

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Global Railway Review.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Transport for London (TfL) has announced the appointment of Cleshar Contract Services Limited to take over the maintenance work. The new contract is subject to 10 days standstill period and should commence on 1 April 2018.

The contract was given with the agreement that existing Carillion employees will be transferred over to Cleshar with terms and conditions protected. Until the handover date TfL will supply guarantees to support continued work and pay for the Carillion staff.

It seems good for the former Carillion employees, but who are Cleshar Contract Services Limited?

This page from the Cleshar web site describes the company structure, which was formed in 1992.

The unusual connection, I have with the company, is that they are based in one of Metier’s former offices alongside the North Circular Road.

So you can’t say they waste their money on flash premises.

 

January 31, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Artemis Lives

I was listening to Wake Up To Money on BBC Radio 5 this morning and they interviewed someone from a company called Artemis Optical.

On their home page, their mission statement is.

Improve Vision: to be the Photonics industry’s most advanced manufacturer.

Their about page, says this.

Owned equally by the executive directors, Artemis, a world renowned company

employs 30+ talented staff, with an enviable history of 60 years in the design and

application of high precision, technically differentiated optical thin film coatings.

It sounds so very familiar.

In the interview, their spokesman disclosed that they banked with Lloyds, as did Metier!

And where did our bank manager come from? Plymouth, where Artemis; the company is based.

Very different industries, but same philosophy, same ambition, same bank and same name!

January 3, 2017 Posted by | Business | , , , | Leave a comment

Lionel Stapley

It is with great sadness, that I must report the death of Lionel Stapley, who was a colleague at Metier Management Systems and a friend since we first met in the 1970s.

August 18, 2016 Posted by | World | , | 6 Comments

Now Is The Time To Change

In 1977, the climate for business wasn’t very good. So what did I do?

Together with three others, we started Metier Management Systems to create a ground breaking project management system called Artemis.

Wikipedia says this about the sale of the company several years later.

Metier was sold to Lockheed for US$130m at a time when the US$ and the £Sterling were close to parity. Since then, then company has been sold many times, each time for a considerably lesser amount, and with the company often renamed by the new owner.

The only sad part of this tale, is that the software I wrote in an attic in Suffolk, didn’t fulfil the potential, of which I believed she was possessed.

The moral of this story, is that the worse and more uncertain the times, means the better it is to change what you’re doing and perhaps start something radical.

It might even be the time to marry your long-term partner!

June 27, 2016 Posted by | Business, World | , , | 1 Comment

Is Vivarail True Disruptive Innovation?

Disruptive innovation is defined like this in Wikipedia.

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology.

I’ve always been a great believer in this sort of innovation.

When we started Metier Management Systems and created Artemis, project management was worthy, time-consuming and if a computer was used it was an expensive mainframe. So we took a small but powerful industrial computer put it in a desk, added a VDU and a printer to do the same PERT and financial calculations much faster and often much physically closer to where the answers were needed. I have heard argued that one of our reasons for great success in the early days of North Sea Oil, was that you could find space for an Artemis system in Aberdeen, but not for a mainframe. The city was crawling with dozens of our systems.

After Artemis, project management was never the same again!

If we look at the building of trains, it is supposed to be an expensive business, with large manufacturers like Alstom, Bombardier, Hitachi and Siemens make expensive complicated trains, that are virtually computers on wheels. But at a price and to a time-scale that is such, that say a train company needs perhaps some extra four coach diesel multiple units to support say a Rugby World Cup or Open Golf venue, there is nothing that can be delivered in a short time.

Over the last few years, disruptive innovation has been alive and well in the train building industry. In the 1970s and 1980s, we built a large number of trains and electric and diesel multiple units based on the legendary Mark 3 coach. Wikipedia says this about the coach.

The Mark 3 and its derivatives are widely recognised as a safe and reliable design, and most of the surviving fleet is still in revenue service on the British railway network in 2015.

It is truly one of the great British designs. My personal view is that the ride in a Mark 3 coach, is unsurpassed for quality by any other train, I’ve ever ridden, in the UK or Europe.

A Mark 3-based multiple unit also survived the incident at Oxshott, where a 24-tonne cement mixer lorry fell on top of the train. There were injuries, but no-one was killed.

So what has the Mark 3 coach got to do with disruptive innovation?

They are like a well-built house, that constantly gets remodelled and improved by successive owners.

The structure and running gear of a Mark 3 coach is such that it is often more affordable to rebuild and improve Mark 3-based trains, rather than order new ones.

If Terry Miller and his team in Derby, had not designed the Mark 3 coach and the related InterCity 125 in the 1960s, I suspect that UK railways would be in a truly terrible state today.

These trains still remain the benchmark against which all other trains are judged. Two journeys sum up the class of a Mark 3 coach.

  • Travel in First and enjoy Pullman Dining on a First Great Western service between London and Wales or the West. Is there any better rail journey available without a special ticket in the world?
  • Travel in Standard on Chiltern to Birmingham and enjoy the ride and the views from the large windows, in the style that the designers envisaged for all passengers.

But the Mark 3 coach has created this industry in the UK, that can take well-built old trains and turn them into modern trains, that are often the equal of shiny new ones from the factory.

So where do Vivarail fit in all this?

London Underground has always specified the best for its railways and expected the trains to last a long time. In some ways it had to, as when it depended on Government favours for new trains, it could not predict if the replacements would ever be forthcoming.

Until the 1980s, most trains were built by Metro-Cammell in Birmingham and regularly fleets have lasted for forty or fifty years, as they were built to handle the heavy use in London, where journeys can be over an hour of full-speed running with frequent stops and often with far more passengers than the trains were designed. Take a Piccadilly Line train from say Kings Cross to Heathrow in the rush hour, if you want to see the sort of punishment that London Underground trains are built to take. The last of these Piccadilly Line trains were built in 1977 and under current plans, they will have to stay in service to 2025.

The oldest London Underground trains still in regularly passenger service, are the Class 483 trains used on the Isle of Wight. Admittedly, they are running a service in a less-stressful environment after fifty years service in London, but the trains were originally delivered to London Underground in 1939 or 1940.

The London Underground D78 Stock, that has been purchased by Vivarail for conversion into the D-train, were first delivered in 1980, so they have only taken about thirty-five years of London’s punishment.

The trains were also extensively refurbished in the mid-2000s.

It also has to be born in mind, that although London works its Underground trains very hard, they also get first class servicing.

Several factors have all come together to create an opportunity for Vivarail.

  • There is a desperate shortage of diesel multiple units all over the UK. Partly, this is because of a need to replace the ageing Pacers, but mainly because of the growth in passenger numbers and the reluctant of Government in the 2000s to invest in much-needed new diesel trains.
  • Network Rail’s well-publicised problems with electrification, only makes the need for more diesel trains more important.
  • A lot of trains will have to be taken out of service as they don’t meet the disability regulations.
  • The UK’s world-class train refurbishment business, which has honed its skills on creating new trains from old for forty years, is ready for a new project.
  • There is now a supply of well-maintained, corrosion-free D78 Stock, that may not be sexy, but are as tough as teak, that are surplus to requirements.

It should also be said, that train operators and passengers want more flexible and better specified train services on difficult lines that are unlikely to be electrified in the near future and are difficult lines on which to provid a decent reliable train service.

Read any of the serious literature about the D-Train and it shows that the engineers are taking the project very seriously and are thinking very much outside the box.

  • Power units are based on Ford Duratorq diesel engines mounted on rafts under the train, with two to each power car.
  • These rafts can be changed using a fork lift at a remote location.
  • Flexibility of interior layout to suit the route.
  • Extensive use of LED lighting, Wi-fi and other modern technology.
  • The crash test has been released as a video. How often do you see that?

But perhaps this article from Rail Magazine entitled Catering for VivaRail’s rebuilt D-Stock, illustrates their innovative thinking better than ever.

The more I read about the D-train, the more I think it will surprise everybody.

It is true world class disruptive technology. And British technology too!

 

September 18, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Metier’s Buildings In Ipswich

These were Metier’s buildings in the Fore Street area of Ipswich.

Note that the major building we did up, has now been converted to apartments.

November 4, 2014 Posted by | World | , | 1 Comment

The Last Quartet

I saw this film last night and it was thoroughly enjoyable and a very good study of the tensions and relationships of a group of talented people.

In some ways, I found it a bit allegorical, as the tensions between the major players in Metier, were rather similar at times, although we had simpler relationships.

Of course, philistine that I am, I didn’t recognise any of the music in the film. This probably means that you don’t have to be a music lover to enjoy the film.

I saw it in the excellent Barbican Cinema and afterwards had a drink looking out of the window, at the front door of Cromwell Tower.  That was a bit surreal and I did wonder how my life would have mapped out, if C and myself had kept the flat there, which we probably would have done, if Metier had been sold earlier.

Do we just go round in circles in our lives?

April 8, 2013 Posted by | World | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Star That Is ARM

I am linking to this article, which has the full speech of ARM’s CEO’s statement giving the Q4 2012 Financial Results. It is a full nine pages long, so it won’t be an easy read. This statement from the first page is very telling.

So let’s start off with the highlights for Q4. Well, Q4 was a fantastic finish to 2012. We saw our continued momentum in licensing and sold 36 licenses in the last quarter. That’s another year of over 100 licenses in the full year.

As someone, who used to put his own intellectual property on someone else’s hardware designs, this number of licences is a significant number, as obviously, the more licences the company signs, the more money it will earn.

I don’t know anything about the technicalities of what ARM does, but judging by the company’s success, it must be pretty damn good. But to me, just as it was for Metier Management Systems with Artemis, when we owned the company, the managers have got the marketing and revenue model right.

In fact, I might argue, that getting that right is more important than getting the product to a hundred percent of your design aims.  As obviously, if you are generating lots of money, it is easier to close that last gap in your designs.

So often, I’ve seen wonderful ideas fail, because their revenue model wasn’t designed well enough and doesn’t feed itself back strong enough into product development.

There is another thing that ARM and Metier had in common.  ARM is and Metier was considered a almost a crusade or political movement by those that started the companies and those that worked there. The companies that I’ve dealt with or know of, that have had that zeal are hard to come by. My short list would include Apple,  Dyson, Rolls-Royce and Zopa.  Although, there are one or two architectural or construction companies, that in a few years time, might join them. And don’t underestimate other companies in all sorts of high-tech fields, using an ARM-style of cash-flow model, based on a group of individuals having a unique idea and the determination to see it through.

I can also think of several companies that had everything and then blew it! You could say we did that with Metier by selling out and a lot of other high-tech companies have done the same. And then there’s some that have just lost their way like IBM and Automony.

February 6, 2013 Posted by | Business, Computing, Finance, News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Disruptive Innovation

I’ve not heard the term before, but read this article.  It starts with this question and answer.

Question: what do these companies have in common?

Skype, Spotify, Marks and Spencer, Whipcar, Zopa, Zilok, Kiva, Patagonia, Kickstarter, Café Direct, Taskrabbit, Buzzcar and InterfaceFLOR.

Two of my favourite innovators; Zopa and Kiva are mentioned in the same breath as quite a few companies like, Skype, Spotify and M&S.

If the article has a fault, it’s that it misses out a couple of well known names, who the writer would call disruptive innovators.

I would have thought ARM Holdings and Dyson should be on the list. And I would think that a certain company called Metier Management Systems was one of the first! So we were only a shark in a small pond, but we completely rebuilt the pond.

August 23, 2012 Posted by | Business, Computing, Finance | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments