Interview: Porterbrook, UK IT Industry Awards finalist

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Andrew Swingewood, Director of Digital Technology, Porterbrook
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Andrew Swingewood, Director of Digital Technology, Porterbrook

"Our mission is to provide high quality, digitally-enabled rolling stock solutions that help deliver a safe, efficient, and sustainable railway."

Every company strategy today uses IT as a critical and important aspect: not just multinational organisations running massive systems and databases, but also small businesses operating just a single computer.

The UK IT Industry Awards are the largest and most well-known event in the technology industry calendar. Owned and operated by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT and Computing, the awards enjoy a level of professionalism and industry knowledge not seen at other shows.

This year's winners were announced at a live awards ceremony on Wednesday, 9th November.

One of the finalists was Porterbrook, in the running for IT Team of the Year.

Before the awards, we caught up with Andrew Swingewood, Director of Digital Technology at Porterbrook, find out what makes his company different from other technology firms.

Andrew is an experienced IT professional with senior leadership and management credentials gained over a 19-year career at Porterbrook. Joining in January 2003 as an IT Analyst, he has progressed through several IT positions, ultimately leading the IT department from 2017 and taking on his current role of Director of Digital Technology in 2020. Whilst continuing to drive the IT strategy for Porterbrook, Andrew is now also focused on the wider digital strategy including the benefit and value of asset data and its usage within the rail industry through enhanced vehicle reliability and infrastructure monitoring opportunities.

Computing: Please provide some background on your company for our readers.

Andrew Swingewood: Porterbrook is a rolling stock owner and asset manager. We own almost a quarter of the national passenger rail fleet and currently have around 4,000 vehicles on lease or on order. To date the business has invested £3 billion in new passenger and freight vehicles and is actively looking to invest a further £1 billion in UK rail in the coming years. Our mission is to provide high quality, digitally-enabled rolling stock solutions that help deliver a safe, efficient, and sustainable railway.

What makes you different from other technology companies?

We are an industry leader with a strong focus on innovation and technology. Innovation is at the heart of Porterbrook's approach to whole life asset management. In collaboration with industry and academic partners, we are developing a portfolio of digitally enabled and re-tractioned rolling stock. Our business is at the forefront of developing hydrogen, hybrid and battery powered trains. We are also working with SMEs and Innovate UK to significantly reduce emissions from our existing diesel fleets.

What one company achievement in the last 12 months are you most proud of?

The Porterbrook IT team won the 'Team of the Year' award within our company, nominated and voted on by the executive team in the business. The decision was unanimous that the team came out of 2021 as our strongest and most resilient department in the company. This award particularly recognised the support provided throughout COVID by the entire team, something that was not only vital to the success of the business in such a turbulent time, but also to the mental health and wellbeing of our employees.

What are you working on this year?

While the department continues to deliver high levels of support across the business, we are also focused on the delivery of a significant data analytics upgrade programme, assessment of future asset management & maintenance capabilities with alignment to supporting software systems, and the delivery of a suite of custom software developments; delivering new site management solutions for our Rail Operations Site at Long Marston. Significant undertakings when you consider that we are a team of only eight IT professionals.

Why are events like the UK IT Industry Awards important to the IT industry?

IT can often be seen as the silent business partner within an organisation, quietly keeping everything running and only really noticed when things go wrong. We are fortunate within Porterbrook that IT receives strong recognition for the job we do and the support we provide, but wider industry recognition for the value IT provides across every company, driving change while supporting the wider business is fantastic.

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