Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Alternative Christmas Message - 2017

We now live in a western-led globalised urban culture that has hyper-contextualised the idea of wealth and an apparent ferocious concomitant personal and group demand of the enormously expensive in all consumer items.

Perhaps even Thorsten Veblen himself would be ashamed of the extent his 18th century observations have materialised; sent at warp speed into the 21st century.

It seems that the yesteryear ideal of 'personal wealth' – that of typically hard earned cumulative experience and wisdom that provided the level of an individual's social worth – became redundant long, long ago...often now absent when broken and maladapted societies need it most.

There are of course those relatively few who sit on massive personal and family wealth, the best of whom give back to broad society, ranging from International Aid to sponsorship of high-culture performances; so as to elevate the bodies and minds of those far less fortunate.

But unfortunately, popular culture through music videos and reality shows envelopes little more than 'televisual torture' for the many, seeking to emulate the crassest elements of the 1%.

Hollywood (and now Bollywood and its other EM equals) and the ever more sensationalist seeking fashion industry channeled through formal and social media obviously shapes much of that social consciousness; and has unsurprisingly perpetuated the mass-desire for all that is apparently “glamorous”.

The most prevalent and endemic now being the creation of woman's 'lounge-wear' which in essence transfers the sexuality of bedroom lingerie and nightclub-wear into the ever more everyday public area. Whilst their men are supposed to be driving Lambo's, Ferrari's, Porsche's, Rolls-Royce's and Bentley's whilst simultaneously ordering cases of premium champagne and cutting multi-million dollar deals on gold-plated iPhones.

TV reality-show puppets perpetuate the fantasy for the mass youth whilst their own personal debt piles from education, high rents and lifestyle and experience spending; actually keeps them in an ever more complex high anxiety web, which itself spirals with paradoxically more consumeristic "antidotes".

Money does indeed make the world go around, and 'high finance' through equity and fixed-income does indeed fuel the industrial and services economies by which most earn a living.

But this Christmas, next Christmas and thereafter....don't be stupid enough to make money your religion.


Monday, 4 December 2017

Parallel Learning – UK Emergency Service Vehicles – Investment in Scaled Efficiencies for an Ever Broadening Multi-Task Spectrum

Part 5 : Metamorphic Modularisation
“Sketching-Out a Three Phase Future”

The six previous case studies of the modular ideology were obviously only a relative few instances, that have underpinned the modern world. Other examples abound.

Given the UK government's newly announced £44bn focus on the housing sector, a prosaic example of yesteryear was of course the “Pre-Fab” house in the post WW2 era, the quick solution to the need to house hundreds of thousands of people away from the devastation.

The speedy and cost-efficient basis of the “Pre-Fab” (ie pre-fabricated) building – whilst heavily influencing and favoured by much of Europe in very advanced structure – failed to make in-roads in the UK. This precisely because of the structure and interests of the domestic housing sector, from the deep intersection with Finance and Banking, the entrenched '30%-30%-30%' (10% contingency) business model of house-builders, reliance on heavy commodities (bricks, aggregates etc) much low-cost labour, and the sector's contribution to the FTSE 250. In effect a highly fragmented, and so incrementally value-adding process in which much value (ie profit) can be extracted.

Nonetheless, whilst this reality is entrenched in the deep foundations of the UK economy, new policy and CSR thinking for those people most marginalised (the homeless) should take place.

To this end, investment-auto-motives suggests that a policy be created which utilises old, disregarded yet sound shipping containers and detatchable 'Luton' box-van bodies be appropriated, modified and used as micro-homes to end dire suffering.

[NB It seems that BT Openreach (the wholesale comms division of the Group) have been discontinuing their now aged fleet of box-body vans, because of apparent events of fire caused by portions of the wooden internal structure of the box, leading to the humorous term 'the WickerVan' amongst fleet engineers. Unless BT seeks to recycle the sheet plastic, aluminium and extrusions, these bodies could be stripped of flammable internal materials and given to a dedicated charity for adaptation and in which to house the homeless far from the troublesome inner-city streets].

As corporations take on greater social inclination and responsibility, such initiatives for social improvement within western nations should become commonplace. The UK, Europe and North America suffers from often invisible heavy social deprivation which requires proper solutions, not just more formal charities; which appear to better serve their 'private-sector level' paid Directors, Managers and Staff – which is itself is highly alienating given the 'lifestyle chasm' to those in desperate need.

Importantly, ever since the advent of the 2008 Financial Crisis and its devastating effect upon the UK economy and society at large, the product philosophy of necessary re-use, new-use and long life-cycles for old and new products and their sub-components has become increasingly melded into the social and industrial consciousness.

To this end there needs to be a more holistic and long-termist perspective about the fundamental infrastructures of western society, this the prime argument posited herein regards a new modular age for the Emergency Service Vehicles. So as to underpin both the reduced costs of long-term government spending in this arena, and operate as a catalyst for broader change and advancement in public and private transport.

In order to appreciate the possibility for such a rational re-design of society we return to the most prolific military-industrial case study.

The Transfer of Military Learning -

The point to be made here is that the most efficient and effective combined military force in the world, the US Armed Forces is seen as a powerful template for the conceptualised idea of a highly technically capable national emergency services model – one that could be eventually rolled out world-wide.

And so it is only logical that in turn the philosophical template of the armed forces, along with that of the UN, and the 'imagineering' creativity shown by the creators of 'Thunderbirds' should be revisited to construct an enhanced future version of the UK's Emergency Services.

Although at first possibly viewed as seemingly overtly childish, simplistic and ridiculous the fact remains that the central element of the 'imagineering' that went into 'International Rescue' means that the TV show should indeed be used as a highly useful cultural reference when considering the expanded 'real-world' capabilities and increasingly advanced technical development of the Emergency Services.

Presciently then, whilst often intentionally sensationalist and far fetched, the story-lines of Thunderbirds - often requiring the application of hi-tech solutions - introduces the idea of a more systematic process approach toward the marriage of vehicle fleets and specific equipment needs.

The Dire Need For Long Term Planning -

The UK's national budget has been under immense pressure since 2008, the need for Qualitative Easing as a palliative measure (but adding massively to the debt over-hang and its deffered 're-balancing' date of now 2030) plus the reality of relatively slow economic growth within the global downturn from a low baseline, has meant that both the OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility), the Treasury / Chancellor of the Exchequer have all had to undertake a highly challenging financial balancing act between the 'fire-fighting' social needs of today and the mid to long-term economic health of the country.

Today we live in a world of what could be called 'Rationalised Keynsianism' whereby the high Keynesian costs of new and retro-fitted infrastructure planning/development, so as to drive up aggregate B2B and B2C demand, must - unlike the past when central government had the strength and ability to spend and spend - now be much 'Rationalised' by the involvement of far more “measured inputs and outputs” from private capital and commerce.

This process alone then extends and complicates the infrastructure planning time-frame.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, the comparative industrial and economic might of the UK and West meant that high-ideal social projects could be conceptualised and delivered, from the railways of the 1850s to the NHS of the 1950s. Little matter that such grand schemes may have led to cost over-runs and delayed financial break-even, the ROI in respective financial and social terms was assured, whereby strong capital could rely upon a structured society and increasingly healthy and educated workforce.

Things are very different today, increasingly aged society, increasingly sick populace (medication rife across the age range from ADHD medicated children to socially disconnected, long seperated, alienated and rightly distrustful adults) and vitally an equally sick national 'structural debt' burden. A burden which (now as seen) extends the budget re-balancing by 15 years, from the initial 2015 to 2030.

It must only be hoped that the enormous levels of government debt raised will be used beyond the cash injection into the banks and also be effectively used to pump-prime and kick-start a new era in UK commerce.

One which re-invents British commerce and industry far beyond the trite examples of the internet of things seen so far and the extreme over-hype of truly autonomous cars. A model which vitally is directly connected to the rest of the world and indeed leads the world in proper PESTEL advancement.

Rarely has a society faced such endemic challenges yet all the while much of its youth and middle-aged been absorbed into the 'group narcissism' of identity politics fuelled by the media and social-media so as to feel “empowered”, the result has become social division, leading to a permanently “passive-aggressive” society, which has become increasingly dysfunctional.

That dream-scape ideal of Victorian sociologists which came into being with the advent of the largely unified mass middle-class has become but a distant memory for many, and the over-arching social ideology requires a fundamental 're-boot'.

Presently one (potentially dystopian) 'reboot' is being orientated by the increasingly omnipotent Big Tech companies, led by Alphabet-Google and its plans for the Toronto 'Keyside' area cyber-immersed redevelopment.”To rejuvinate the area” is the apparent mission-statement, without recognistion that the humans within it are essentially 'digitally-dependent' and themselves not autonomous beings, but effectively part of the machine, “ghosts in the machine”.

It also seems, that in a new era of slowly reduced Statism, that many central humanistic and sociological 'stakeholder' considerations will be the remit and remote responsibility of those powerful financial institutions (the biggest pension funds, insurance funds, investment funds etc) that operate as primary shareholders in new socio-technological ventures that shape the everyday. These with little or no political leanings; many of which are influenced by the non-partisan, socially lead Norwegian SWF – the biggest singular fund owner in the world.

Thus whilst infrastructure costs and 'pay back' periods will be scrutinised for each project, so increasingly is the real-world 'CSR' impact, from 'Emissions to Education' to ensure as broad an advantageous outcome as feasible.

Thus whilst there is much talk of “HS2” (itself paradoxical in the digital age but obviously serving construction sector – see previous comment) and ideology of the “Northern Powerhouse” as big tractive economic projects, the UK's corporate and political leadership must also look at the basics of society's everyday functional activities for substantive social improvement and financial re-balancing.

To this end, in an age of social fragmentation, much increased individual worry and stress and subsequent highly damaging behavioural outcomes, and wherein the social institutions of the past that promoted respect, discipline and meaningful learning (ie schools and universities) have become little more than containment and profit centres, perhaps the only remaining examples of the combined positive self and society is held within the social ideology of the combined Emergency Services and their innate moral precedence.

It is a moral lead which western societies desperately need to re-awaken, invoke and spread amongst its citizens so as to create social stability and overall advancement.

And it is only via compelling vison, new thinking, approaches, methods and technologies that this could and should be achieved.

The R+D Challenge -

Details behind the recent UK Budget highlighted the truth about Britain's position in the world of today and tomorrow, and given the seemingly never-ending televisual historical documentary boast about the country's past achievements as leaders of the Industrial Revolution, today compariative efforts appear pitiful.

As a comparison: even before advent of the autonomous vehicle, a typical auto-manufacturer needed to spend between 4-6% of its turnover on research and development, this the industrial norm.

Nations arguably have more need and inducement to operate at that level to create society's future, yet the UK ranked 13th out of 15 (largely western) countries in terms of Public R+D at 1.7%, marginally beating Italy and Spain, but far behind its best positioned counterparts which spend approximately 4.5% and 3.0%.

[NB combine the typically business connected efforts of the USA and Israel and the combined spending is near 7.0%; little wonder that Jewish-Americans seized the opportunities of the British invented internet for enormous financial gain whilst the rest of the world fell well behind in industrial terms].

Time indeed for Britain to recapture its industrial heritage and actually live-up to the eternal boast of past achievement.

The £2.5bn now made available for Innovation appears overtly small when compared to Housing's £44bn, so it will have to be directed very, very wisely.

Metamorphic Modularisation -

One such avenue is via an expansive re-design of the Emergency Service's mobile units infrastructure.

It seems that over the decades more than enough has been spent upon an ever bigger, sprawling and complex - and so operationally problematic - IT systems, which have absorbed enormous public funding and indeed rightly added to available information for those Responders on the street; whether Police Officers doing background checks, or Ambulance Para-Medics able to see the patient details of a 999 call from members of the public.

Yet in reality there comes a certain point of information overload or little added value to those on the ground, and thus greater expediency can be gained from a fundamental redesign of the major physical parts of the system itself.

A more rationalised and systemic approach which demands that strategic attention be turned toward the physically mobile entities themselves, not simply the digital communications system.

As illustrated previously, past evolution of the Police, Ambulance and Fire-Rescue depended upon the re-shaping reaction of watershed events (eg the Blitz) to create adequate entities, but this is reactionary and slow when foresight and proactivity is obviously required.

Thus a 'Big Picture' plan is required to serve the remainder of the 21st century.

A fundamental aspect of this being a new totem or system pillar of Service Re-configurable and Mixed Use Core Fleet “Van and Pod” Vehicle Infrastructure(s).

The attached graphic by investment-auto-motives simplistically depicts such a future regards basic 'Van and Pod' architectures, named 'Metamorphic Modularisation' or indeed 'Metamorphic Metropolitan Modularisation' ('3M')

[NB this done to deliberately invoke the innovative icon that is the moveable 3M Post-It-Note, itself oblong and florescent, and so akin to an EMS vehicle, aswell as a major producer of chemical-bonding solutions for many variants of vehicle bodies, from coach-built van-bodies to helicopter airframes].

The key aspect is to view the Module Box as of prime importance, given the role the space muct play to maximise cost and efficiency and the unrecognised enormous potential for the continued evolution of duty-assist equipment, propelled by much from the IoT (Internet of Things) to proper ergonomics to make the Responder or Respond Group more able.

Those groups spanning: Police, Ambulance, Fire-Rescue and the possibility of an additional (light Para-Military like) Civilian Assist which can be deployed for unusual and extreme major events, beyond the everyday and specialised remit of the standard three Services.

The basis then is of a Standardised Module System which can be Task Re-Configured and is Future-Proofed in its construction to befit the conventional industry evolution and deliberately UK EMS designed evolution of the Prime-Mover vehicles, their changing drive-train types (ICE to Hybrid to all Electric) and on-board power supply distribution (from 12V to 48V).

The basic graphic spans a time-line that starts after initial research studies and prototyping, and is set in 3 Phases.

Phase 1 :
Spans from 2025 to 2035

A basic redesign of standard van chassis-cabs from Ford, Renault (also badged Vauxhall, FIAT and of course Nissan), VW, Mercedes-Benzand Peugeot-Citroen, that deploys repositioned  lower mounted rear chassis rails onto which the Module is positioned. This provides for greater standard headroom and so usability, and echoes the changes made to passenger cars in the 1920s and 1930s and to buses in the 1970s and 2000s, and the be. larger class of European campervan conversion companies.

This a relatively low-cost alteration by the manufacturer, requiring a frame-rail stagger and so localised strengthening.

Additionally the design by manufacturer and client would focus upon the mating system for Module Placement and Removal between Box and Van. With also the potential Addition of a separate Trailer Module attached via standard tow-bar, NATO-hitch or A-frame , so providing for the ability to simultaneously deploy 2 complementary Modules.

NB. The fundamental design of the Module 'future-proofed' so as to be the vital and foremost item to which  future power-units are attached.

Otherwise the vehicle appears as normal, with the expected introduction of Hybrid drive by manufacturers for Diesel and Petrol engines, and the possibility of 4WD with inclusion of a electrically-driven rear axle (PSA having led this trend with its 3008 model)

Phase 2 :
Spans from 2035 to 2050

A radical redesign of vehicle architecture, with the van now operating as a smaller scale Tractor-Trailer unit. The van becomes a highly manouvreable short wheel-base 'Traction Head' consisting of of motor and short 3-abreast cabin, pulling the Module Box.

At this stage the inclusion of additional 'Extendor' units attached either front, rear, or both; so expanding the available capacity of the single Module.

The option is to put the Module Box on its own unpowered wheels front and rear to create a 'rolling chassis' or to use a smaller-scale conventional tractor-trailer hitch system.

This mimics the carrying methods seen between the 1920s and 1960s by ports and industry in Germany and the UK, and at airports today, wherein the 'traction-head' (then the likes of a Scammell Scarab) would act as a 'tug' to the separate wagon.

Phase 3 :
Spans from 2050 onward

A radical redesign from today, but natural evolution from the Phase 2 model. Herein the Module again takes even greater precedence, itself the core body to which a medium-sized powered 'Head' and /or 'Tail' is attached to provide propulsion in either 2WD or 4WD forms.

These units being the standard dimensions of the previous 'Extendor' unit, with Both 'Head' and 'Tail' providing all-electric drive (hence pure EV) and providing steering to either front, rear or both.

The latter especially useful for cornering when the Module Box is lengthened (ie configured with 'Extendors' front and rear).

Funding :
An 'off-the-cuff' structure:
Phase 1 : 40% Central Government, 40% Municipal Gov't, 20% Private Capital
Phase 2 : 40% Central Gov't, 20% Municiple Gov't (gradual decline), 40% Private Capital.
Phase 3 : gradual decline of Gov't sources to 100% PFI by 2050.

The Past Informs the Future -

Historically, many if not most new technological eras begin with the dedication of government to both affect change and to later via PFI (Private Finance Initiatives) to attract capital from the financial markets. This achieved through direct seed and incubation funding or via any necessary parliamentary clearance; and indeed both undertaken simultaneously.

In recent decades both the information revolution that is the internet and eco-technology advancements have been often essentially created and initially supported by the state; from academic labs to directly injected exploratory innovation grants.

This seen yet again today with the grant selection and approval process behind the former automotive element of the Technical Strategy Board, leading to 'Catapult' activities. The analytical outcomes of which have led to the nurturing of Driverless/Autonomous Vehicles in two development hub locations: Milton Keynes (private 2 persons transit) and Greenwich (public 10 persons transit).

The point to be made here is that unlike the US (with its far better connected banking-business-industrial leadership) the UK continues to be largely reactive in its innovation stance (very much led by the USA), not proactive, as it must.

And so inevitably lags behind.

This situation, oft told wherein the best of British innovation either stagnates or is 'stolen by' (ie the opportunity taken by) America, has to be reversed; especially now that the UK looks to the rest of the world for its future for new 'special relationships'.

Conclusion -

Given the complexity of tasks dealt with by Police, Ambulance and Fire-Rescue services, those in Whitehall with ultimate long-term policy creation, implementation and budget responsibility for the Emergency Services should recognise that it is high time for a well considered “back to the drawing board” approach.

So as to provide substantive long-term performance and costs improvement and to draw upon the planning, design, engineering and delivery expertise of UK plc to do so.

As seen previously, there are many influences that can and should be drawn upon, not least:

- Military
- Commerce
- Yesteryear Public Projects
- Popular Culture

Yes, the vital aspect of 'Modularisation' of the Emergency Services may at first appear overtly clinical or indeed militaristic, but the devout rationality of a military mindset behind the scenes does not need equate to a seemingly paramilitary presence in urban, suburban, provincial and rural areas.

[NB though the addition of a 'civil defence force' (possibly beginning as an expanded Territorial Army staffed by volounteer civilian “brigades” would strengthen disaster relief reaction and capability]

Of course the gains to be had from ever enhanced IT systems and better systems integration will continue to appear attractive and so gain budgetary backing, but the Emergency Services are a front-line operation, dependent upon people and their machinery. And just as information processes can be streamlined, so should much that is understood as the overtly practical.

All that is sits within the digital realm may be viewed as the glamourous arena for productivity improvement, but it has finite limits, and as such inevitably much reduced “units of marginal return” from ever additional expenditure.

In the end, it is the intersection between the people and their hardware that actually gets things done.

Now is the time that organisational leaderships of the Constabularies, Ambulance Services and Fire-Rescue – both separately as distinctly nationally combined singular forces and indeed combined mixed-forces – make a concerted effort to investigate various scenarios regards the physical 'shape of things to come' from the mid-term horizon onward.

Just how much a 'Metamorphic Modularised' system could vastly revolutionise and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of what is presently a very fragmented legacy-bound system must be explored in detail and with true independence.

Over the next 5 years we will continue to see the monies borne from Quantitative Easing trickle-down into UK commerce. The ongoing low interest rate environment providing a low-cost backdrop to what should be a new-era, next-step change that should see PFI projects expand beyond the standard strictures of rail, road, housing, education etc.

Privately invested British industry reacted to the 1956 Suez Crisis with the emergence of the 'modularised' 1959 Mini (with its radically re-invented packaging, external body seams and rotisserie production). And simultaneously saw the launch of a radically innovative public investment with the advent of the 'modularised' Routemaster Bus. Both of which thanks to wise mixed planning of private and public transport transformed the everyday life of the masses.

The McMillan led Conservative government won the 1959 general election for its third term in office, in no small part thanks to the vitality and ingenuity of a much revived British industry able to react to big-picture issues with the knowledge of political and expected economic stability.

The general base rate during the 1950s was between 2 – 4% and see what was achieved.

Today we sit at an historically unprecedented base rate low – which theoretically should induce a massive impetus for low cost borrowing toward investment in major public and private 'social transformation' projects.

More necessary today than since the end of WW2 given the enormous eco-socio-economic challenges in our midst : climate change, ongoing social deprivation, the wealth chasm between the 'haves' and 'have nots', and the still very anaemic general economy.

Timely then that the ”IR” public-good edict of 'International Rescue' was morphed with the “IR” acronym of 'Investor Relations'.

The UK's Industrial Strategy requires not simply growth-sector identification and backing ranging across the bio-sciences and artificial intelligence, but the re-application of critical human intelligence regards the updating of the man-made systemic world we live within.

As ever, investment-auto-motives continues to provide the thought leadership to do so.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Parallel Learning - UK Emergency Service Vehicles - Investment in Scaled Efficiencies for an Ever Broadening Multi-Task Spectrum

Part 4 : Inspiration of the 'Modular Methodology'

To highlight the gains to be obtained from the use of 'modularisation' – and its foundation of 'the rational method', the following consists of diverse examples that have transformed the productive capacity of society at large.

Best Practice Examples -

As previously described at the beginning of this web-log, “modular systems” have been in use for hundreds of years, indeed in simplistic form, for millennia.

However, there is obviously a world of difference in scale and complexity between the geometrical optimal factory packing of say chocolate Easter Eggs, to that of the pin-point 3D space identification and overtly automated utilisation in Amazon's massive warehouse facilities, to that of the 'box within a box within a box' mentality necessary of a global logistics company such as FedEx, DHL etc for maximum transport space utilisation.

Modularisation then, in its many forms, is in the world around us, and not just the obviously man-made, but also in nature as seen with the fractal, modularised replication of a complete tree echoed in the veins of its leaves.

However, it is modern built infrastructures, and where man-made vision has been made material into reality, that mankind's best practice should once again be recognised so as to inspire a better created future.

The following inspirational examplars from various fields:

1. Military
2. Commercial
3. Public Service
4. Education
5. Automotive
6. Television


Given the sad history of human war-mongering over resources and riches, it should come as no surprise that innate logic was earliest applied to this arena, this discipline leading to the term 'logistics'.

The efficient transportation of men, supplies and machinery was always paramount, and so the importance of 'vessel' type devices was always much considered, from the humble food-box, to the back-pack to the water or fuel 'jerry-can' right up to the latch-down layouts of heavy transport, from off-road 12-wheel drive TATRA trucks to the floor systems of heavy-haul aircraft like the Lockheed C-130 Hercules or new Airbus A400 Atlas.

Unsurprisingly, the common theme across much military equipment is that of optimisation through standardisation. This well underway in logistics by the early 19th century, this tangibly recognised and popularised by the dimensional accuracy of inter-changable parts for 'deconstructable and reconstructable' Colt revolvers.

Such examples helped the cause of standardisation and so efficiency, especially for any logistics corp. Thus arguably, as advantageous as the standardised weaponry has been likewise in transportation and on the ground deployment.

Of specific interest to this web-log is the seemingly humble transport container has evolved enormously over the preceding decades, especially so in within military use.

Effectively gestated in its modern form during WW1 for train to truck loading by both sides, it evolved again through WW2, and dramatically so by the US immediately after WW2 with creation of the first recognisable modern steel, 'hand-clap' door container – the 'Transporter'.

Thereafter, especially through the Vietnam War, modularisation via the transport container has formed the backbone of the US and thereafter international military operations, which led to the CONtainer EXPress system, or CONEX, allowing for greater modular configurations, improved stacking and storage.

By the 1970s the maturation of commercial systems encouraged use of both 40' and 20' length containers. These set the two typical set sizes used and range from being stored wholly empty with thousands of others awaiting dispatch, to deployed 'dress-ready' into 'the field' whether a stand-alone generator-house, or a conjoined mass, specially kitted-out to become as a unified operations base (possibly including command post, stores, medic, mess, sleeping quarters etc)

The military container has then been developed through space and HVAC rationalisation, user ergonomics aswell as aspects of packaging engineering; from low-level flight drop tests with crushable 'cushion' bases to airtight or vacuum sealed units for highly sensitive equipment

The development of the US Dept of Defense Container System is a story unto itself, affecting NATO and others, a story and productivity phenomenon which the UK Emergency Services would do well to reacquaint itself with.

Commerce :

Obviously, containers in a myriad of forms have been central to the thousands of years of local, regional and worldwide trade.

The first identifiable development with relation to the transferring of specialised carry-boxes between water, rail and road vehicles were thanks to James Brindley and Benjamin Outram in the late 1700s; these morphed into the earilest form of recognised 'containerization, by way of 'loose boxes'. By 1917 Benjamin Frankin Fitch had created his own design of 'demountable bodies' soon used by US railroads. And other efforts were made in Poland and the UK, centred around rail.

But it was only after the devastating effects of the 1929 Great Depression, undermining, fragmenting and halting trade worldwide, that the idea of internationally collaborative containerization came to the fore. Fitch re-entered the scene with 2 dimensions of container (either open or closed) and the 'Fitch Hooking System', and upon this the first container terminal was created by the Pennsylvannia RailRoad Co in 1932.

The ability to move a unified load from one form of transport to another via a standard container is officially called the 'intermodal freight container', spanning sea, rail and road; the first example of this in Canada in1955 between North Vancouver and Skagway, Alaska, USA. Similar efforts were made in mainland USA a year later between Newark, New Jersey and Houstan, Texas.

Success of the general system led to a proliferation of container or “box” sizes, and it was over a decade until ISO standards and regulations were ratified (between 1968 and 1970).

The gains of containerization in terms of speed, efficiency and so cost were enormous, whilst the general operations of ports, rail-heads and haulage depots altered likewise with a reduction of manpower required to transfer loads between transport mediums.

And to befit the now powerfully convenient system, manufacturers changed shipment packaging sizes and methods to suit, with periodically even the dimensions of the innate product itself so as to maximise the utilisation space of the whole container.

Thus the very effect of modularisation had a consequential effect of whole or partial modularisation throughout the supply system.

The influence of the ISO standards latterly meant that (non-stackable) truck bodies – known as 'swap-bodies' – would come to match similar dimensions, and that freight pallets (wooden, plastic and metal) would likewise be sized to fit.

Critically the worldwide adoption of these container standards means that even though there may be regional differences in other transport standards (such as narrow, standard and broad gauge rail) transport of the standard container is largely assured.


The simple Lego brick (and its myriad of shaped successors) has become itself locked into the minds of adults and children all over the world regards educational play. Today the company is second only to the enormous Mattel Inc in terms of ranking, but has perhaps an unrivalled brand persona, given that the popularity of old favourites like Barbie, Cindy, Action Man have declined, overtaken by the impact of film, video and internet content related to character based toy merchandising (Disney Corp the obvious beneficiary).

The story of Lego itself has become the stuff of legend, from rustic roots in a carpenter's shed to multi-billion dollar empire, with its own ability to ride trends in popular culture franchises and business alliances.

A succinct article was published in the December 2013 edition of Octane Magazine (p142), which provides a pertinent perspective.

“Near bankruptcy in 1990, Lego fought back.

Founded in 1932 in Billund, Denmark by Ole Kirk Kristiansen a local master carpenter who added toys to his repetoire, the name 'Lego' derives from 'Leg Godt' meaning “play well”, it highlighted later by an external scholar that in Latin it means “I put together”.

The first injection moulding machine was imported in 1946 and Kristiansen decided to use this innovative device to create quicker and more cheaply produced plastic toys to accompany the hand and machine-made wooden ones. His primary plastic creation was “the Automatic Binding Brick” in 1949, which would be re-made as the 'stud and tube' brick in 1957, the coupling system patented in 1958.

[NB The idea itself sprang from the British toy 'Kiddicraft' of 1932, an original creation of the latter large Fishercraft company, slightly modified to include a 'peg' design].

A factory fire destroyed Kristiansen's wooden toy plant and so the company became reliant upon its plastic output.

In 1962 the Lego kits were made more versatile with the introduction of the Lego wheel, and thereafter the bricks adapted in shape, colour and texture to befit various themes, from housebuilding to automotive to characters to iconic architectures, and much else.

Construction with the modular brick(s) is nothing new (Egyptians to Romans to the efforts of a Victorian builder from Ware, Hertfordshire to produce a range of lightweight hollow kiln bricks, to reduce manual input and so costs, which when in situ concrete could poured to set.

But it is the devotion of Lego's founder, his familial successors and the raft of ever so typically Danish executives, until of late, that created the modular icon.

Public Service:

A prime aim of government procurement at national, regional and local levels is to ensure maximum utility/service advantage for minimum cost. As such 'tenders for contract' will seek to best balance the pros and cons of an array of product or service providers.

Thus increasingly procurement officials “go to the market” to evaluate what different firms promise to offer. But depending upon many variables - from the longevity of trading, level of internal efficiencies, ability to tailor standard service – means that in one way or another the product or service offering will rarely be truly optimal. This especially so since to gain best price and supplier flexibility any offered contract will be of a relatively short duration.

This negates the idea of long-term planning and with it the ideal of a long-horizon product / service solution. As such local, regional and even some aspects of national government are not permitted to view their forward requirements in the same manner as say the Armed Forces; these seen as a core requirement which befit long-term planning and related research, development, manufacturing and roll-out.

Increasingly the ideal of “fit for purpose” relates to “befitting the purse”, especially in a budget contrained age such as today. And as such even what should be big impact public projects tend to become watered down.

This the case with London's “New Routemaster” bus in 2012, a bus which whilst housing a hybrid engine, was in reality a basic adaption and trendy re-skin of conventional engineering, replacing the Mercedes 'bendy-bus'. Intended to add renewed identity and pride to Londoners and employment in Northern Ireland, the home of its manufacturer WrightBus.

But this was not always so.

There was a time when long-term planning of 'public good' products was innate to the ambitions and capabilities of Britain.

None more so than the original Routemaster, its own ideal, engineering brief and that of its infrastructure centred around the 'Modular System' for long-term service duration and so a macro-perspective on much reduced 'long-life-cycle' running costs.

Original Routemaster's launch year (as with original Mini) was 1959, the same year that the Conservatives won their 3rd term election.

This is mentioned because only because it appears that it was the expected stability of a single ruling political party – and so the stability of policy and funding – that allowed the lengthy planning and delivery time-frame for what would be a watershed vehicle and holistically integrated transport programme; both using the 'modular approach'.

Whilst the vehicle designers at what was then a very centralised London Transport looked to advanced engineering techniques to incorporate into the future-forward project, infrastructure planners and architects likewise sought to maximise the operations system that would underpin the expected 50 year maintenance and overhaul schedule to keep the buses running long into the future.

London Transport's bus facilities had been used during WW2 to build the Halifax bomber, a process which established the vital importance of standardisation of interchangeable parts via dimensional accuracy. Much had been learned which was utilised in the 1948 mass production of the RT bus (the Routemaster's predecessor). By the mid 1950s London had the world's biggest standardised bus fleet.

Ambitions regards the next generation bus grew commensurately bigger, buoyed by the new engineering age within car design – primarily: monocoque structure, lightweight aluminium, independent coil-sprung suspension, cabin heating, power-steering and automatic gearbox; the central aspects of the Routemaster, many of which were seen years ahead of mainstream cars.

The next bus would likewise use the large Aldenham overhaul centre, but with more designed-in modularity, to allow for even greater efficiencies and so even quicker service, maintainence or full refurbishment turnaround times.

The modular 'space-frame' or 'birdcage' body design mimicked that used on the best of aircraft, and was even more sophisticated than that deployed by the tailor-made Italian carrozzeria on specialist sports-cars. Whereas that type of strong tubular frame carried unstressed panels, the far more modularised Routemaster used its panels to re-enforce the strength of the basic frame. Attached to that frame are front and rear sub-frames to carry axles and engine.

It took 8 years from concept to production via an exhaustive design, engineering and testing programme, the first prototype in 1954 and put into test-service in 1956 to wean-out in-service problems, with SOP (start of full scale production) in 1959, with components made by AEC in Southall S.W. London and build at Park Royal in W. London.

As such a prolific 'public good' achievement, the name of Bill Durrant, Colin Curtis and Douglass Scott should be recognised.

They knew it would be the holistical understanding and application of 'The Modular Approach' that would balance the cost-quality-speed equation and so provide good long-term efficient service through deliberately designed-in cost constraint.

Television / Popular Culture :

Since the writings of HG Wells “going to moon”, Isaac Asimov's ideas about the “ROBOT” and Fritz Lang's cinematic presentation of a future 'Metropolis', the merging of science fact and conjecture has generated science fiction; this 'hyper-contextualisation' – ever since and latterly created at 'warp-speed' on our screens, considered the philosophical nebulous for heralding “the shape of things to come”.

The second-half century backdrop saw the corresponding rise of Sci-Fi hero vs villain comic books, and so as to better animate such figures, by the time the 1960s arrived a broad cast of 'save the day' puppet-based characters were adventuring by air, land and sea; from Captain Scarlet to Joe 90.

The largely Anglo-American televisual popular culture of the time used as an effective 'soft-power' exercise, first for domestic audiences, thereafter international recipients. Plots devised across the world - from the London Underground to Amazonian Rain Forest - to demonstrate a paternal influence regards globally relevant social issues; with of course much of that stemming from lookalikes of Cold War enemies.

None are better known than 'Thunderbirds', especially so in its original 1960s puppet format. (Though also known to younger generations in both live-action and computer generated depictions).

The Tracey sons took on the mantle of highly collaborative modern-day guardians, able to reach the farthest distances of the planet and even into space with a full suite of specialist aircraft and associated equipment; assisted by their 'London Agent' Lady Penelope in her (then ironically) “chinese wheeled” pink Rolls-Royce.
But of particular note to mission success was the big green cargo carrier: Thunderbird 2, its launch sequence the joy of the 1960s school-boy.

Arriving after Thunderbird 1 (the reconnaissance craft), TB2 operated as the multi-role strategic and tactical heavy hauler. It's basic form could be termed a “perimeter air-frame” or “void chassis frame”: an arrangement which allows for the swallowing carrying one of a range of modular cargo 'Pods'.

Each of the 6 pods dedicated to a specific task with suitable equipment inside.

So, unlike the fast response, 'TB1', Thunderbird 2 was the task-master, dedicated to the successful outcome of the specific challenge encountered. Critically it achieved this because of its ability to fundamentally reconfigure itself, in what is essentially a “bolted-on” format for the urgent need.

Thanks to its speedy reconfigurability the functional flexibility afforded meant that in this fictionalised (yet largely factually correct) world, that the right equipment was 'put on the ground' using a highly rational 'mix and match' approach of a separate transport vehicle accompanied by a specifically tailored functional box.

The functional inspiration for this vehicle was undoubtedly the Sikorsky S-61 'heavy-lift' helicopter of the period for its 'empty belly' airframe, whilst the Fairchild C-119 airplane, nicknamed the “Flying BoxCar”, was used for general aero-aesthetic.

Thunderbirds in Context -
The TV series producers, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, had come from affluent sociological academic backgrounds. Together with bright and informed script-writers, set designers, model-makers and puppeteers, they could see how the best-practices of the armed forces of the period could be adopted for the global social good; from 'Recon to Clean-Up'. This central idea of a worldwide 'International Rescue' task force was a knowing complimentary parallel to the then growing humanitarian remit of the United Nations, itself largely led by the US.

[NB Interestingly in this very vein, in 1981 a real volunteer organisation named the International Rescue Corps was established in Scotland. The work of the UN itself obviously much expanded during the past fifty years].


As states previously the auto-industry has long sought forms of modularisation where feasible, whether from complete vehicle architecture, down to specific fitments. This spanning the rationales of 'Common Components', 'Re-Positionable Items' and 'Changable Parts'

From 'common components' perspective, this the longest industry trend given the obvious cost gains, with application across various different model types of similar segments (eg door frames, door handles, door locks, door hinges, front lamp units, side-lamps, the industry norm right up the the 1990s. This often provided the advantage of an obvious brand style, but increased public design conscious and higher stylistic aspiration began to limit the obvious use of such as ploy hence the need to gain component commonality and cost savings 'under the skin'. This leading to much deployed 'module sets' of sub-systems (as pioneered by VW Group) and reduced aesthetic quality-enginering in “invisible areas” such as the unseen paint coatings behind the dashboard (led by Toyota-Lexus).

[NB Nonethless the drive for as much unseen commonality across as much of the model range as feasible has been, and continues to be, a prime engineering goal, both 'horizontally' across a specific model's variants, 'vertically' typically across two neighbouring segment classes, from city cars to large SUVs, and 'extended horizontally' in the form of JV programmes with other manufacturers].

Historically, vehicle styling trends fluctuated over the decades (in sine-wave pattern) from 'geometric' to 'organic' and back and forth in form, and 'clean' to 'ornamental' and back and forth in accoutrements. With specific broader socially related fashion trends also leading and periodically impacting the designer's mind, from 1930s Art Deco pseudo-intellectual 'Streamlining' to 1950s 'Pop-u-Lux' colour and Chrome' to 1970s New Modernism inspired by the dual impact on the public consciousness of both the Scandinavian-look and the Space-look adopted from futuristic films.

It was the latter which influenced many in the car world, and led to the 'modular' gaining ground where appropriate, best seen through to the use of specifically inter-changable items, such the trend for LHD-RHD 'switchable' instrument binnacles by many makers, the 'Basic-Beauty' idea taken further by others to enhance utility and reduce skin-panel and glazing tooling costs (best shown by the orginal FIAT Panda), with the 'switchable' ideology deployed for the intended mid 1990s revolution of the original SmartCar, offering the ability for owners to easily swap the car's outer panels.

However, whilst the tenets of modularity regards product commonality and re-congiurability / inter-changability is undoubtedly more amenable to utility orientated commercial user-buyer, since the Panda's 1980s heyday the increase in apparent wealth related 'status symbolism' in all things consumerist, over the idea and advantage of functional rationality, has become increasingly entrenched in private car ownership. Differentiation and (believed) uniqueness rates much higher, and so the need for greater stylistic freedom which in turns undermines the foundations for modularisation.

Even so, the idea of 'symbolic utility' remains – even if not used fully – in the premium badge SUV and Cross-Over, with even a noted return of the utilitarian by typically older people, with the popularity of car-based van derived MPVs (PSA's Berlingo/Partner, FIATs Doblo/Qubo, and of course Japan's 'Tall-Boy' kei and small cars still very popular domestically for their comparative 'TARDIS'-like functionality.

Yet carrozzeria and automakers have sought to explore and try to popularise the modular, three of the best illustrations being...

1982 - ItalDesign 'Capsula' Concept -
Further to the MegaGamma Taxi concept of extreme space utilisation, the 'Capsula' was what could be later considered as the first 'skateboard' platform for an ICE package, the term and basis later adopted by GM, Tesla and others regards EVs.

Given Italy's, Europe's, Japan's and South America's small urban roadways Guigario believed that FIAT (or another VM) could create something akin to an updated small 'everyman' Model T : the factory configurable 'task-body-built' car for a myriad of applications and users. It was shown as a full scale model as a private car with enhanced green-house visibility and wide 'gullwing' side-door, to heighten its social interactiveness with the city. But was illustrated with alternative body types on its double-belt-line: School-Bus / Ambulance (Van) / Drop-Side and Canvas-Top Pick Up / Tow-Truck and 'Jolly' (Beach Car).

[NB a short personal conversation with Fabrizio Guigario (Giorgetto's son) in 2001 at the Goodwood FoS (Style et Lux), led to the received understanding – by reading between the lines - that the car was destined as a design exercise to tempt FIAT into targeting 'Capsula' for Brazil so as to grow its local market share and create a true 'Brazilian Car' to surpass the VW Brasilia].

1995 - Mercedes Vario Concept -
At this point in time (before its ill-fated purchase of Chrysler to expand product range and market coverage) Daimler sought to explore the increasingly important issue of dealer-based customer contact as 'service depth' became as hot topic, and lateral thinking regards solutions provision for what was still a somewhat select, comfortably-off luxury audience that had broad lifestyles, and so possibly sought greater vehicle flexibility, depending upon 'mood and mode'.

The outcome was the original Vario concept (not related to the later passenger-taxi van). This mooted the possibility that the vehicle owner could swap body-styles depending upon need or desire, so spanning Coupe, Convertible and Wagon variants.

The base car itself was complete with doors, all except for the upper rear portion behind the A-pillar to mid-point on the rear quarter-panel and inner structure, wherein a descrete shut-line was used to merge a different upper-body style, and the use of a pillarless (ie non-existant B-post) architecture.

The concept itself was soon overtaken, and so still-born before true market testing, by the big picture strategy regards the merger-acquisition with Chrysler.

1994 - Renault 'Modus' Concept -
Though the name is now familiar as the small Modus MPV of 2004, this concept arrived a decade earlier..

The vehicle itself was akin to the new functionality trend being set-out by Japanese automakers, themselves seeking to maximise their own medium, small and kei car related urban and rural functionality, that would themselves range from yet more camping cars to the extremes of personal pods to micro semi-trailers.

The concept Modus drew its inspiration from Renault's other divisions and beyond, from its Van division in terms of innate utility and its Heavy Truck division in terms of a tall passenger cab with tall 'bubble' glazing.

Less technically sophisticated as 'Capsula' the intent was nevertheless to create an urban adaptable vehicle for many different uses.

The central idea was for the vehicle's low rear deck to accept various alternative rear body types, ranging from standard panel van, to glazed passenger unit (so akin to latter city MPVs), to Pick Up, to task specific 'pod' (camping, refrigeration, security, and much else).

In concept it appeared to evolve upon the same principles as the 'camper back' seen fitted to American full size and small pick-ups in the 1970s and 1980s, unlike those retro-fitted campers, with a specific technical solution to allow the pod to slot-into and lock-into the vehicle deck's lower frame and inner-sides.

In Summary -

Across many diverse fields, the central rational of proposed and implemented 'innovative modularisation' has both promised and delivered transformative gains across the realms of lifecycle costs and long-term continuation, overall operational quality and a reduced time-scale of ultimately very necessary repeat procurement..

To this end, those that directly lead and fund the UK's Emergency Services, could and indeed should “create the future” for both the nation itself and the myriad of opportunities for international export sales into tomorrow and far beyond.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Parallel Learning – UK Emergency Service Vehicles – Investment in Scaled Efficiencies for an Ever Broadening Multi-Task Spectrum

Part 3 : “Re-Imagining the Box” as the Central Idiom to a Re-Configurational and Cross-Configurational Highly Adaptive Emergency Services System.

Starting with True Strategic Thinking -

Just as the armed forces undertake Strategic Planning exercises to ascertain the inputs and likely outcomes within 'theatres' of combat, and so the specific types of equipment and vehicles required, so the leaders and tacticians of the UK's core Emergency Services should theoretically be positioned to understand - with perhaps even greater clarity – their own operational remits and operational contexts.

[NB The Economist magazine/newspaper recently published an article in which it illustrated how some American and European Emergency Services had used what was in essence 'parallel learning' from the Armed Forces when dealing with Terrorist related casualty incidents].

This said, it must also be recognised that the armed forces typically have innately simplistic hi-level goals and hi-level methods for achieving them, whether defence, attack, peace-keeping or humanitarian.

In comparison the Emergency Services face a broader set of 'on call' challenges for those on the ground, so although needing to deal with a far narrower 'operational theatre' have many more 'call variables' when actually in the field, even with standard procedures in place.

Thus perhaps even more so given the nation's immense reliance upon the three services, the nation would gain from the Police, Ambulance and Fire-Rescue services undertaking similar 'deep-level' thinking.

Wherein all facets of vehicle use and solutions provision would be extensively re-considered, with the guiding principles of efficiency and effectiveness promoting fresh thinking for exploratory alternatives.

The prime alternative being the major task a complete re-design of the UK's inter-connected ES system upon a highly rationalised, modular-tech based, logistics-hub basis.

Ordinarily it is perceived that higher effectiveness can only be obtained through higher public spending, but the challenge of improved effectiveness can be matched by the spur of fresh thinking and solutions innovation.

Seen time and again in UK industry when facing severe problems, it was new and original thinking about the problem faced, and the solutions sought that altered the trend-path of history. One of the greatest being the original 1959 Austin Mini, designed 'from scratch' with Issigonis's innate modular thinking, from technological, user and production standpoints.

Hence the car was effectively designed as a 'traction head' (transverse mounted engine, gearbox and half-shafts to wheels on subframe, itself attached to various 'back-end' body types). But moreover it had unrivalled internal space for driver and passengers for its size, because of innovative engine and suspension/wheel packaging, and critically was engineered to meet the requirement for speedy body welding and paint; hence the external seams for easy access by welders and a central dash binnacle through which the vehicle body 'paint-line skewer' passed.

As Issigonis proved with aplomb, it often lateral thinking – not simply a 'good money after bad' – will very likely generate new cost-savings and productivity improvements.

[NB As part of the Western World's necessary eco-based structural re-invention, fresh thinking is needed more than ever, and the edicts of Edward de Bono ripe for reconsideration].

Given the typically expensive leasing, and through-life running costs of Emergency Service vehicle fleets, a major re-think about vehicle types and indeed the whole system (from both geographic or service category perspectives) is needed.

[NB to this end the recently rebuffed integration of London's City Police into the Metropolitan Police should be reconsidered, since much could no doubt be learned by both Forces, the City service assisting the Met with anti-attack and the Met assisting the City with more proficient cost amortisation. With the City Police's iconic red vehicles now serving most obviously, but descretely, as diplomatic protection, much of the former 'Red Dragon' identity of has diminished].

The Task Vehicle Paradox -

To state the obvious, different vehicle types undertake variously different roles, each typically chosen and adapted to either balance the cost v performance equation, or bias to one side of that equation, depending upon budget and context.

Hence Beat Officers in one region may have to try and bundle a suspect into the back of a small cheaply leased Hyundai hatchback, hand-cuffed to a 'make-do' hand-strap in the roof, with no decent restraint or separation; whilst a Traffic Officer in the same constabulary may have had the comparative 'tool efficiency' of a high-powered Volvo T5 estate of yesteryear, or today a similar Sport or M series BMW or Audi RS.
Thus we see that whilst some dedicated or highly adapted vehicles enable police personnel in their roles, others effectively impede. Inevitably not all vehicle solutions are perfect, but it appears that (as with road-side cameras) since the 1990s there has been budget provision for those vehicles which could be termed 'money earners' through driving fines, whilst budget constraints have been obvious in the everyday traditional urban policing roles.

It should therefore be remembered that “the better the tool, the better the job” for all concerned.

Vehicle Types -

Land-based vehicles have evolved in relation to general automotive engineering – as will be simply discussed hereafter, with specific reference to the opportunity for vans.

Perhaps most prolific has been the use of aircraft by the Police and Ambulance services. Helicopters notably able to cover large distances quickly, and respectively able to provide eye-in-the-sky surveillance (general or call) and to speedily reach and recover injured persons from otherwise problematic off-road and remote locations.

At the more conventional ground level, the last decade has seen the introduction of more localised quick response vehicles, notably so on two wheels given their urban speed advantage with both motorcycles and bicycles. Two wheels long been deployed by the police, though in and out of favour at different times; for both intentionally slow pedal-based high visibility, friendly “Dixon of Dock Green” type 'community policing', with an increased use of powerful motorcycles to meet quick response situations and high-speed on-highway pursuits.

Similarly, yet more so, the use of specific car types has evolved to meet various role requirements. From the standard 'Patrol (or UK 'Panda') car used for the everyday, to the high-speed, increased equipment needs of traffic units, the quick-response needs of armed 'weapons-deployment 'units, through to the needs of 'search and sniff' dog units typically for drugs and other contraband.

However it may be the case that effectively operating as specific role mobile accommodation devices - varying in volume and 'fitted-out' for one of a myriad of tasks - it appears likely that it is the van that offers the greatest possible progress toward advancing the “CapEx Cost vs Service Quality” equation.

The Van -
From 'Paddy Wagon' to C4I Comms Centre -

For decades from the 1920s to the 1970s the standard police van remained virtually unchanged. The once simple trusty 'black maria' or 'paddy wagon' itself little more than a side-bench, grille-divided panel van fitted with by the 1960s a service radio; used for the housing and transportation of both “cops and robbers” as the situation required, whether that be crowd enforcement or bank villains.

Yet with the growth and specialisation of police tasks the once simple van has evolved into a wide suite of very much task-tailored van types, so requiring a range of volumetric body-sizes, security devices, and a broad spectrum of function specific internal fittings.

Today in operation police vans span everything from needs of old-style 'paddy wagon' (though updated) through to highly technical “C4I” (Command, Control, Communication, Computers and Intelligence) centres operating in-situ.

The following list provides a general insight into the models used by London's Metropolitan Police:
(layman's description).

(Standard Body, Low-Level Adaption - Constabulary Marked)
1. Personnel Van -
standard crew-cab (std or mid top) – police personnel only

2. Protected Personnel Van -
mid or hi-top crew cab – for possibly violent situations.
(mid or high top, given long hours in van and need to periodically stand)

3. 'Duty Van' –
half-window, std or mid top - police personnel and arrest suspects (rear section cell)

4. 'Dog Section' Van –
half-window, std or mid tope – akin to std crew-cab (rear dog kennel)

5. Equipment Van -
standard panel van – equipment only

6. 'Commercial Unit' -
standard panel van or half-window – for roadside repair of police vehicles

7. 'Camera Van' -
standard panel or crew cab – traffic safety use (camera hidden or visible)
(Bespoke Body, High Adaption – Constabulary Marked
8 Equipment Van (large) -
'Luton' body, large volume - for equipment

9. 'Observation Van' (large) –
'Luton' body, large volume – for crowd observation

10.'Command Unit' -
'Luton' body (with few windows) – C4I unit for in-situ reporting

11.'Secure Transport' –
Strong-box 'Luton' body (with security windows) – high-risk prisoners

This illustrates the diversity of van types currently in use within the UK

Although effectively task dedicated, with a requirement to maintain or better functionality, the crucial point is that to not view these vehicles as pre-designated complete vehicle types.

In reality, each van consists of its general systems: body, trim, chassis, powertrain, electrical, plus its dedicated systems specific fittings.

The body much modified to suit the desired application; whether that be a standard bodied van straight off the production line, with requisite low-level adaption, or a wholly dedicated bespoke body mated to an ex-factory standard 'chassis-cab' using the consummately professional but also relatively expensive services of an authorised vehicle conversion specialist.
[NB as the term denotes, “chassis cab” being a normal front-end of van or truck, but with the rearward portion of the chassis left open for fitment of specific body type: eg large “Luton” box, frame rails with drop-curtains, cage, 'drop-side' bed, lift-bed etc].

It is here in the 'Modularisation' of the rear body section that fundamental gains could be achieved.

“Function, Not Form” -

Of course, the larger and heavier the vehicle becomes because of the size and weight of those fittings the greater impact it has upon the performance of a vehicle, especially important if a quick response unit such as an ambulance.

[Eg. in the 1980s the London Ambulance Service actually had Sherpa vans fitted with Rover V8 engines to address the much increased vehicle mass, so increasing fuel costs].

Nonetheless, ultimately in use terms, 'the van' simply consists of the forward located driving area (the cab), with the major portion of its dimensions related to the task related functionality – whatever that may be.

Beyond this prime spacial and task utility, the ideals of product-service quality, good ergonomics for driver and passengers, and invariably (as exemplified historically) bias toward either good on-road performance (engine and chassis) for quick response, or toward markedly improved fuel economy for general use, so as to obtain this advantage in the reduced running costs of the fleet.
[NB it must be noted that this once invariable trade-off between performance and fuel economy is now being reduced with the use of petrol/diesel electric hybrid power-trains; an electric motor for fast acceleration, sustained with internal combustion engine, set out either in 'series' or 'parallel'].

Thus, in this new-age of propulsion possibilities, it is high time that Emergency Service Vans be not viewed from their historical perspective – which itself stemmed from sadly inevitable ad hoc evolution – but in a new light recognising the fundamental intersect of chassis/powertrain and body; and the vital roles each must undertake for both broad society in the ecological sense and the individual(s) (personnel and public) when the contextual need arises.

Such a new perspective would allow for a revolution in new thinking about the very construct of the 'box-van', its internal and external reconfigurability and critically the opportunity to achieve better regional and nationwide cross-fleet inter-operability and so marked efficiencies.

These to be gained from flexibility improvement of the overall logistics system – Standardisation as its philosophy and Re-Configurability as its technical approach.

By viewing best practice in other operational fields lessons may be learned and 'ideology transfer' prompting an interpreted 'technical transfer' of those high efficiency solutions.

To Follow -

A few 'best practice' examples in which such a philosophy and approach has revolutionised the cost benefit equation.