INSIGHT

Undertaking a tech transformation

There aren’t many industries that have avoided change over the past 100 years. So when a London funeral director approached Virgin Media Business about modernising their processes, it offered a rare opportunity to collaborate on a transformative project. By replacing the traditional toe-tag with a digital wrist-tag, they got more than they hoped for…

The UK funeral industry is populated mainly by family firms that take pride in personal service. With the bereaved and deceased to care for, keeping up with the latest technology has never been a priority. FA Albin and Sons services almost 3000 funerals and repatriations annually, yet its director, Simon Dyer, admits they only adopted email recently.

Simon says: “This is a hands-on industry, which will never change, however, I knew things could improve internally. There is too much paperwork and I wanted a better way of doing things.”

Detect tagged assets in real time

The current system, common throughout the industry, involves an extensive paper trail as the deceased progresses through the facility.

Simon says: “Traditionally, on collection the deceased receives a simple toe-tag and wrist band. When they are placed in the mortuary fridge a ticket is then posted on the door and also in the office so everyone knows their whereabouts. Every time the deceased is moved the tickets are manually moved and updated. The process is adequate but inefficient.”

SENSEi has developed bluetooth enabled sensory networks that sense tagged assets within an environment, in real time. Backed by Virgin Media Business, the firm installed such a network for FA Albin and Sons.

SENSEi CEO Damon Thomas oversaw the project. He says: “The deceased gets an electronic wrist-tag. When they are put in the vehicle the time is recorded, as is the arrival time at head office and every time they are subsequently moved. Each fridge has a proximity sensor recording which deceased person is being stored. Tablets tell staff what is required next, such as embalming or dressing. There is no need for paper.”

“Through working with Virgin Media Business and SENSEi we could see the benefits of introducing tech to assist our processes. It doesn’t change our work, it just makes everything more efficient.”

 
 

Unforeseen benefits

Simon uses one word to describe the project’s impact - revolutionary.

He says: “We didn’t foresee a number of benefits. For repatriations, where mileage is charged from the airport, the sensory network automatically recorded the distance and processed the charge. Use of resources improved, for example the sensors even monitored fridge temperatures, giving early warning in the event of malfunction. There was also improved access to valuable workflow data, such as average timings and delays.”

The project proved beneficial to all parties. For Virgin Media Business, partnering with SENSEi and FA Albin represented an innovative foray into becoming a solutions provider as well as a product provider.

Solution Architect, Virgin Media Business, Stuart Clarke, says: “We can assist our customers, creating strategies and engaging ‘best of breed’ partners to find appropriate solutions. It is helping businesses make sense of the digital world.”

Efficient everything

Within days, the staff at FA Albin realised that perhaps catching up with the advances of the last 100 years wasn’t such a bad thing.

Simon says: “Through working with Virgin Media Business and SENSEi we could see the benefits of introducing tech to assist our processes. It doesn’t change our work, it just makes everything more efficient.”

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