How can the Rail Industry apply Lean techniques to improve performance?

June 26, 2009

By Steve Johnson

One of my keen interests is to understand how the Rail Industry can apply Lean techniques and ideas?

Below I have listed out some of the obvious wastes that exist in the maintenance and renewal sectors of the industry:

Spare materials on and about the track,
Inflated costs due to the ‘specialist nature’ of the work and equipment,
Extremely long design processes,
Consistently late design approvals for what should be standard work.

These are some of the obvious ones, however, looking from a Lean perspective there are many more and some very fundamental wastes which are more worrying.
Issues such as:

Constantly changing workforce, low skill base and low morale,
Lack of standard work across the industry, everyone has their own way,
Very uneven work loads leading to excessive labour pools,
Systems based on empirical evidence rather than hard scientific evidence.

I would like to start a debate about how the industry can adopt and implement the principles of Lean. How can an industry as diverse as ours look to ensure we respect our people and look to improve what we do?
Do we understand what the future looks like? Can we move forward with confidence when there is a lack of certainty about what that future is?
Please make comment by leaving a reply below. I hope that we can get some good ideas floating around and help improve the performance of the industry, even in just a small way.
Steve J

This post was written by Steve Johnson

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