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Expert insights: Maintaining a more efficient rail industry.

Posted by Luke Upton on Jan 23, 2015


Something a little bit different for SmartRail World today, as we investigate how maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) in the rail industry can achieve significant improvements in financial performance by adapting new techniques and perspectives. To find out more about this subject our Editor, Luke Upton spoke to Mandyam (“Srini”) Srinivasan, Ph.D., the Pilot Corporation Chair of Excellence in Business at the University of Tennessee. Dr. Srinivasan has many years of experience with leading automobile manufacturing organizations, consulted with a large number of industries and has recently written the book, Lean Maintenance Repair and Overhaul, which looks set to become the definitive guide to this subject.

Generally speaking, for railroads there are three types of maintenance in use: Preventive maintenance (where equipment is maintained before a break down occurs), Operational maintenance (where equipment is maintained during operation) and Corrective maintenance (where equipment is maintained after a break down). The MRO industry is more closely aligned with the preventive and corrective maintenance practices.

Srini123x175We asked Srini (pictured left) for an example of best practice within MRO which has made a major impact on operations; “Perhaps the first example that comes to mind is a project I did with the US Air Force and their largest transport plane, the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy. Through the development of new processes and better management on how and where to deploy the mechanics for the aircraft undergoing repair and overhaul, we got repair and overhaul time on these aircraft down from 240 days per aircraft to 160 days. This new process was based on a management philosophy known as the Theory of Constraints (TOC) which effectively focuses management attention on the weakest link in the process. We have helped several other organizations within the aerospace industry reduce their repair and overhaul times.”

With this in mind I am keen to hear about some of the differences between rail and aerospace. Srini again; “I think that for aerospace the notion of preventive maintenance is much more vital. Accidents tend to be fatal and their effects are much more magnified. As a result the aircraft industry seems to have more stringent preventive maintenance standards, making it easier for the application of such management techniques compared to the rail industry. That said, there’s no doubt that the railroad industry can significantly benefit by combining the TOC philosophy with lean management techniques to not only deliver better customer value through faster turnaround times but also by creating capacity through the elimination of wasteful activities.”

Lean_Book_(dr_Srini)The new book by Dr. Srini Lean Maintenance Repair and Overhaul shows how Lean/TOC provides the improvement strategy for dealing with the variation that distinguishes MRO from high-volume, repetitive manufacturing. The methodology expands the improvement efforts beyond the manufacturing floor to make the organizational changes needed to facilitate growth and to empower the workforce to be enthusiastic participants in the improvement processes. You will learn how these concepts have been applied to MRO organizations in the commercial and defense sectors. Order your copy here whilst Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee also offers a number of courses in this area. For more click here.

(See also: Improving passenger comfort through data management innovation. and “As America grows, so must our investments in transportation” )

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Topics: SmartInterviews

Luke Upton

Written by Luke Upton

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