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

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

One thought on “How can the Rail Industry apply Lean techniques to improve performance?”

  1. I spent my first 8-9 years working in signalling on the railway and until 4 months ago had not looked at Lean and how it can help us. Now I have a new roll as business improvement leader .So far so much of what I have learnt has been common sense .It has made me look back at how I have worked in the past and the decisions I have made and have been involved in.

    Some more problems are:-

    Lost of knowledge as people retire or move away form the industry
    Skills not being passed on
    Location of work for company’s and there staff
    There has always been the feeling in the railway industry that to ask a question like “do we always do it like this?” or say “can we try this?” Some people see it as being a bad attitude.

    There is a way forward just not always clear and I don’t have all the answers but I feel with the hard work of people who believe in improving work, training staff and customer values then the railway will change over time.

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