Identify Productivity Improvements in Maintenance Schedule
Unlike other freight carriers Railroad companies are directly responsible for the upkeep of their own transportation system. With a track network spanning in excess of 20,000 miles the track maintenance effort for CPR System can exceed $300 million annually.
Due to Canada’s geographic size and inherent terrain much of CPR’s system is single track. This causes track maintenance crews to directly compete with commercial traffic for the track, and occasionally create train delays. For example, crews are given a limited window of time (work block) in which to perform repairs. In the past crews were given upwards of eight hours per block in which to work; but as competition with other transportation methods and service levels have increased, work crews are forced into smaller work blocks. This has resulted in traditionally large repair crews becoming unmanageable and inefficient in these reduced work blocks.
Visual8 responded by developing a suite of work program simulators to analyze the inner workings of repair crews in an effort to improve their productivity and increase their flexibility.
To handle the variety of repair work that the crews undertake, a four-module simulator was developed. The modules cover the following maintenance activities:
- Ballast and Undercutting,
- Tie, and
- Rail Replacement.
Each simulator is intrinsically different although they share a common structure.
Track system characteristics include general subdivision information such as mileage points, curve and siding locations and a detailed definition of the repair work down to individual ties or sections of track.
The work crew editor allows the user to create consists, (men and equipment) to match those presently in use or experiment with alternative crew arrangements. Parameters include repair operations, equipment operating speeds and safe working distances, labor skills and production rates.
The simulator provides a minute-by-minute, tie-by-tie account of the working of the crew as it performs a work program. As the simulation progresses a variety of statistics are collect which provide a detailed account of the crew performance.
The simulators are being used by continuous improvement teams to improve crew productivity, assist management in setting crew performance standards, training of crew supervisors, and aid crew schedulers in establishing realistic Work Program durations.
The simulator has been used as a mediation tool between the Engineering and Transportation. As Transportation pushes for shorter work blocks, Engineering has struggled with inefficient crews and rising repair costs. The simulator has helped identify ways of meeting this challenge through leaner crews with faster response times.
“The simulator has provided us with the means to show the effects that shortened work blocks have on productivity and helped us to re-design our crews accordingly.” – Brian Zinck, Director of Industrial Engineering, CPR