The crucial role of Lean methodology for the future success of UK digital railways

UK Digital railway is coming

As a much needed, operational UK digital railway network begins to get closer, the targets to achieve for the industry remain to deliver consistency, a more rewarding passenger experience and potentially, significant cost savings.

The Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) programme has recently published a summary report of its initial work looking at how the rail industry interacts with the supply chain.

Their report suggests that revolutionising the way the industry works with the supply chain, could deliver big savings in the cost of digital technology but it will involve very different supplier/buyer interaction to do so.

Providing his opinion on the Report, Gordon Wakeford, Chair of the Rail Supply Group said:

“The Rail Supply Group (RSG) warmly welcomes the publication of this report and the recognition of the value of engaging suppliers early and regularly in the whole process. By collaborating from the start we can all achieve better understanding of the effective application of technology and unlock hidden benefits and opportunities.”

The Report’s findings effectively identified the fact that if the right changes are made in terms of early involvement and consultation with chain supply, the UK Rail sector could significantly reduce forecasted costs of digital technology.

Some examples of how early involvement of the supply chain could benefit the overall cost of delivery are:

  • Asking contractors to focus on performance and capacity outcomes to drive potential solutions

  • Earlier involvement in specifications to ensure efficient project delivery further down the line

  • A different approach to risk management and mitigation that is lean on cost

  • A consistent procurement strategy with longer-term and contracted work so the supply chain can invest

Whilst welcoming the Report, Value Stream Experts (VSE) note that the success of such revolutionary Supply Chain engagement will certainly depend on consistency, communication, timing and planning from BOTH sides and all parties involved, to avoid weaknesses in the Chain from having a domino-effect and affecting efficiency elsewhere. Lean thinking will be a crucial component too, for the success and sustainability of such partnerships.

Paul Robinson, Managing Director of Nottingham Trams and VSE’s Key Sector Advisor for the Transportation sector commented:

"The UK digital railway is exciting and challenging at the same time. The ECI’s report outlines the clear measures between the supply chain and operators that will need to exist to gain the traction that is needed to help deliver the target cost savings as we move into this new era.

But as ever, with change comes challenges. It is up to the industry and supply chain to meet them.

In addition and concurrent to the planned digitisation, an equally important role of every key organisation involved will be to deliver sustainability of key support processes and the ability to quickly resolve issues at root cause level. Without this the value stream we are all aiming to maximise, will mean some left behind and not achieve the tangible benefits that are expected..."

As a specialist Lean supplier to many organisations across the Rail sector, Value Stream Experts continues to develop and adapt to the findings within the ECI Report, across areas such as; Maintenance process improvements, internal problem solving, visual management hubs and in particular the streamlining of Supply Chain Management.

If you'd like to get in touch or just find out more regarding our continuous improvement activities within the UK Rail sector, click HERE

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