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40% Productivity Boost

40% Productivity Boost

A joint taskforce of Rhomberg Sersa Ireland and its client Iarnród Éireann/Irish Rail resulted in increased productivity on a key machine by almost 40%.

Irish Rail and Rhomberg Sersa Ireland formed a joint Continuous Improvement Group (CIG) to identify, prioritise and deliver on improvement projects with a number of key initiatives completed in the first 12 months. The group was set up to continuously improve processes for the benefit of all. 

The ultimate aim of the CIG is to support operations and reduce maintenance on the On Track Machines (OTMs) in order to protect the “golden hours” when the OTMs are working on the tracks.  

One of the most notable process innovations by the CIG in its first months of operation was the delivery of enhanced ballast cleaner productivity on Irish Rail’s Plasser & Theurer RM 90.  

The ballast cleaner was previously utilised for only 57% of available possession time, mostly due to a 3-hour maintenance break after 10 hours of cutting. This process had existed for many years and had come about due to perceived and actual reliability data of the machine. As the works are scheduled for weekends only, this was having a significant impact on possession utilisation time, meaning the machine’s work output was much lower than desired.  

The CIG utilised the wider expertise available from the Rhomberg Sersa group in order to accelerate the process.  

Assisted by Matthias Manhart (Sersa Machine Group, Switzerland) and Steve King (RSUK), the CIG designed a new dynamic maintenance productivity methodology without impacting maintenance or safety.  

“The partnership between Rhomberg Sersa and IÉ on these projects really works,” said Mr King. “Both parties have a lot of experience to bring to a project and we’re both committed to continuous improvement. We like to use best practice but to also introduce new things.  

“For us as a company it’s very important that we’re not just coming in as the current contractor and going through the motions, we want to leverage the amazing technical ability of our respective teams and introduce new ideas, methods and technologies.” 

As part of the ballast cleaner productivity change, fitters were integrated into the operations team, changing the team configuration from 4 operators, to 2 fitters plus 2 operators. The next stage was the creation of an onsite maintenance plan which supported 3 types of maintenance – non-stationary, stationary, and full stop.  

By creating a new standard with an event timeline and relocating the tools required for each task into a local position, the maintenance tasks could be carried out rapidly and more efficiently.  

The result is that non-stationary maintenance is now carried out by an extra staff member while the machine is in use, delivering an increase in productivity of up to 40% per weekend possession.  

This ballast cleaning project is part of a larger improvement program which Irish Rail are conducting to reduce cost and to improve the quality of the Dublin-Cork mainline, the busiest route in the country.  

The ‘record’ prior to the new CIG productivity method was 2,800 yards during a 37 hour possession window. The maximum available production time for any shift is now 85% with the remainder of the shift time taken up by preventative maintenance and pre-work safety briefings.  

Prior to the productivity improvement the average possession utilisation for production per weekend was 57%. This has now reached as high as 81%, an increase of 42%, resulting in a productivity of almost 4,000 yards in the same possession time.  

The CIG meets regularly to filter and priortise the various projects and suggested projects and assign personnel in sub-groups to plan and begin the improvement process. The core group then review and refine the current projects while also creating a plan for future new processes. Expert sub-groups exist for maintenance, tamping and ballast cleaning and other sub-groups are created as required. 

As well as the increased productivity on the ballast cleaner, other improvements include a transition from paper based to digital recording of walkout survey and the introduction of front facing cameras on the machines.

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