Track Inspection and Maintenance Transformation: From Firefighting to Proactive Planning

Maintaining railway tracks and keeping them in a good working condition throughout the year requires a highly coordinated effort on part of the rail inspectors and maintainers, track managers, and executive decision makers. The best way to orchestrate such effort is to be proactive and schedule time and resources for as many foreseeable maintenance activities as possible.

In this blog, we are discussing a few ways railroads can become more proactive and get the most out of their available resources instead of being reactive and spending their resources on firefighting issues as they arise. One example is to smartly assign low priority maintenance tasks to your inspection team. When the track inspector is scheduled to inspect a range of track, ensure he is equipped with the proper tools to perform lower priority maintenance previously reported. This is a way to efficiently kill two birds with one stone.

Look for untapped opportunities in proactive track maintenance

With advances in technology, railroads can implement new capabilities to enhance safety and efficiency of their operations. One key aspect of being a proactive planner is to be continuously on the look out for better ways to manage planned inspection and maintenance activities and accelerate the process of identifying track defects before they impact rail operations. Specifically, look out for options available to:

  • Integrate new operating procedures
  • Invest in automating tedious tasks
  • Partner with companies that bring new skills to the table
  • Update legacy systems with newer technology

Start small by implementing pilot projects

Transforming a great vision into reality doesn’t require a massive plan costing millions of dollars and an overhaul of all operations at once. Instead, the best approach is to have a progressive plan that can be rolled out as a pilot project and then scaled up using a modular approach.  The benefits of using a modular approach are two-fold: it establishes the feasibility of the projects beyond doubt and secondly it helps support change management.

Transition using a holistic approach for all railroad departments

Once you test the pilot project and move toward implementing the change on a larger scale, it’s time to move to a holistic viewpoint. As railroads are comprised of multiple inter-dependent departments, no effective change could remain isolated to one department.

As an example, if a new method of communication is adopted in the track department, this change has potential to impact the signal department, procurement department, and so on. To maximize the positive impact, it’s best to take these ripple effects into consideration and plan the change implementation strategy with the bigger picture from the start.

If you need more information on any of these topics, contact us, our track safety experts.


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