Getting New Buses on the Road

How do you reduce the length of time a process takes from 67 days to 30 days? That was the question posed to a team of Vehicle Maintenance employees at a five-day Lean event focused on the process of bringing a new bus into service. Four major bodies of work need to be completed after Metro ‘accepts’ a new bus from a vendor and before it is delivered to a base, ready for revenue service:

  1. on-board systems for revenue collection, communication and passenger counting are installed, connected to the King County network and tested for compatibility,
  2. interior and exterior signage and decals are installed and applied,
  3. radio systems are installed, and
  4. integration of all of the systems

This work equates to 67-75 hours of direct labor by many different technicians.When the team members presented their ideas to management at the end of the Lean event, their energy and excitement was palpable.

Their ideas to reduce the overall time included:

  • Reorganizing the “yard” and developing a “yard map” so that everyone knows exactly where to find each new bus
  • Improving their “defect” tracking log and creating a plan for reporting issues to management and the vendor as well as addressing internal defects in a much more transparent and expedient method
  • Improving their visual tracking board so that everyone can see what work has been done and what work still needs to be done on each coach
  • Reducing the number of buses being worked on at one time from 36 to 20
  • Re-sequencing the work so two or more technicians can be working at the same time without getting in each others way. Or, as the team described it, “dancing a tango”
  • Creating a forum for technicians to review a new fleet when it is introduced to Metro to prepare them for the changes that come with each new coach build

What was evident at the report out was that the team members were open to new ways of thinking about their work and were inspired to do so by the Lean specialists Steve Beauchamp, Lauri Owen, Jeremy Valenta and Christine Anderson.

The reduction of time it takes to bring a bus into service is good news! As part of Metro’s partnership with the City of Seattle, twenty new Rapid Ride Coaches have been purchased and will be ready for service on the C and D lines on March 26th.

-Terra Milles

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