Burlington Northern Santa Fe, one of the largest Railroads in the United States, has developed a system called World Class Maintenance (WCM) which includes several methodologies including Six Sigma and Lean Process. In September 2002 BNSF CEO, Matthew Rose, spoke at the AREMA conference in Washington D.C. In his address here viewed the WCM system and how it is helping BNSF achieve their goals:

“Our World Class Maintenance (WCM) System is, in many ways, the process that pulls everything together. Our goal with WCM is to provide a comprehensive planning and scheduling process that eliminates waste and idle time and improves manpower and asset utilization, work process flow, material handling, and physical plant reliability.”

Savings and Benefits

“We’’ve had tremendous success in our Engineering and Mechanical groups with the Lean Process, Six Sigma, Condition-Based Maintenance and other tools that reduce waste and improve efficiency.

“Encouraged by these results, we’ve extended these processes to other parts of BNSF. Our Value Engineering and Strategic Analysis group, formed in spring 2002, is reducing costs and improving business processes across the company.”

2002 Annual Report

“Our Mechanical and Engineering groups also improved productivity through their Six Sigma, Lean and other processes that remove “waste” from maintenance procedures associated with locomotives, freight cars, track, signals and bridges. These savings amounted to well in excess of $100 million in 2001.”

2001 Annual Report

“The Lean Process, another WCM tool, focuses on eliminating waste and creating value. Employees from all levels of a work team help review their work processes, identify bottlenecks and implement corrective action. We’ve used the Lean Process to significantly improve our work gang procedures, eliminate unnecessary steps and reconsider the sequence of work and placement of materials, improving their productivity by about 20 percent. Interestingly, our most efficient gangs are also our safest.

“Finally, we use Six Sigma techniques when the problem to be resolved is variation, and the source of variation is unknown. Six Sigma furthers quality and consistency with the goal of zero defects. In 2001, we applied Six Sigma techniques to improve rail lubrication, a process difficult to manage though crucial to extend rail life.

“We found a lubrication product that was not meeting our standards, and also figured out a way to calculate the amount of rail lubrication needed from site to site and to measure lubricator output. We’’ve also used Six Sigma to examine subgrade issues and understand the failures of certain field welds.”

BNSF CEO Matt Rose Addresses AREMA Today, BNSF Website, September 24, 2002


Articles and Links

Track Maintenance Strategy on Burlington Northern Santa Fe, ÖVG (Österreichische Verkehrswissenschaftliche Gesellschaft), May 14, 2002

The Magnificent 7: BNSF: First in a Series, Railway Age, Feb, 2004

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