Transport for London (TfL) had a stark financial reality facing them of having to deliver £1bn savings from 2017/18 to 2022/23 to achieve financial sustainability resulting from removal of the Government’s grant.
There was a plan for Maintenance Modernisation focusing not only on financial efficiency (£500m savings), but also making London Underground (LU)’s Asset Operations directorate a better place to work for their people.
As one of the workstreams in the Maintenance Modernisation programme, LU wanted to apply Lean thinking to empower frontline teams to make their work easier, better, faster, and ensuring LU’s assets are safe, reliable, and available for service every day.
They needed help to:
- cost less, and continue to be safe and reliable for LU’s customers
- understand how departmental and depot-based processes could be improved to unlock efficiency.
What we did together
The Lean roll-out commenced in May 2018 starting with Track and Fleet, followed by a wider deployment and transition for self-sufficiency completed in April 2020.
Initial objectives focused on sustainable cost reduction and enablers to deliver specific financial benefits at pace:
- Deliver lasting sustainable cost reductions in Fleet and Track maintenance in areas such as contractor and materials efficiencies and overtime reductions
- Address people, process, and capability issues in these areas
- Reinvigorate visualisation processes in front-line Fleet and Track maintenance depots
- Ensure Lean’s sustainability and cost effectiveness by teaching LU staff to use and train others
- Support front-line teams to deliver a five-to- one Return on Investment on annual savings (up to 5 percent of addressable budget).
We brought all the elements for a successful and sustainable programme with a framework that guided LU to take the right steps in the right order while keeping it simple.
Good programme management practices ensured stakeholder were engaged, progress was tracked, risks mitigated, and escalations deal with swiftly.
A high-level plan guided the beginning of the programme with phased deployments targeting specific improvements that were supplemented by capability building to ensure self-sufficiency.
“We are not rigid with our approach as we know that owned imperfection is far more valuable than un-owned perfection.”
Richard Daley, Lean Director, Turner & Townsend Suiko
Each asset area followed a 16-week deployment plan that was tailored to LU’s Asset Operations environment. There were common elements implemented across all assets.
All levels of staff were involved from front-line maintenance teams to the Asset Operations Leadership team.
Each asset area had ‘critical few’ metrics to ensure standards were maintained, performance improved, and the right behaviours were encouraged.
Heads of Assets gained a better picture of maintenance costs to inform improvement plans and targets that were cascaded to their teams.
Local teams owned their improvement projects and collaborated with the Finance team to validate the savings target, how Profit and Loss statement would be impacted and their delivery.
Visualisation helped teams with daily improvement opportunities and more complex problem solving as they built competence through ‘learning by doing’.
Early successes in Fleet and Track created pull for deploying the new ways of working at pace across other asset bases and supply chains.
Rail Engineering Works (REW) became a showcase for Asset Operations, the broader LU and TfL, and also hosted a newly established Lean Academy.
In this unionised environment Lean Thinking was embedded across the whole REW team with a focus on brakes, bogies, wheel sets and rotating machines enabling growth through efficiency (for example a potential six-fold capacity increase in the Bogie shop).
The Lean Academy started with the ‘Leading Lean’ course that combined classroom learning with delivery of real projects.
New skills were developed with practical hand-on exercises that were practiced by delivering value-adding projects to complete the training.
Staff at all levels benefitted from a broader curriculum to gain knowledge and apply new skills and build competence relevant to their role.
A priority for transitioning to self-sufficiency was development of roles, their remit, expected activities and hiring to fill gaps.
Telling a consistent story was vital for reinforcing the vision with stakeholders and helping leaders be enthusiastic role models across all assets.
Lessons learned sessions between depots and across asset areas avoided the ‘always done it this way’ mindset and accelerated wider adoption of good practices:
- “Focus more on engagement with the shop floor and cascade ownership and empowerment”
- “Document improvements, celebrate and communicate the successes”
- “Be clear what Lean is about – Easier, better, faster, cheaper”
“The Turner & Townsend approach is one of the best I have seen, with real time engagement at all levels, a sensible and simple approach to business improvement, and a level of tenacity rarely seen today. The team supporting the REW workshops are well respected and are part of the team. The opportunities we are now starting to realise are phenomenal with growth potential in all areas, coupled with hard savings by doing more with less.”
Steve Norris, Head of Workshops
Pursuing a balanced set of benefits enhanced opportunities for frontline teams to drive locally owned improvements.
Benefits were tracked from early identification through to realisation with many examples of front-line teams delivering innovation and improvements.
There was a relentless focus on gaining credibility quickly with tangible results that delivered run-rate savings building to over £22m per year with a return on investment up to treble the initial objective.
“Turner & Townsend Suiko’s Lean Coaches introduced effective tools to identify Lean waste and opportunities within processes, subsequently releasing untapped capacity within the organisation to increase productivity and deliver significant savings.
Their strengths really lie in engaging the teams at all levels, enabling them to get a better understanding of their challenges and encouraging them to take ownership of the key issues in their area.”
Simon Millburn, Head of Signals
About Transport for London (TfL) and London Underground (LU)
TfL has ~26,000 staff and spends ~£7.7bn each year managing London’s buses, London Underground, Docklands Light Railway, London Overground and London Trams.
It also runs London River Services, Victoria Coach Station and the congestion charge scheme and has responsibility for a network of main roads, all of London’s 6,000 traffic lights and regulates taxis and the private hire trade
LU, better known as the Tube, has 11 lines covering 402km and serving 270 stations that handles up to 5m passenger journeys a day. At peak times, there are more than 543 trains whizzing around the Capital.
LU has approximately 19,000 employees and spends ~£2.3bn per year with Asset Operations employing 5,500 people with a £900m p.a. budget.
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