Project Management View from Rail Transit Programs and Projects

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A collection of articles sharing project processes, design and construction experience, best practices, and lessons learned along with operational knowledge related to executing programs and projects in the rail transit industry.

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What are good practices for defining the scope of design services and deliverables?

Reality Hidden in Plain Sight

Applying Project Management to System Projects - What Are Your Questions?

Part 3 of 3 - Applying Project Management to Rail Transit Rolling Stock Projects

Part 2 of 3 - Applying Project Management to Rail Transit Rolling Stock Projects

What are good practices for defining the scope of design services and deliverables?

Unless an Owner has designated staff, the development of technical requirements for a construction contract is usually performed by a design consultant.   The Owner identifies the scope, deliverables and performance schedule, and then establishes the process for Owner representatives to participate with the consultant in developing and reviewing the design deliverables.   In order to manage the work, the Owner typically assigns a Project Manager (PM) to monitor the consultant and to ensure project participants complete activities to support a defined project plan, schedule and budget.

Design deliverables typically consist of iterative packages, such as conceptual/basis of design, 30%, 60%, 90% and 100% design, that are reviewed and revised before becoming the technical requirements in a construction contract.   The content, format and level of detail in the deliverables are defined in the design scope, which is supplemented by the Owner’s design input such as design criteria, standard terms and conditions, model Division I specifications, industry standard specification formats and contract forms, operating standards and rules, and government code and regulations.   

The design scope for contracting with a consultant will establish objective requirements for services and deliverables, and for performance metrics.   It may also provide background for the consultant to understand the Owner’s objectives and strategic goals.   The design scope may be contained in a Scope of Work (SOW) and requirements integrated with other sections of the Owner’s standard contracting agreements.

In the rail transit project domain, the PM is largely responsible for defining and compiling the design scope.    As a result, the PM manages the technical writing of the design scope and contributes to customizing the contracting agreement with the Owner’s contracting and legal departments.   

Good Practices for the SOW

General description and purpose:   This is a summary of the consultant’s work, the current conditions and how the deliverables will be used by the Owner.    

Project background and objective:  This provides information to the consultant on how the work fits into the Owner’s strategic project plan the overarching objectives in a program, predecessor work or successor work.    

Team composition and member experience and qualifications:  This is the Owner’s expectations for the Team performing the work.   

Office location and business hours:   This is the Owner’s plan for conducting the work and coordinating with the Owner at defined locations and work hours.   For on-site requirements, this may include office space, equipment and conveniences for conducting the work.  For remote sites, this may include defined time by time zone for conducting video conferences and telephone conferences. 

Equipment and training for performing work:   This defines the Owner’s technical, safety and security requirements for the work, which can include surveying equipment, personal protective equipment, and personnel training for the work environment.

Description of services:  This is the Owner’s objective and implied expectations for the consultant’s interaction with the Owner during the execution of the contract and the creation and review of the deliverables.     

Description of deliverables and milestone schedule:    This describes the format, content, organization, incremental design levels and timeframe for the deliverables from the consultant.   The deliverables may include conceptual design description, product requirement definition and catalog cuts, and best value analysis. 

Design Criteria and reference documents:    This defines the technical design requirements for development of the construction deliverables.  The requirements may include a comprehensive list of industry standards, applicable government laws and regulations, and an appendix of documents from the Owner.  

Good Practices for the Contract Agreement Supporting the SOW:

Description of proposal format and content:   This is the Owner’s specific requirements for the proposal documentation from each bidder.   This includes written content and matrices of personnel, hours and cost to perform the work planned.  

Experience and qualifications of the consultant company:  This is the Owner’s expectations for the consultant company performing the work.   

Evaluation criteria for selecting and negotiating with prospective consultant:  This is the Owner’s critical element and metrics for meeting requirements.  This is used by the Owner for rating bidders and for comparative analysis and measuring the proposal for receiving the best value for the manhours and costs.

Critical bid response dates:    Unless modified by the Owner, these dates are not excusable.    Bidders missing dates will be eliminated from the bidding process. 

Bid conference and site tour dates, time and personal protective equipment:   Unless modified by the Owner, these dates and requirements for attendance/compliance will not be excused.  

TIP:  If there are known challenges and risks for work, the Owner should share the information with the bidders and selected consultant.   If needed, the consultant can provide the information in the design scope description.

TIP:   The proposal from the selected consultant becomes an extension to the contract SOW.   During the bid period and the selection and negotiation activities, there may be clarifications or amplifications of written proposals that become part of the contract.

TIP:   The SOW should be clear on the Owner’s support during the work.   This can be described in the SOW under Work By Other and encompass specific activities within the Owner’s organization or other contracts with interdependencies.    The activities may include the timing of review meetings and the durations and deadlines for returning comments on consultant deliverables.   Examples are:  Conduct review meetings with Owner – 7 business days after consultant’s delivery of design submittal.   Return submittal review comments to consultant 21 days after delivery to Owner.  Conduct monthly progress meetings with Owner -  5 business days after Progress Reports.

TIP:   If the consultant’s services include soft deliverables such as progress reports, updated work plans and schedules, meeting agendas,  meetings notes, and comment review matrices, the SOW or other area of contract will need to describe the requirements and milestones dates.   Examples are:  Progress Reports – 5 business days after the reporting period.    Meeting Agenda – 5  business days ahead of the scheduled meeting.   Meeting Notes  -  5 business days after the meeting date. 

TIP:   If the scope of construction is substantial, the deliverables may include interfacing the products with the Owner’s Asset Management System (AMS).    The SOW will need to describe the AMS and the specific interfaces needed in the in the consultant’s deliverables, which will be in the construction contract.     

TIP:   If the Owner intends to use the consultant for Construction Phase Services, a brief description should be identified in the SOW as an Option.   This allows the Owner to negotiate a more detailed scope and cost at a later date, when the construction scope and execution plan is better defined and time-scaled in an integrated schedule. 

TIP:   For work with community impacts and planned benefits to customer experiences, the SOW should describe Owner’s expectation for consultant’s outreach and hands-on review of the plans, products, features and finishes that will be integrated into the construction contract. Examples are:  With Owner support, schedule and conduct community meetings or attend public hearings to answer questions and obtain feedback.    At Owner’s designated location, provide access to renderings, sample products, video simulations and prototype products for community reviews and feedback.  

Posted on: August 17, 2019 03:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Reality Hidden in Plain Sight

I recently witnessed several project executives show body language displaying complete shock over a project schedule update that indicated unanticipated delay.   For the rest of the observers, it was more a surprise that it was not recognized by them earlier.  

Managing projects from a distance or from a desktop that is not near the project activities requires some added techniques and tips for recognizing, understanding and assessing project health.   It is particularly applicable to executives responsible for overall management effectiveness and for critical decisions affecting the ability to achieving project goals for scope, schedule, cost, quality, safety and security.    

Early in my career, my job positions included Draftsman and Jr. Engineer with a railroad in the Maintenance of Equipment department.   The position responsibilities included design of components to replace obsolete materials, detailing modifications to implement product improvements, and defining overhaul projects to rehabilitate passenger cars and locomotives.   While a significant part of the work was based on as-built and record drawings, there was the risk that the paper products may not reflect the actual conditions.  As a result, all of my work products required field inspection to verify actual conditions were consistent the drawings and that the designed product was compatible with a range of conditions. 

Later in my career, I held numerous roles in project management on rail transit design and construction projects.   As part of the roles, it was instilled by management leadership and my supervisors, peers and mentors that there is a need to understand the process of writing and reading progress reports, to conduct field verification of reported progress, and to assess first hand the actual site conditions.

Whether an executive, program manager, project manager or an oversight consultant, it is essential to diligently review and assess verbalized status reports and published progress reports and progress, and to thoroughly review and promptly respond to Emails and other correspondence.    In the project environment, attention to these items is essential for verifying actual progress, assuring feedback is provided to maintain progress on scheduled work, and for initiating corrective action to manage risks and issues.   However, the managerial skill required to evaluate the information must be complemented with a corresponding amount of experience on similar projects within the same industry domain. 

Here are some tip-offs for recognizing and interpreting the actual conditions and challenges on projects.      

Progress Reports:

Projects and individual contracts typically include deliverables for monthly progress reports.   The scope and content of the reports may vary but the purpose is consistent – to provide the client with a summary of the work completed, earned value/physical progress to plan, key performance indicators for cost to budget and progress to schedule, changes and issues/concerns.   Tips-offs in content or observations include:

  • Physical progress shows a large differential to actual planned progress without indication of action to recover.   This indicates there is a pending change in critical dates or that there is excessive float with predecessor and successor projects/contracts.  This may be resolved by explaining the variance, describing recovery actions and by obtaining executive support.     
  • Expenses are higher than physical progress without mention of corrective actions.    This indicates there is an advance payment for materials not installed or higher than planned expenses in support services.  This may be resolved by explaining the variance and confirming estimate at completion will be within budget.         
  • Expenses are lower than physical progress without explanation.   This indicates there is a delay in processing of payment requests.  This may be resolved by explaining the variance and initiating expenses accruals in project accounting.
  • Items “under review”.  This indicates a problem or risk is being mitigated and there are unspecified actions to determine if there are any impacts to project budget, schedule and quality milestones.  This is not uncommon, but it may overtly indicate that executive intervention on established time-consuming project and organization processes is required. 
  • Mitigation actions on risks continue for months or years with no apparent resolution or initiation of response plans.    This indicates mitigation is not effective or actionable.   As a result, mitigation requires higher executive authority or political intervention to optimize actions to resolve the risk event or to accept the risk and resulting project changes. 
  • Earned Value is based on actual invoice payments.  This indicates actual progress may be underreported.  This may lead to unnecessary managerial effort and decisions for corrective action that is not be required.  This may be resolved by assuring timely and effective processing of invoice payments.
  • Remaining project duration requires production/month and expenses/month that have no historical backup.   This indicates that potential corrective actions may not recover progress from increased to increase production.  As a result, may lead to changes in schedules milestones and goals.
  • Status on Submittal/RFI/Correspondence Logs show a large amount of open or late items.  This indicates that primary participants, stakeholders and oversight do not have the resources, expertise, knowledge or experience necessary to effectively complete these processes within established timelines.   Uncorrected, this may lead to delays in progress and requests/claims for time extension and changes in dates.
  • Milestone dates frequently slip month-to-month.    This indicates there may be a systemic problem in estimating the durations of various project and organizational processes, which leads to specifying dates that are overly aggressive and not realistic for production in the industry domain of the project.     

Schedules:

Projects and individual contracts typically include deliverables for monthly schedule reports, which complement the progress reports.   The scope and content of the reports may vary but the purpose is consistent – to provide the client with a summary of the activities completed, changes in start and end dates for activities, and proposed actions to recovery from delays or to adjust work flows for better progress than scheduled.  Tips-offs in content and observations include:

  • Updates break major portions of predecessor/successor activity links.   This indicates that activity dates are being forced to temporarily maintain milestone dates.  Links that are not restored will require changes to activity characteristics and attributes for new interdependencies.  
  • Updates routinely adjust activity links and interfaces.    This indicates that continuous changes to activity relationships is being implemented to recovery progress and maintain critical milestone dates.  Links that continue to be adjusted may be the latest recovery actions prior to conceding to changes in project milestones. 
  • Percent of remaining work exceeds the remaining project duration.    This indicates that recovery plans may require significant increases to manpower, materials and equipment to achieve original milestones.  
  • Re-sequencing activities.   This indicates there are changes in project conditions to mitigate accelerated progress or delayed progress.   Re-sequencing work can affect the means and methods of work; availability of equipment, materials and labor resources; and change work periods and access constraints. 
  • Re-sequencing interdependent contracts.   This indicates there are significant changes that affect execution of work on predecessor, successor or interdependent contracts.  This may be the latest mitigation action prior to implementing changes to original milestone dates.

Meeting Minutes:

Meeting Minutes are deliverables from project management processes at the project and contract level.  Minutes record the discussions, document critical decisions, and highlight the action items, responsible person(s) and the action completion dates.  Tip-offs in content and observations include:

  • Action items open longer than established timeframes for decision making.   This indicates that higher level management and authority is required to complete the needed action on the topic. 
  • Topics listed without actions and with potential to impact to scope, schedule, budget and quality.    This indicates team members do not have authority or resources to commit to a completion date. 
  • Poor attendance by team members.   This indicates that team members have more responsibilities that restrict support to the project, or there is a lack of interest due to poor leadership, low team coherence or from failing to adhere to the project charter.
  • Topics do not include risks or coordination of work by other projects or contracts within or adjacent to the work boundaries.   This indicates that integration processes needs to be reviewed and evaluated to determine adequacy of support for identifying and mitigating events that could affect execution plans.  

Contract Submittal and RFI Logs:

Submittal and RFI Logs are created and maintained at a project and individual contract level.  The Logs, which can be part of meeting minutes discussions and monthly progress report, record item description, date received, date response required, date response received, and disposition.   Tip-offs include:

  • Resolution of submittal comments remain open as corresponding contract activities progress as scheduled.   This indicates that corrective actions are required by the PM/CM team to assure submittal requirements are met before deliverables arrive at the project site.   
  • RFI processing is too close to scheduled contract activities.   This indicates the PM/CM team needs to improve advanced planning and execution of administrative processes ahead on scheduled activities.    

Oversight/Independent Engineering Consultant Reports and Presentations:

Many government funded projects involve management oversight consultants (MOC) and independent engineering consultants (IEC) to provide subject matter expert analysis of the project and contract performance.  Without replacing or undermining client governance or the project team leadership, the MOC and IEC provide supplemental technical expertise for the project deliverables as well as managerial expertise for executing the project and contracts in the specific project environment.  The MOC and IEC prepare and submit monthly or quarterly reports on project team performance.  Tip-offs include:

  • Observations are routinely described by consultants to pursue opportunities or avoid threats to project performance.    This indicates that the consultant acknowledges the team’s focus on attributes that can affect overall performance on the project or on contracts in the project.
  • Recommendations are cited for implementation by project team.    This indicates that the consultant has attempted to mentor the project team on actions required to improve performance but action is not yet undertaken.        
  • Concerns are cited regarding the project progress and conditions.   This indicates that the consultant previously reported conditions that if not addressed by the project, the consultant (aka - subject matter expert) will advise funding agencies or project governance that formal corrective action is required. 

What are other tip-offs? 

Posted on: July 17, 2019 07:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Applying Project Management to System Projects - What Are Your Questions?

This article was started with a simple question and answer to a posted article on LinkedIn regarding Applying Project Management to Rail Transit Rolling Stock Projects -  https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/applying-project-management-rail-transit-rolling-stock-lamont-ward-1e/.   

Q21.    Great topic, but what about systems?

A21.    Rolling stock/vehicle project deliverables, as well as the corresponding fixed assets for their operation, are comprised a series of integrated systems.  Project management principles can be equally applied to systems in construction and product manufacturing.  Systems can cross the entire sphere of consumer and industrial project deliverables used world-wide, including air transport and auto transport.   The systems required for these deliverables include passenger/operator compartments, power, propulsion, safety, supervisory and control, suspension/vibration control/energy absorption, HVAC, communications, fire protection, energy conservation and security. 

The comment came from a person involved in a high speed rail project, and it raised the topic of design and construction of the fixed-right of way assets required to support the operation of rail transit rolling stock, including passenger cars and locomotives.  

The International Council of Systems Engineers (INCOSE.org) explains the differentiation between various system projects including those labeled as Large Infrastructure Project (LIP) with value > $1B (2012).    LIPs are executed by railroad employees as well as consultants and contractors with technical and managerial experience that may not be readily available from in-house design and construction groups.  

In the rail transit business, most LIPs consist of fixed asset systems that separated into functional business units.  While separate, each is required to make the system of systems work as-designed with maximum safety and security for customers, employees and communities encountering the business.   The main groups for rail transit physical assets are:

Track:     This consists of operation and maintenance (O&M) for running rail, track and switch ties, bumpers, derails, switches and track bed.

Structures:   This consists of O&M for bridges and abutments, elevated track and viaducts, culverts, drainage, retaining walls and walkway and roadway paving. 

Traction Power:   This consists of O&M for electrical power conversion systems supporting distribution and supervisory operation and control centers for supplying power to on-track passenger cars and locomotives and to other systems such as signal and communications.  This includes essential interfaces with utility companies and emergency power systems.

Signal:   This consists of O&M for right-of-way equipment, including signals, ASC cab signal, supervisory operation and control centers, and grade crossing gates, lights and bells.   This includes essential interfaces with communications and train movement control center systems. 

Communications:    This consists of business voice and data communications, public address, passenger information, CCTV, and connectivity for supervisory monitoring of security, life safety, security, fire protection and building management.  This includes essential interfaces with voice and data providers as well as internal signal, facilities, security monitoring, and control center systems.

Facilities:    This consists of O&M for all systems supporting office buildings, control centers, station buildings and platforms, employee headquarters, material storage and service shops.   The includes integration of HVAC; emergency generators; electric power distribution; fire protection and security system; office partitions, doors and furnishings; and cleaning, trash removal and recycling.   It also includes essential interfaces with state and local regulatory, law enforcement, emergency management and homeland security agencies. 

Control Centers:     This consists complex computer systems that integrate monitoring and control of all systems needed for the operations of rolling stock, right-of-way assets and support facilities.  This includes integration with internal signal and communications systems as well as interfaces with state and local regulatory, law enforcement, emergency management and homeland security agencies.      

These rail transit systems, combined together, form the fixed assets to support the rolling stock assets of the transport business.  As a result, managing the integration of the systems is a critical factor for success.   The following Q&A are based on the contracting requirements for designing and building the systems.

Q1.   How does the contract integrate work by other systems?

A1.   Division 1 Specifications can define the Seller’s responsibilities for coordinating deliverables with adjacent contracted systems.   These specifications, which may include materials provided by the Buyer, will describe the work and deliverables on other contracts that will be integrated by the contractor during the execution of the contract.    This specification will define the work by the Buyer and the Buyer’s representatives including a Construction Manager (CM), Project /Management Consultant (PMC) and the Engineer of Record (EOR).

Q2.  Who takes the lead for the integration of the system?

A2.  The Buyer’s CM is the primary person-in-charge for managing the work on the assigned contract as well as the coordination with adjacent contracts, which may include contracts providing predecessor and successor deliverables for the system.   The CM will determine how the CM, PMC and EOR will participate throughout the contract, including the review of submittals, witness of deliverables testing and final acceptance of the system.  

Q3.   Does the Seller develop the testing program and verify compliance to requirements?

A3.   Yes.  Based on the Buyer’s technical specifications, the Seller is required to submit a comprehensive testing program with all test procedures, test forms and equipment, and the measurements that determine the metrics for acceptance.   The program will be followed throughout incremental as well as final acceptance of the system.      

Q4.    What is incremental testing?

A4.    The size and complexity of some systems contracts require the Buyer and Seller to establish an incremental testing and acceptance plan so the Seller’s demonstrate progress and the Buyer’s substantiate the delivery of assets that allow for payments to the Seller for achieving milestones and payments or for meeting defined progress payments.    While incremental testing demonstrates continuous progress, it does require a final and complete testing of the entire system, which confirms the interconnection and functionality of the individual components into a complete system. 

Q5.   If the system is not complete until all subsystems are installed and interconnected, how is progress maintained without waiting for final testing and acceptance?   

A5.   The Seller’s Commissioning, Acceptance and Maintenance Plan (CAMP) will include inspections and testing of subsystems as they are installed, energized and readied for final testing.    In order to maintain progress as well as payments, the program will perform as much as practical subsystem testing well ahead of the final system testing.  This will reduce the activities and the duration for final testing.   

Q6.  As noted in other Q&A, the execution of Systems contracts are closely resemble the design build method used for construction.   How does the Buyer manage the Sellers evolving designs after shop drawings are already reviewed on subsystems while designs for other subsystems in not yet started?

A6.    The Buyer’s contract requirements and the Seller’s approved management plan will be essential tools in progressing the work in an orderly and properly sequenced fashion.  The plan will include scheduling of submittals, the coordination and integration of the submittal review process scope-wide, and the correlation with successor and predecessor construction activities.

Q7.  Compared to project management, what are the primary elements in systems engineering?

A7.  Project management is built on the fundamentals of management principles and processes.   Project Management Institute (PMI.org) explains the knowledge areas for anaging integration, schedule, cost, quality, resources, communications, risk. procurement and stakeholder.   Systems engineering also is built on the fundamentals of engineering principles and processes.  INCOSE (INCOSE.org) explains systems engineering consists of risk management, requirements, human factors, software, project leadership, integration, verification and validation and hardware.  

The fundamentals common to both are risk management, integration, and the combined areas of human factors-project leadership and resources. 

Q8.   What companies are associated with INCOSE that appeal to rail transit?

A8.  INCOSE’s corporate advisory board includes companies that design and furnish a variety of fixed systems and moving systems.  In the rail transit domain these companies are easily recognized as industry leaders and suppliers - Bombardier, General Dynamics, General Electric, General Motors and Honeywell and Siemens.   

Q9.  I have heard that Systems work is all about the staging and sequence of construction.  Can you explain?

A9.   The Buyer’s Engineer of Record (EOR) designs the system and prepares the technical requirements in the contract documents for construction.   These requirements are based on transforming the existing field conditions into the final condition, which are reflected in the contract.   The EOR provides the Buyer/CM with technical review of the contractor’s submittals and deliverables. 

The Buyer’s Construction Manager (CM) prepares the performance and managerial requirements of the contract documents for construction.   These requirements are based on the criteria, procurement and construction execution, which are identified by the Buyer prior to the EOR completing the contract.   The CM manages to Seller’s compliance with technical and performance requirements in the contract.   

If the Buyer’s construction execution is planned for multiple stages of activating portions of system prior to final condition, the EOR will expand the contract documents to define the interim conditions, and the CM will ensure that contract contains the performance milestones and constraints to match the specific sequence and interim conditions for the work. 

What are your questions?  

 

Posted on: June 12, 2019 08:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Part 3 of 3 - Applying Project Management to Rail Transit Rolling Stock Projects

This article is collaboration between Lamont Ward, Senior Electrical Engineer at National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak), and Henry Hattenrath, Senior Technical Consultant – Parsons Transportation Group.    It was started with a simple question and answer to a posted article on Converting the Design-Bid-Build Contract Model for Design Build Delivery in the rail transit domain – see https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/converting-design-bid-build-contract-model-design-build-hattenrath/.  Or https://www.projectmanagement.com/blog-post/47557/Converting-the-Design-Bid-Build-Contract-Model-for-Design-Build-Delivery

This part continues to highlight the differences in project characteristics between construction and rail transit rolling stock purchases.  The characteristics are relative to a project management view as opposed to presenting the program Model showing the processes and life-cycle for development and production of rail transit vehicles.

Q15.    Does the Seller provide an operator cab mock-up for training by simulator?

A15.    Yes - If required by contract scope.    Most rolling stock Buyers have detailed curriculum for training and qualifying train operating engineers and train crews on the operation of the rolling stock, including passenger cars and locomotives.    For Buyers operating in North America, the regulatory agency-Federal Railroad Administration requires comprehensive training for employees.    Without an operating cab simulator, the training period can be lengthy until the employees learn the equipment operations and the performance characteristics of the rolling stock along the railroad right-of-way.   A cab simulator allows employees to be trained faster than the historic approach to ride the rails along each branch of the system network under supervision of a qualified employee.  

Q16.    In managing the contract, are there unique inputs the Buyer needs to coordinate with the Seller?

A16.    Since the Seller is completing the detailed design for the rolling stock, there are performance requirements that will be discussed and amplified to assure the Buyer’s expectations are satisfied.   In addition to tracking all Buyer inputs to Seller, the Buyer should provide the Seller with as much information on the existing operations and how the contract deliverables will be integrated as production deliveries commence.   The information may include: A) Braking performance of existing equipment and signal blocks in the wayside signal system.  B) Clearances and shop equipment locations in inspection and maintenance facilities and storage yards.  C) Planned vehicle arrangement used for customer exiting/loading at platforms for station stops.   D)  Drawings/samples of existing ADA bridge plates and amenities.   E)  Operator and vehicle data on handling performance on existing vehicles to train schedule.   F)  List of heavy shop equipment used to service and maintain exiting vehicles and to support on-board component changeouts.   

Q17.    How are costs of spare parts managed as part of the contract negotiations?   

A17.    Spare part requirements are normally defined by the Buyer in the contract.   During the contract acquisition, the Buyer and Seller will establish the anticipated spare part quantities  and costs to maintain the fleet over a defined period of time.    However, Buyer’s requirements may be limited in the spare parts that can be purchased as part of a contract with government funding or by Buyer’s internal funding requirements that may define a minimum value to qualify material as a spare part.   

Whether in the base contract or by a separate maintenance contract, the Buyer will need an inventory of major components for performing running repair within the capacity of equipment and throughput of the shop facilities.   Some of the components that will need to be inventoried include:   tracks, wheel sets, traction motors,  air compressors, batteries, AC/DC convertors, air condition evaporators, and air conditioning condensers.

Q18.    If a particular part is found unreliable and the railroad finds an alternative source how does the railroad recoup any losses for the poor performance of the part from the manufacture?  

A18.    The Buyer’s contract will define the metrics for monitoring and measuring the reliability of equipment during the initial testing of initial train sets  as well as the testing and operation of production sets.   Systems and components with failures that fall outside the baseline requirements, such as  Mean Time Between Failures or Mean  Miles Between Failures, are subject to corrective action and potential re-design and replacement by the Seller.  Based on the severity of the failures on performance, the Seller may be obligated to perform a re-call for implementing change-out of the system/components on the entire fleet of vehicles.   

The contract will identify the percentage of failures on in-service rolling stock, and the specific processes and remedies the Seller will follow throughout contract period and any Options for extended periods for performance monitoring and warranty.  

Q19.    How are reliability metrics determined and negotiated?   

A19.    The reliability metrics are developed by the Buyer based on the known range of performance data from manufacturers and equipment suppliers, and the Buyer’s internal Subject Matter Experts (SME)  and/or the Buyer’s contracted Engineer of Record (EOR).   The SME and EOR will prepare the drawings and specifications, which define the technical requirements in the contract documents.   The reliability metrics serve as the basis for evaluating the Sellers’ offerings pre-award and for verifying compliance with requirements post award.    

Q20.    If the vehicle manufacturer has a particular vendor in mind for a system, but the railroad wants to use a vendor of their choosing, how is this worked out between the two parties?

A20.    If the Buyer has known vendors with proven records, the requirements in the contract should identify the vendors that have demonstrated the ability to qualitatively meet the technical specifications.   The specifications do not need to identify detailed product information, but they do need to update quality requirement in the technical specifications to include the vendors used by the Buyer such as Vendor A, Vendor B or  Buyer’s approved equal.   

If the Seller uses other vendors with products equal in quality and with proven performance in the industry, the “or equal”  provides a mechanism for persuading the Buyer to accept or decline the Seller’s vendor.   If declined after the contract is awarded and underway, the Buyer will need to provide objective reasons for not finding the vendor is equal.   

Q21.    Great topic, but what about systems?

A21.    Rolling stock/vehicle project deliverables, as well as the corresponding fixed assets for their operation, are comprised a series of integrated systems.  Project management principles can be equally applied to systems in construction and product manufacturing.  Systems can cross the entire sphere of consumer and industrial project deliverables used world-wide, including air transport and auto transport.   The systems required for these deliverables include passenger/operator compartments, power, propulsion, safety, supervisory and control, suspension/vibration control/energy absorption, HVAC, communications, fire protection, energy conservation and security. 

Posted on: May 30, 2019 10:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Part 2 of 3 - Applying Project Management to Rail Transit Rolling Stock Projects

This article is collaboration between Lamont Ward, Senior Electrical Engineer at National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak), and Henry Hattenrath, Senior Technical Consultant – Parsons Transportation Group.   It was started with a simple question and answer to a posted article on Converting the Design-Bid-Build Contract Model for Design Build Delivery in the rail transit domain – see https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/converting-design-bid-build-contract-model-design-build-hattenrath/.  Or https://www.projectmanagement.com/blog-post/47557/Converting-the-Design-Bid-Build-Contract-Model-for-Design-Build-Delivery

This part continues to highlight the differences in project characteristics between construction and rail transit rolling stock purchases.  The characteristics are relative to a project management view as opposed to presenting the program Model showing the processes and life-cycle for development and production of rail transit vehicles.

Q7.      How is the warranty period managed over the extended delivery period?

A7.      Buyer’s warranty requirements are typically effective at the time the Seller’s product is placed into operation after substantial completion is achieved.   The warranty period is 12 months and it can cover labor and material for implementing action to restore as-designed vehicle operation.    Rolling stock contracts become more complicated because each vehicle becomes a product with individual milestones and attributes for delivery, testing, acceptance and the start and end of warranty.   This becomes more complicated if the product is updated during production to incorporate Buyer/Owner Initiated changes or product updates initiated by the Seller.   

Q8.      Are the Operation and Maintenance Manuals different for vehicle purchase contracts?

A8.      Buyer’s Operation and Maintenance (O&M) Manuals for construction contracts are usually a compilation  of products from various vendors and subcontractors providing products and system that make up the constructed asset.    For rolling stock contracts, the Manuals are more similar to the Manuals published and supplied with production automobiles.   The Manuals are  integrated and edited for use by a wide and diverse range of  Buyers and users.    The O&M Manuals are also on integral part of the training documentation and program of course for training operating engineers, train crews, and the maintenance and repair  staff.

Q9.      Performance of building systems is more familiar to Buyer’s than for vehicles.   What is a unique performance attribute for rolling stock?

A9.      Mean Time/Miles Between Failures is a unique industry proven metric for describing the quality of rail cars and locomotives offered to Buyers.   Sellers are required to provide this historical data for vehicles supplied to other Buyers.   Sellers and Buyers use this data to measure performance on prototype vehicles and on production vehicles to as-designed specifications and to identify potential items that may need to be re-designed.   It also extends into the warranty period where upgrades are often incorporated for in-service modifications. 

Q10.    Most construction projects have requirements for training and operation and maintenance manuals.  How are the requirements handled on rolling stock contract?

A10.    Buyer’s training requirements can be extensive and go beyond the most common for initial operation.   The training scope may be individual train curriculums for Engineers, Train Crew, Car Inspectors, and Running Repair/Maintenance Mechanics. The training materials are coordinated assure that the O&M Manuals and the training are closely integrated to maximize effectiveness.

Q11.   How different are the training requirements from those on construction projects?

A11.    Buyer’s training requirements can be extensive and go beyond the most common for initial operation.    The training scope may be individual train curriculums for Engineers, Train Crew, Car Inspectors, and Running Repair/Maintenance Mechanics.  The training materials are coordinated to assure that the O&M Manuals and the training are closely integrated to maximize effectiveness. 

Q12.    What type of testing is performed on the prototypes?

A12.   Burn in-period for first production train set of vehicles is used to verify compliance with performance criteria including operator and passenger comfort attributes such as compartment temperature and forces under acceleration, braking and traveling over switches and interlockings.   Instrumentation and simulated passenger loading may be used on the train set during a specified total quantity of miles, such as 1,000 miles.

Q13.   I have heard Buyers indicate that system contracts are similar to rolling stock contracts but different from construction contracts.   Can you explain this statement further?  

A13.    Most construction contracts contain drawings and specifications that provide prescriptive requirements based on Buyer’s criteria, including selected materials, coverings, furnishings and colors, and proven, commercially available products, and means and methods anticipated by the Buyer’s engineer and approved/endorsed by the Buyer.   During execution, there is little flexibility to vary from the drawings and specifications

In rolling stock contracts, the specifications and drawings provide the performance, functionality and features the Buyer expects from the Seller.   Much like the automotive industry, the Seller will design and manufacturer the rolling stock to meet the Buyer’s requirements by modifying its proven and available materials, equipment, and subassemblies to build an integrated product meeting the Buyer’s requirements.  While these contracts are typically lump sum, they are executed by Sellers more as design-build.   This approach results in frequent interactions by the Seller with the Buyer to formalize the customizable features of the rolling stock and to  meet the expectation of both the Buyer and the Buyer’s customers. 

Q14.    What kind of staffing  is required by the Buyer to manage and execute the rolling stock contract?   

A14.    Regardless of the total number of rolling stock in scope, the basic team for the Buyer will include:  Project Manager, Document Coordinator, Quality Manager, Project Controller, Contract Manager, Equipment Engineer, Master Mechanic-Operation/Maintenance, Transportation Manager,  ROW-Signal Engineer, Training Manager, Commissioning/Warranty Manager, and Consulting Engineer.  The basic team for the Seller will include: Project Manager, Contract Manager, Design Lead, Materials Manager, Reliability Manager, Production Manager, Quality Manager, Testing Manager, and Warranty Coordinator.   For projects with government funding, the team may include:  Oversight Consultant and Independent Engineering Consultant. 

Posted on: May 15, 2019 07:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
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