Title: Railcar Procurement Schedule Recovery
Phase(s): Preliminary Engineering and Final Design
Date: April 4, 1997
The "Lessons Learned" statement presented is derived from PMOC experience with the Metro-North Railroad (New York State Metropolitan Transportation Authority) in oversight of the procurement of M-6 commuter railcars to operate on the New Haven Line between Grand Central Terminal on Manhattan Island to New Haven, Connecticut. This procurement has been a joint undertaking of the Metro-North Railroad and the Connecticut Department of Transportation. Difficulties early on in this procurement resulted in large schedule slippages. These schedule slippages resulted in the vendor's inability to produce in a timely fashion: the Master Test Plan; prototype M-6 railcars; and the required Quality Assurance Plan. The schedule slippages necessitated recommendation by the PMOC of a Recovery Management Plan, having the objective of reinstating integrity to the M-6 Program's Schedule Control, Quality Control and the Master Test Plan, including those aspects of the Plan tied to prototype railcars.
In the M-6 Railcar Procurement, the development of the Master Test Plan lagged well into the production phase of railcar assembly. The completion of prototype vehicles were delayed significantly (and then abandoned). As a result of the delays in the development of the Master Test Plan and in the development of prototype M-6 vehicles, railcars were assembled often with conditionally approved or without approved engineering drawing. Such work by the railcar manufacturer, placed the manufacturer at risk relative to possible costly and time-consuming retrofit at a later time when open engineering items would be closed, engineering drawings would be approved, and required "proof of design" and "acceptance" testing procedures would be finalized. Because of the out-of-sequence completion of the Master Test Plan and management adjustments made as a result of the M-6 manufacturer's inability to produce prototype vehicles, it has been necessary to accept M-6 railcars with significant levels of "conditions" attendant to that acceptance. The manufacturer's failure to produce a Master Test Plan and to produce prototype rail vehicles exposed the M-6 manufacturer to the possibility that some parts and components utilized in the assembly of the vehicle would be specific non-compliant. Consequently, the M-6 railcars would be disassembled so that specification compliant part could be incorporated into the finally accepted railcars.
Because of the large schedule slippage that worsened as the M-6 Railcars fabrication progressed, an extraordinary effort needed to be directed to schedule recovery. The ultimate M-6 program delay of approximately three years resulted from deficiencies in M-6 production and M-6 testing. In addition to internal M-6 program delays, the large schedule slippage had the potential of negatively impacting a schedule recovery program must be characterized by knowledgeable and independent intervention by vehicle engineers capable of adequately assessing the problems which caused schedule slippage and realistically defining mitigation methods to be applied to these problems.
The lesson to be learned from M-6 problems relative to timely completion and implementation of the Master Test Plan and relative to completion of the required Prototype Vehicle Program suggests a more strict enforcement of all contract milestones particularly those related to vehicle testing and to prototypical vehicle development. Compliance with a baseline schedule prepared at a sufficient level of detail to reflect all critical testing requirements is essential. Such insistence upon schedule integrity would have resulted in a much earlier revenue service date for the M-6 vehicles and an acceptance testing program which did in fact require an extensive and lengthy retrofit program. A firm position at an early date to assure that the vehicle manufacturer provided adequate management and engineering staff to the program should have been insisted upon as well as should have an independent and effective on-site monitoring of corrective measures agreed to and the M-6 railcar builder.
Upon acknowledgment that severe schedule slippage had occurred, a Project Management Recovery Plan should have been put in place immediately by the Grantee. Staff assigned to the development (in cooperation with the Railcar Manufacturer) should be fully capable of analyzing those production factors causing schedule slippage and fully capable of recommending effective remediation. Future railcar procurement contracts should include contractually defined consequences for the manufacturer's failure to implement a recovery schedule which in fact produces program schedule integrity. In those instances where the manufacturer is incapable of program schedule recovery, the Grantee should realistically assess the need for termination under applicable contract provisions.
These comments and recommendations should be applicable to all new railcar procurements and all major railcar rebuild programs.