Timely Preparation of Quality Assurance Program

Title: Timely Preparation of Quality Assurance Program

Phase(s): Pre-Preliminary Engineering and Preliminary Engineering

Category: Management

Date: April 4, 1997

1. Background

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.

In as much as the Quality Assurance Program is an "engineering audit" of first line quality control procedures, quality assurance was at times given less than the highest priority in the M-6 railcar manufacturing process. For example, the Quality Assurance Manager at one point in time was removed from his quality assurance duties and placed in charge of production, resulting in a lapse of quality assurance activities. The firm having day-to-day engineering responsibilities for the M-6 Program for Metro-North Railroad caught the lapse, obviating potentially costly retrofit requirements and the potential failure to detect issues which would normally surface as a part of a sound and continuing Quality Assurance Program. In addition to diversion of quality assurance management, the M-6 Program saw a lag in the development of required quality assurance manuals beyond the Program's point of need for these manuals. Lack of emphasis on quality assurance resulted in a discontinuous Quality Assurance Program, often not supported by required guidance manuals.

2. The Lesson

Lessons learned with respect to the Quality Assurance Program include the necessity to insist upon the timely preparation of required quality assurance manuals. The timely preparation of required quality assurance manuals should be coupled with full continuous staffing of the quality assurance positions required of the M-6 railcar builder. The obvious and possibly the most important lesson learned is that there should be a complete separation of quality assurance staff from production and inspection (quality control) functions and staffing.

3. Applicability

These comments and recommendations should be applicable to all new railcar procurements and all major railcar rebuild programs.

4. References