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Train Maintenance: Implementation of Foam Kitting to reduce maintenance turnaround times on the London Underground.

About London Underground

The London Underground, affectionately nicknamed the Tube by generations of Londoners, stands as one of the most iconic and extensive metro systems globally. Its history dates back to 1863 when the world’s first underground railway, the Metropolitan Railway, opened between Paddington and Farringdon, serving six intermediate stations.

Since then, the Underground has evolved into a sprawling network with 272 stations and 11 lines, stretching deep into the Capital and beyond, facilitating the daily commute for millions of residents and visitors alike.

The Challenge

To streamline and optimise the turnaround of trains entering Train Maintenance Depots (TMD) for standard maintenance procedures by ensuring the fitters have all replacement parts (fixings and fasteners) to hand, in the right quantity and good condition.

When required to change a part such as a Motor, as part of standard maintenance procedures, the skilled train Fitter would print off a bill of materials and take it to stores to count and issue the required parts.

This process contains wasteful elements such as waiting time (as the stores count out the parts) and motion (moving to the stores area).

As part of an initiative to switch to a ‘Pit Stop’ philosophy of maintaining trains, it was recommended that the client outsource the kitting of parts to a parts distributor to reduce wasteful processes.

The Solution

VMT collaborated closely with both the client and their parts supplier to provide bespoke foam kit boxes.

The boxes are issued to the parts supplier who kit the boxes with the correct parts in the right quantity, with the foam cut to accommodate the specific shape and quantity of the pockets.

A visual Bill of Materials (fitted to the lid), makes it difficult to pick the wrong-sized part or pick the incorrect quantity of parts.

Once the parts supplier completes the kitting process, they deliver the boxes (sealed for security) to the client who places them at lineside, ready to use. ensuring they are readily available for immediate use.

This optimised process not only improves efficiency but also reduces the risk of errors in part selection and enhances overall workflow at the maintenance site.

The Result

The project yielded significant improvements in several key areas:

  • Waste reduction – (motion and waiting for train fitter) resulting in improvement in overall train turnaround.
  • Poke yoke – shaped pockets to the correct size of part make it difficult for the wrong part to be supplied in the kit.
  • Environmental – re-usable packaging reduces the need for excessive packing material.

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