Thursday, March 20, 2008

SMRT appeals against $387k penalty

Let's see how this letter comes out of the 'chop & change department', if at all, in the press.

Dear ST Forum Editor,

In reference to this article:
March 21, 2008
SMRT appeals against $387k penalty

If it is true that the incident occurred “ … because SMRT workers failed to engage the parking brake of one portion of a maintenance train. This caused the train to roll back when its primary brakes failed.“ Then in light of the current national thrust on innovation and in a bid to keep transport cost from potentially escalating some more may I humbly suggest to SMRT to perform two operations please.

First is what is known as Failure Mode Effects Analysis, or FMEA in short, to address potential areas of concern within its operations. This exercise, coupled with an innovative and open mindset might enable SMRT to look forward in problem prevention as opposed to reacting. Especially when the cost of reaction is inevitably high combining both actual operating cost to recover from failure and mitigate the problem while potentially facing legal penalties.

Next is Poka-Yoka, a Japanese concept utilized in Design for Six Sigma methodology, and also used elsewhere, to devise a simple electro-mechanical system for failure prevention. In this case of operating procedural failure a one or two button system to ensure that an operator must be present to actively release the appropriate brakes instead of the traditional method where the brakes must be manually engaged by the operator. In this case, if the operator does not keep the brake depressed the train will automatically roll to a stop even if the power is turned up because the brakes will engage automatically. This will remove one potential element of breach of procedure. To achieve even higher safety levels and if the maintenance train is similar to regular trains in that it has cabs at both ends the system may be wired to ensure two operators must be present in order for the locomotive to move.

”Poka-yoking” and FMEA work together, along with other tools, at the front end of the process in most cases to prevent design faults be it mechanical, electrical or procedural in nature and can apply across even to the service industry.

Though not an electrical or mechanical engineer by training I do believe the cost of such recommendations and procedures far under-weigh the cost of “procedural failure” in any form of cost benefit analysis. With these recommendations I hope SMRT can continue to keep the cost of transport low for all in Singapore amid the relentless cost increases going on. In a similar bid I also appeal to LTA to review the penalty imposed on SMRT to help keep operating cost low so that the ‘savings’ may be passed on to the consumer.

Thank you.