The new, modern drive-in locomotive workshop LOCMASTA (short for “Locomotive Maintenance Station”) in Gramatneusiedl in Burgenland/Austria is about to be officially commissioned. Two years ago, the starting signal was given when ÖBB Technische Services, LTE (Logistics & Transport Europe) and ELL (European Locomotive Leasing) established the joint venture ETL Lokservice GmbH to operate a service center for locomotives.
On April 8, 2022, LOCMASTA officially received the ECM certificate for the maintenance delivery function (ECM 4) in accordance with the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/779. Mr. Armin Wohlfahrter, Managing Director of ETL Lokservice GmbH, and Mr. Thomas Kollnig, authorized representative, were significantly involved in the preparations and the certification process and will also be responsible for ECM compliance in the future.
In the interview, they revealed details about the challenges that a “newcomer” rail vehicle workshop faces in the course of ECM certification.
In the initial audit Stage 1, which focused on the management system, we benefited greatly from the three ISO certifications that we have already completed in December 2021. We completed the ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 45001 certifications in a relatively short time and without operational business. We therefore already had a document control system, a standard manual, a management manual, reports and key figures, etc. – in other words, a great deal of documentation already existed. Of course, several months of preparation time had gone into this beforehand, but this meant that little additional preparation was required for the initial audit Stage 1 – the management system and the document control system were already established thanks to ISO.
There were less than two months between the Stage 1 and 2 audit. That’s were we needed the most personnel resources. During this time, five people worked on preparing everything for the ECM certification – the two of us, our workshop manager and two more people from ÖBB who supported us. In summary, a whole person-year went into the preparations. However, this was only possible in such a “short” time because we could take a lot from the ISO certification.
Unlike ISO, where the system and its improvements are shown, ECM also has an real influence on the shop floor. This means that every employee must live and feed this system so that it is traceable. While ISO “only” evaluates the management system and leaves a lot of room for interpretation, the implementation of the demanding operational specifications from the ECM regulation causes significantly more effort.
One challenge is that the regulation refers to many other topics. In addition to the ECM regulation, you also have to look at security and risk management, and provide the necessary systems, databases, and folder/storage structures, and so on. Before LOCMASTA was founded, our exposure to the Entity in Charge of Maintenance regulation was very superficial and therefore it was not easy for us to familiarize ourselves with this very comprehensive topic from scratch.
Everything must be documentable and mapped in a way that makes it all coherent in the end. However, the specifications must also be feasible in practice. That is the difficulty. If you maintain the system just for the sake of it, you will stumble at some point. It was a challenge to take all these thoughts into account when setting up the systems.
As a “newcomer” it also takes a lot of patience. You have to meet the same requirements as a workshop that has been in operation for years. The employees are already employed and a lot of resources are invested before you are even allowed to start operations – because you don’t have the certificate yet. On the one hand, this is an economic challenge, and on the other hand, it is also a motivational challenge for the employees. For this reason, it was important for us to raise employee awareness for ECM and to create an understanding of what our role as ECM 4 is and what these processes are there for.
Many of our employees were previously employed by ÖBB and have therefore already worked in the ECM environment. For some, however, it is also new territory. At LOCMASTA, we have redesigned the ECM structures from scratch. Therefore, we have the ambition to create even more awareness for it among every single employee than it might be the case with an established company that has been around for more than 180 years. So there is a certain difference there. We don’t need a change process, but can live our ECM-centric culture right from the start, without any preload. New employees learn from day one that there is no compromise on security and quality at LOCMASTA. Ultimately, the aim is to prevent damage to people and machinery in rail transport by maintaining the highest standards of maintenance. As a locomotive workshop, we therefore bear a very great responsibility – also in the legal sense.
It was very important to us not only to show our employees how it works, but also to communicate to them what the reason behind it is. Especially in the last few weeks, we have clearly noticed how important ongoing personal communication is in this regard.
Instead of confronting our employees with the entire system, we extract for them the information that offers them added value or that they actually have to apply. We have tried to create an understanding that it is essential to document everything accurately so that the maintenance activities performed on the locomotives are fully traceable.
This happens in the Rail Workshop software from BOOM. Our employees have to actively check off the individual, carried out processes on checklists on the tablet. The ECM standard also requires, for example, that there is a key figure showing how many incidents there have been with the vehicles we have maintained. Our top priority is that this figure is always “zero”, but if there should ever be an incident, it must be possible to trace exactly where in the maintenance process the source of the error was. This is where BOOM’s software solution helps us to have a rock-solid and ECM-compliant process in which the maintenance specifications are worked through from A to Z.
In all processes, right down to incoming/outgoing invoices, we have made sure that we are pretty much paper-free. Even in the classic document flow, we work with scans right from the start. In the BOOM software solution, everything is digitally archived anyway. I would say that we have achieved the currently highest possible level of digitalization and automation in our company.
We had the unique opportunity to start from the green field. Of course, we could have taken over certain tools/systems from the shareholders who founded LOCMASTA, but we deliberately wanted to start from scratch. We had a very tight schedule and customizing the existing tools would have taken more time than implementing the BOOM product, which had the basic functionalities ready.
That time, we looked at different systems and in the end decided to go with BOOM’s Rail Workshop solution. After all, it was a relatively finished product compared to the competing solutions in terms of digitization, automation and documentation. Even though we did not yet know the detailed requirements, the intuitive and user-friendly interface quickly convinced us. Also the references from comparable projects were important for us. BOOM provided a credible schedule and a transparent offer within a very short time as well. In other companies, this selection process would have taken several months – but BOOM responded flexibly and professionally to our time pressure, which is why a decision was made within a few weeks.
When BOOM guided us through the software at the kick-off meeting, I personally became aware for the first time of what it actually means to have to work in an ECM-compliant manner. The standard is mapped to 99% in the Rail Solutions and there you can see what actually has to be documented.
I think we looked at certain things in the ECM regulation even more critically than others do, because we are certainly one of the first to have gone through this certification process as a newcomer. Our expectations of a workshop solution were therefore very high. The bottom line is that we learned a lot from each other. After all, we were in the middle of the certification process and, together with BOOM, we have prepared the workshop software in such a way that it really is 100% ECM-compliant and, at the same time, also improves usability in everyday work on the shopfloor.
One goal that arose during the project was system reduction. Because if more information can be mapped in the BOOM Rail Solutions – in other words in one system – for example qualifications or required material, then one saves on the other hand several parallel systems. This makes the entire process and the documentation more secure and lean. This is where supplementary modules and customizations have been added.
Also, the joint journey with BOOM is not over yet. Now that we have the certification in our hands, the next step for us is to really use the software solution to its full extent. Again, this will result in new insights, as we will now have real experiences in live operation. We expect that the really tricky issues will still come up – probably some adjustments will be necessary as well.
To sum up, the use of BOOM’s software has turned out to be a really good decision, this was also confirmed to us by the auditor. They were enthusiastic when our order manager led them through the orders in an exemplary way and quickly realized that there is a complete, ECM-compliant documentation – from the qualifications, to the measuring equipment, to the materials, and so on. On this point, many questions were certainly anticipated by using BOOM’s solution.
To what extent did BOOM’s experts provide you with advice on how to achieve ECM certification?
We had some workshops with Helmut Hohenbichler and later with Christiane Hirzer, the project leader of BOOM, who also supported us very well. As mentioned before, from our point of view it was a mutual advising and developing. The deeper we were into the field of ECM over time, the more we were able to identify which features in the solution might need to be added for us in order to be even more ECM 4 compliant.
During our audits, BOOM’s experts were always on “standby” to explain in detail how the system works in case of specific questions. This was very convincing and there were never any queries or critical comments from the ECM certification body with regard to the software solution.
In the future, where do you see the greatest advantage by using BOOM Rail Solutions?
Yet another reason why we chose BOOM’s solution at that time is that one of our shareholders, who will also be one of our major customers – namely ELL – also opted for the product from BOOM. And vice versa, it was of course also a reason for ELL that we had chosen BOOM.
The fact that the Rail Workshop and Rail Asset modules work so well together means that the order data and maintenance specifications – as soon as the system goes live at ELL – will be transmitted directly in the system and we will no longer have to enter them manually. ECM-critical processes, such as documentation or the provision of maintenance specifications, are then also fully traceable in the system. The risk of different specifications or information statuses is completely minimized by BOOM Rail Solutions. Of course, we are now talking about the ideal scenario: The more customers use the Rail Asset module, the better it is for everyone who has the workshop module.
This synergy between the two modules is really quite new in the industry. The traditional processes are still very analog. E-mails are sent back and forth, there are handwritten checklists, and so on. With LOCMASTA, we want to take a completely different approach and we think that BOOM is also ready for all the “outrages” that we can think of in the area of digitalization.
One final question: How will you celebrate your success now that you finally have the ECM certificate in your hands and LOCMASTA is officially allowed to start operating?
When we received the certificate on Friday, April 8, we immediately drove here to the workshop on Monday morning, gathered everyone together and announced the news that we now finally have the authorization that is needed so that locomotives can really come to the workshop. All of our employees have now been patient for a long time and have trusted us that everything will go according to plan and that we will receive the necessary ECM certificate. We want to celebrate this and will therefore all go out for a meal together. The big opening event, at which the employees will also be present, will take place on May 20.
Are you dealing with similar issues in your day-to-day business and would like to tackle these challenges in the same way as LOCMASTA? Contact our ECM specialists via an informal email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let us show you your opportunities in a free consultation.
Pictures: © LOCMASTA
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