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New P&D teams improve production quality

Michael Anslinger (56), Member of the Management Board for Production, explains how the biggest change to production logistics in the last 30 years is making DB Cargo’s network even more effective – and what role P&D teams are playing.

Mr Anslinger, production quality is a big deal at DB Cargo. Why is this?
Michael Anslinger _It is especially important for us to maintain a stable level of quality in order to hold our own in the market, acquire new customers, wow customers and generate growth. And that’s why it is especially important for us to know what customers need from our services so that we can translate their needs into service schemes, which we can then produce with the right level of quality.

One of the steps you have taken to improve the quality of production is to introduce a new production system, which has changed responsibilities for trains.
MA _ The Zukunft Bahn @DB Cargo (ZuBa) programme fundamentally changed the production system. The changes are based on a number of new ideas that are driving our actions. First, we make a distinction between robust and volatile traffic. We do that to minimise the impact that short-notice or irregular volatile traffic has on robust traffic. Second, we have created a structure of manageable units for our production system, which we call service schemes and production schemes. This allows us to specify responsibilities in full in service and production schemes. Third, we have introduced end-to-end logic for our trains. Service design and dispatching are no longer handled on a territory basis. A single team is responsible for train control from the origin to destination. These are our P&D teams.

The P&D teams help improve identification with the product and with the work being done for customers in the production process.

It sounds like the P&D teams have become an important component of the Zukunft Bahn programme. Could you elaborate on that?
MA _ The P&D teams have become so important because responsibilities are clearly defined for each team based on the production schemes assigned to them (i.e. locomotive rostering and train driver shifts). What’s more, teams’ discussions of service design and operations are ongoing, which allows us to clear up difficulties in the production process caused by incidents, irregularities, or errors in service design or dispatching. This is the only way for us to gradually improve and uphold our service commitment to customers.

What is the current status of the P&D teams?
MA _ We have rolled out all of the teams, and we completed the transition to the new production logic at the beginning of 2018. We used to divide up work using a territory system. A train would travel through different territories and would be handed over at the border between production centres in a relay procedure. This meant that a single train journey involved multiple service design and operations interfaces where service had to be handed off. The P&D team system has eliminated these interfaces. The service design and operations organisation is now responsible for all services for a single train journey. Service designers and dispatchers are responsible for a specific train, which we can assign to them in our production system. The service scheme manager, who is in direct contact with the customer, now has a specific contact on the P&D team. This allows us to build a one-on-one relationship with customers.

How many teams are there? 
MA _ We have 16 teams for long- distance service. They deal primarily with locomotive rostering across regions. Local and regional service is divided up among an additional 13 teams. Each team manages 600 to 900 trains a week.. 

What exactly do they do? 
MA _ The P&D teams are essentially responsible for planning the resources that trains need. On the operations side, the same team is responsible for making sure that the service in the production process, in other words the train journey, is provided without incident as far as possible. If operations are disrupted, they manage the steps that need to be taken to get the train back on track. 

Who is responsible for special trains?
MA _ In addition to the P&D teams who handle robust traffic, we also have P&D teams who work solely with volatile traffic. Their job is a little more complex. Service designers have to identify available capacity in locomotive rosters or shift plans that can be used for unscheduled requests from customers, which we receive on short notice. We have one team in each Cargo Management Region that manages these special trains.

DB Cargo is hoping that the P&D teams and the new production system will improve identification with the product being transported. Have you noticed any changes yet?
MA _ The P&D teams will help, but we still have a long way to go. The production process is still an anonymous process to some extent. Not all train drivers know what customer they are driving a train for. As we keep moving in the direction of teams with dedicated responsibilities, we will be able to assign train driver shifts to specific products. Train drivers would then know that they’re driving an Audi or a thyssenkrupp train. We need this to happen before we can really improve identification with the product and with the work being done for customers in the production process. Increasing identification with products and customers will be a gradual process over the coming years for our 4,000 train drivers, who drive completely different trains depending on the section. And it should work the same way with service designers. That’s why we’re trying to carve out smaller units from what had been an anonymous network to increase customer visibility and encourage identification with them. That wasn’t possible with the logic we were using before.

You are planning on introducing new software to provide support for the new production system and the P&D teams. How is that coming along? 
MA _ Our IT system was largely built around the old territory system. We first had to create visibility for the production scheme since we never had a need for a manageable unit like production schemes before. We are gradually introducing the production scheme logic into our IT systems. The idea of the production scheme and service scheme will be the standard for managing services and production in the future, and new IT will be developed according to this logic.