Sustainable Solution to a Business Challenge

Sustainability in Action

Finding solutions to business challenges does not always cost a lot of money or require major changes. Laura Hoag, assistant superintendent, and Nick Wymer, senior technology analyst on our Dearborn Division, can attest to that.
 

Finding solutions to business challenges does not always cost a lot of money or require major changes. Laura Hoag, assistant superintendent, and Nick Wymer, senior technology analyst on our Dearborn Division, can attest to that. Working together in early 2013, they came up with a plan that has saved money and time and reduced delays to train crews at terminals all across the system.

It started at our Toledo, Ohio, terminal. Looking for ways to improve on-time train departures, Hoag began talking with road train crews about work issues that slowed them down. A key theme emerged: Old dot-matrix printers the crews used to get printouts of their daily work bulletins were slow and in constant need of repair.

“Train crews were frustrated with how long it took for bulletins to print, and I didn’t want people standing around waiting,” Hoag said. She enlisted Wymer to help with the technology side. Their solution: They developed a pilot program to replace the old printers with laser printers. In addition, they changed the format of the work bulletins, including removing outdated information. This reduced the size of the bulletins, allowing train crews to focus on safety and service issues of immediate concern.

The resulting efficiency improvements were remarkable, Hoag said. The Toledo terminal office went from using four unreliable dot-matrix printers to three laser printers. Because the laser machines print on both sides of the paper, the office expects to reduce paper use by about 240,000 sheets annually, a savings of around $88,000. Because the laser printers are 78 percent faster, train crew productivity has improved. Over three shifts, crews saved about six hours a day in waiting time – equivalent to about $270,000 over a year, Hoag said.

During more than six months of operation, there were zero laser-printer failures, compared with 28 failures a month on average for the old printers, she added. The company is saving on contractor repair calls, crew time, dispatcher time, and internal IT staff time. As an added bonus, the new printers consume 57 percent less energy.

Since the pilot’s success in Toledo, the company has begun replacing dot-matrix printers across the system. By the end of first quarter 2014, 45 new laser printers had been installed in terminal offices on every operating division. The project’s impact on corporate sustainability, Hoag said, goes beyond savings on paper and business costs.

“If you think about sustainability in terms of people coming to work every day and being frustrated just in getting their basic paperwork, it makes a big difference to remove that level of inconvenience and inefficiency,” Hoag says. “If you improve employee morale, you improve the company.”