article

FML’s continuous expansion to achieve positive results

Posted: 6 December 2011 | | No comments yet

Freightliner Maintenance Ltd (FML) is Freightliner Group’s dedicated in-house maintenance operation. As it continues on its course of expansion, FML has reinstated an out-of-use and run-down engineering facility in York. Maintenance of locomotives and rolling stock is a core necessity to any successful rail operator. A high level of availability of locomotives through efficient maintenance can increase an operator’s performance that customers see and experience. In an interview for Global Railway Review, Dave Curtis, General Manager at FML gives an overview of the work carried out at the site in York and explains the benefits that this new site will bring.

In 2006, Freightliner Group recognised an opportunity to enhance its business offering of operating award winning trains and diversify to the maintenance of its fleet with cost control and rolling stock performance as key success criteria.

“We believed that we could further improve reliability and reduce both downtime and costs by incorporating the maintenance function into the Freightliner business,” explained Dave. “Freightliner Heavy Haul’s business success relied on dependable maintainers with a swift turnaround time and was a key decision to ensure the security and service delivery.”

Freightliner Maintenance Ltd (FML) is Freightliner Group’s dedicated in-house maintenance operation. As it continues on its course of expansion, FML has reinstated an out-of-use and run-down engineering facility in York. Maintenance of locomotives and rolling stock is a core necessity to any successful rail operator. A high level of availability of locomotives through efficient maintenance can increase an operator’s performance that customers see and experience. In an interview for Global Railway Review, Dave Curtis, General Manager at FML gives an overview of the work carried out at the site in York and explains the benefits that this new site will bring.

Freightliner Maintenance Ltd has been quick to respond to the needs of the industry, growing and adapting to meet the requirements of its clients.

Freightliner acquired the Midland Road depot in Leeds and its 13 staff from a former supplier to launch FML in 2006. At the time, 26 of the division’s 75 Heavy Haul locos were maintained at that facility. The launch of FML at Leeds resulted in greatly improved productivity. “Through better planning, more flexible working hours and closer cooperation between the operators and the maintenance team, we made the process much more efficient,” said Dave.

Fast forward to 2011, today FML looks after the entire UK fleet of 111 UK Class 66s, including wheel set changes and high level exams. Since the introduction of the PowerHaul fleet, FML has also been covering the warranty and routine work on behalf of GE Transportation. From its origin as a maintainer for a small proportion of the Freightliner Heavy Haul locomotive fleet, FML has broadened its scope to include wagon and track maintenance and has even under – taken the works to open a new Freightliner Railport in Bristol and expand capacity at Freightliner Limited’s Trafford part terminal.

The launch of Freightliner Maintenance as a separate unit has proved to be a good decision, says Dave. “We proved ourselves on the rolling stock maintenance first – reducing both costs and downtime – and now we are building a similar reputation for excellence in track maintenance services.”

The new site at York is a direct response to the growth of Freightliner Maintenance and as a result of winning a new contract for the general repair of the coal wagons with Freightliner Heavy Haul.

Although Freightliner Maintenance may be seen as an in-house supplier, it operates as an entirely separate business from the other subsidiaries of Freightliner Group and is not automatically awarded internal contracts. After FML were invited to tender, just like their market competitors, they won the contract because of their ability to deliver a cost-effective and proficient service for a 10-year overhaul of 248 HHA (coal wagons). With this important contract in mind, and due to begin at the start of January 2011, FML then identified possible sites at which to carry out the work.

Originally, the existing depot in Leeds seemed the obvious choice for such an expansion project. However, due to the extraordinarily tight time-scale of the operation this would not leave enough time for the company to expand the site to take on this extra business. An Old Jarvis site in York was established as an attractive alternative to Leeds, as the facility would allow the engineers a lot more space to operate and although a lot of the infrastructure was in place, it would require a lot of refurbishment to ensure it was again fully operational.

Even though the contract was awarded in June, FML only took possession of the old site at York in mid-December, meaning there were just two weeks before the site needed to be up and running and ready to go. The building itself required a lot of refurbishment as it was quite dilapidated with no water, heating or lighting and with the added problems of pigeon infestation the team had their work cut out if the project was to be completed in time.

It took the FML team and the Track Maintenance team just two weeks, working outside in icy conditions as low as -10°c during one of the harshest winters of recent years, to complete the task on time. Dave paid tribute to the swift work of those involved in the development project by saying, “the team did a great job at York.” Most of Christmas and New Year were spent organising repairs to the 165m x 70m building, everything from fixing doors and windows, to completely rewiring the electrics, as well as relaying the tracks. The HHA contract started on 10th January and is expected to take about three years to complete. FML initially employed 10 new fitters to undertake the new work, but now the York site is base for 20 individuals bringing FML’s total employee number to over 100.

Although it is early days, this project has already proved a tremendous success, delivering a production output of between four and five wagons per week. Due to the careful management of FML’s resource capabilities and a clear business strategy, the site has been equipped for other purposes. An added advantage is the freeing up of capacity at FML’s other facilities as well as enabling the team at York the space they need to work most effectively. York is now able to manage other assignments too, such as the Class 66 Polish conversions for the Freightliner Group’s Polish subsidiary Freightliner Poland and locomotive modifications.

Freightliner Maintenance are constantly upgrading the site with the latest addition being the installation of a fuel point. Dave said, “this facility is proving very valuable” in regards to the scope and variety of work the site can take on. Freightliner Group’s core activity, operated through its specialist subsidiary companies is the movement of freight by rail, ranging from the rail haulage of commodities such as aggregates and coal to being the leading haulier of deep sea containers in the UK offering services to shipping lines and through Logico offering bespoke services to freight forwarders, road hauliers and manufacturers for a high quality rail-based logistics service.

Since privatisation in 1996, Freightliner Group has developed into a dynamic, profitable logistics company with a modern fleet of locomotives, rolling stock and lorries. This has enabled it to retain its market-leading share of the UK intermodal market and to develop a significant and growing share of the UK’s bulk rail freight market, in addition to commencing operations in both Europe and Australia.

About the Author

Dave Curtis is the General Manager for Freightliner Maintenance Ltd (FML) and has responsibility for all the activities undertaken by FML and has seen it grow substantially since it was established. Previously he held the position of Chief T&RS Engineer and had responsibility for the maintenance of Freightliner’s fleet of over 160 locomotives and more than 3,000 wagons. Prior to joining Freightliner in September 2005, Dave Curtis held management positions with South Eastern Trains, Angel Trains and was the Site General Manager at Chart Leacon for Bombardier Transportation, responsible for fleet maintenance, heavy maintenance and refurbishment of passenger rolling stock.

Related regions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.