07 June 2001 | Robin Parker
Train manufacturer Alstom UK has cut lead times on the high-speed tilting trains to run on the overhauled West Coast mainline network by more than a third.
Warren Taylor, group purchasing director for Alstom UK, told SM the company had had to cut the turnaround for the new trains to around two and half years, a year less than was normally the case.
"This makes life-cycle costing very demanding and highlights the need for supplier capacity planning," he said.
Alstom, which will import the carriage shells from Fiat's Italian train works and complete all interior work within the UK, has also created a design studio for the project at its site in Birmingham. Taylor added that all staff involved, including sourcing managers, designers and supply directors, have been grouped together.
While this brought benefits in terms of planning and efficiency, Taylor regretted the extra problems it caused. "In retrospect, we would have preferred closer concentration on adapting processes and procedures," he admitted. "It created a lack of accountability, as some were more aware of traceability issues than others."
The project put pressure on staff organisation because it was so specialised. The supply team from Alstom's Paris HQ were asked to help, as it had experience of building France's high-speed TGV trains. "It became difficult to manage headcount and flow from one project to another," Taylor added.
There had been a risk of a lack of expertise in commodities, he said, but Alstom was moving back to a commodity-focus structure for all its projects. This would happen "in two stages, so as not to disturb the project".
The trains will be leased to Virgin trains, which operates services on the West Coast line.