SINGAPORE: As part of a drive to improve efficiency, SMRT has trialled a Japanese-inspired "continuous improvement" drive over the past month at its Tuas Depot, the transport operator said on Tuesday (Feb 27) during a media visit to the depot.
The move to improve workplace efficiency uses Kaizen principles - a Japanese term signifying continuous improvements in workflow over time - that are employed at companies like Toyota, and aims to have small improvements that lead up to big changes on the ground.
Overall workplace efficiency has improved and the target now is to make efficiency gains of 50 per cent over the next few years, said SMRT.
The transport operator is looking to roll out the method at Bishan, Ulu Pandan and Changi depots next month. It currently has four employees trained in Kaizen principles at Tuas Depot and is looking to expand this pool.
As part of efforts to continually improve, SMRT encourages teams to raise issues, which will be looked at by the engineering maintenance manager and resolved within the week, it added.
An example of how the Kaizen concept is used at SMRT's train depot in Tuas West are changes in how tools used by engineering staff are arranged and stored.
Under the new method, each piece of equipment has an assigned place, reducing the time workers need to search for tools and to identify if any are missing.
Workstations are also labelled with staff members' names to strengthen a sense of ownership.
At City Hall's passenger service centre, passengers could also soon see a lower counter to cater to children and wheelchair-bound commuters. Other ideas being explored include full-height digital screens to broadcast service information.
When asked if the new method could help resolve any of the "deep-seated cultural issues" brought up last year by SMRT’s Chief Executive Officer Desmond Kuek, Chief Corporate Officer at SMRT Gerard Koh, who drives the operator's continuous improvement initiative, said that it helps to "improve the sense of accountability and ownership of our workers".
"Importantly, it empowers them to make changes in the areas that they feel they are proud to do their work well," he said. "It’s actually the management’s effort to say: ‘Hey how can I support you to do your work better and improve the work flow so that it’s easier for you to achieve what you’re supposed to do’.”
He added that the aim of the method is to serve customers well while also caring for staff.
“One of the immediate benefits we are seeing is our teams are enjoying a deeper sense of ownership and pride over their work," he said. "Discipline is also improved as work processes are simplified and staff find it easier to carry out the work instructions.”
The Kaizen-inspired efforts have yielded improvements, said Assistant Engineer Aqeel Kaskhy who leads the team at SMRT's Wheelset Unit.
“There’s a lot more communication among the management and the staff," he said. "Previously there was some red tape for us to go through in order to see changes made. So now with the Kaizen team we have removed all the red tape and it’s a lot easier for us."
"We suggest they make the change and we can actually see the change quite quickly.”