Thursday, 2 December 2010
If you search the internet for 'Golden Spanner' the top item is likely to be something to do with Meccano, beloved of James May and toy geeks.
Look further and you will see that South West Trains was recently awarded a coveted golden spanner award for the best reliability of any UK train operating company. Now jokes about reliability in the snow aside, what caught my ear was the astonishing results that the company has achieved, compared to their competitors. The awards are based purely on fleet reliabilty metrics, not some subjective passenger survey. The average distance operated by any train between any technical defects (causing 5 minutes or more delays) is over 40,000 miles. This represents the equivalent of more than a complete round the world journey without any technical faults. This is even more remarkable when you consider that the industry average is only 13,000 miles.
How did they do it? Christian Roth of SWT, interviewed on BBC Radio 4's You and Yours, attributed much of their success to 'a knowledge sharing culture'. They also benchmark, measure and communicate the results constantly.
This is another example of what KIN Associate Ian Corbett calls 'technical limit' improvement. Knowledge sharing really can have a dramatic impact on performance, but measurement is a critical part of the improvement cycle.