From the tracks to the office (and in vice versa)

Lots of people are involved in a project, but what is everyone’s role? And how does everything come together in the end? Bert Broekroelofs (Foreman Tracks) and Vincent Ratgers (Project Manager Heavy Rail) decided to put it to the test and shadow each other for a day.

‘I often saw people from the office walking around at projects and wondered what they do at the office all day,’ says Bert. ‘During a project in Eemshaven I asked Vincent what he does as project manager.’ That turned out to be a difficult question for Vincent to answer: ‘I was unable to properly explain this to Bert. That evening at my kitchen table I gave that some more thought and gave him a call.’ Bert: ‘Vincent asked me if I would be interested in shadowing him for a day. That interested me, but only on the condition that Vincent would also shadow me for a day.’

Tracklayers on paper

That day finally came in April. ‘I had chosen a day with lots of variety, to give Bert good insight into my activities. First, we had a project team meeting at our head office in Maarssen,’ says Vincent. ‘This is when I came to realise how many people and parties are involved in a project and the extent to which things need to be organised,’ Bert adds. ‘Everything we do outside has been thought out in advance at the office: you could call them tracklayers on paper.’

The meeting was followed by a report to the project manager, including financial estimates. Bert found this interesting. ‘I was never really aware of the amounts involved in a project, for example the cost of a simple layout plan drawing. In addition, the importance of inspections clearly stood out as a condition for ensuring payment of the work done, which up until then is prefinanced by Strukton.’

The day ended at the office of Strukton Rail in Zwolle with a construction meeting with ProRail. Bert: ‘It was very interesting to be able to experience discussions between ProRail and Strukton. There was a lot of wrangling in a very positive atmosphere.’

‘We are working for a great company. It is fantastic that something like this is possible here.’

The importance of automation

Ten days later it was Vincent’s turn to shadow Bert at his work. Bert: ‘Vincent came along to the BBV Drenthe project where we had to renew rails, including electrically insulated welded rail joints, fasteners and base plates. To make things more interesting we told no one that Vincent was the project manager of this particular project.’

‘It was rather heavy work,’ says Vincent. ‘It helped me better understand why management is calling for automation. But even without automation there are ways in which to do things differently. For example, instead of using an impact wrench that you constantly have to carry along with you, you can also use a hydraulic impact wrench for bolt maintenance that can be attached to and pushed along the rails. That makes a huge difference.’

Vincent also observed that the layout plan drawings were not always available at the work site. ‘While they had been provided in digital format, next time we should simply print the drawings again and post a plasticised version on a bulletin board at the work site. That allows everyone to once more review what needs to be done.’

The unknown is often shunned

Both men found shadowing each other very instructive and are certainly open to doing it again. Vincent: ‘We all contribute to the success of a project. Having insight into one another’s work helps us to make an even better contribution.’ Bert agrees: ‘It helps you better understand the reasoning for doing certain things and you are more understanding of one another. After all people tend to shun the unknown. I would highly recommend this to anyone.’ ‘What’s more, a little more exercise would do me good,’ Vincent adds.

Vincent and Bert agree: ‘We are working for a great company. It is fantastic that something like this is possible here.’

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