Rolling stock & Rail Vehicle Design, Safety, Standards & Regulation

Driving customer satisfaction and business growth through safety

Bombardier Transportation Australia’s approach aims to promote safety as a driver of cultural change, and satisfaction for its end user.

In a competitive market, rollingstock manufacturers and maintenance operators are under constant pressure from customers to meet a range of performance targets. How does a business compete in this space while ensuring safety remains a top priority?

Bombardier Transportation’s Todd Garvey, Head of Sales, Australia and South East Asia Region, says the company’s new product safety management system is embracing safety as a driver of business transformation and customer satisfaction, helping the company’s workforce and customers understand safety as a key component of the total cost of ownership.

“In this industry there’s no exceptions for safety,” Garvey told RISSB’s Rail Safety 2019 conference in Melbourne in April. “For companies like Bombardier and others we must have an excellent safety record, because it’s a key value for our customers as it is for us. We put product safety at the beginning of the conversation with our customers, and this supports customer satisfaction and drive business growth.”

Garvey noted the importance of a company like Bombardier maintaining safety as its top priority, while simultaneously striving to meet the types of key performance measures expected by its manufacturing and maintenance customers – reliability, availability, cost efficiency and so on.

“High quality mobility solutions are needed to meet the transport task, and at Bombardier we’re dedicated to delivering and maintaining highly reliable products,” he said, “but the safety of our products is the main priority.”

Looking to enhance this position, Bombardier has been taking regular measures and efforts to better undertand the role it can play to improve rail safety, and how rail vehicles they manufacture and maintain fit into the environments in which they operatre. Bombardier’s Product Safety Policy is built on five commitments:

  • To define product safety requirements based on the applicable laws and regulations in each country.
  • To ensure that product safety requirements are fulfilled during the development and delivery of its products and services.
  • To proactively analyse incidents or accidents to continuously improve product safety performance.
  • To continually review and update its safety management process.
  • To deploy and maintain a robust Product Safety Management System within the organisation, to clearly define roles, responsibilities and improvement cycles.

“At the heart of the policy is people,” Garvey said. “We ensure that product safety is part of the induction process when employees join the company and regular trainings are conducted to eliminate complacency, and to foster a culture of change.”

Key to the policy was developing a clear structure for safety, making sure individuals understood their responsibilities at every stage.

“The program starts with executives within of each product group, who are responsible for the product safety within that group. Then there are independent technical experts within the business, who conduct audits, monitor safety performance, and ensure the structure is coordinated. There is also a product safety assurance team, and product engineers are also responsible for their product’s safety,” Garvey explained.

“These roles are well defined, it’s well known who’s who, and the skillsets of individuals are well suited to these roles so that they can be a very strong part of our business.

“Product safety is given a strict push from our leadership globally,” Garvey explained. “Because especially on a product that already has a really good safety record, it could have been easy to be complacent and ask, ‘Why should I do this?’. But everyone does it.

“Leadership ensures safety is not compromised when it comes to commercial challenges, and this leadership permeates through the product safety hierarchy, but also creates awareness within our organisation. Product safety doesn’t work unless we get the culture right.”


Garvey says Bombardier’s safety culture is a worldwide platform – if/when an incident occurs or an error is found anywhere in Bombardier’s global operation, that information is transmitted to all arms of the business.

“If we have a very small issue here in Australia it would be documented in our worldwide safety bulletin, and shared through that global network of individuals. Likewise, if there’s an incident on any of our products anywhere on the planet, it’s shared with us in a very short period of time, so we can also learn from it,” Garvey said. “It’s about learning and collaborating through our global opertions, and maintaining and improving the overall competence of our organisation.”

Safety in practice

A big part of the safety policy is growing more aware of the root causes for safety issues around the product line.

The policy targeted three key areas which had been the source of a disproportionate amount of safety issues: bolting and torqueing, software development, and the adherence to maintenance instructions, which collectively were responsible for around forty per cent of safety related incidents. Responding to this, Bombardier encouraged its workforce to speak up about safety issues they perceived. With bolting and torqueing as an example – it was found to be the source of around twenty per cent of safety related incidents – Garvey said Bombardier worked with employees to take stock of how issues were arising.

“Some of the root causes, which can seem quite simple, were improper torque settings, improper torqueing processes, issues with bolt quality, and issues with the wrong bolt size or coating,” he explained. “Messages to our employees were around communicating the gaps they saw in the torqueing process, only using qualified tools, and not to modify or alter those tools in any way.”

The targeted initiative was accompanied by powerful safety messaging across the business. One campaign depicted children riding Bombardier vehicles, accompanied with phrases like ‘Be Tom’s guardian angel. Make sure each and every bolt will hold, and the train runs safely.’ Posters were put up around the company’s offices, design studios, production halls, and meal rooms.

“The aim was to send the message that everyone is responsible for product safety, and it’s not just about the product; it’s about the people,” Garvey said.

“As you move through the product lifecycle, from the very first idea of a tender, to the end of the maintenance term of the contract, team members all along the way are being challenged to meet safety requirements, and understand the role they play in the safety of that product.

“They’re responsible when we go through a bidding process, when we offer a product to a customer, and when we’re delivering a product to a customer, to ensure the product throughout its lifecycle is going to be safe.”

Garvey said Bombardier had seen “a huge difference” in product safety related incidents from these targeted campaigns, and the results are “really pleasing to see”.

Total cost of ownership

A big part of Bombardier’s safety transformation was to understand the value of safety to customer satisfaction.

“When a fleet owner or operator is looking at their total cost of ownership, there’s a lot of traditional focus around the investment costs, management costs and operational costs of rollingstock,” Garvey explained. “But the highest potential cost to an operator could be an incident cost. From fatality and injury costs, to repair costs to the product and property, to the cost of ongoing investigation and litigation associated with a serious incident, and also the public relations cost – the potential brand damage, which can be quite hard to measure.

“We take any little safety issue seriously, because while it may not have led to a major issue today, maybe it will five years or ten years down the track,” he said. “Everybody is responsible for product safety, and everyone needs to understand the role they play in the product cycle, and how they can contribute positively to the safety culture within the organisation.”

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