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Over the air – what rail can learn from Qantas

Plane Michael Kileen. Photo: Ingram Publishing

Michael Killeen says the asset management experiences of the aviation industry can act as learning examples for the Australian rail industry.

Currently Qantas’ 747 and 767 fleet manager, Killeen will deliver the opening keynote address at the inaugural ARA Asset Management in Rail Conference, which will take place between July 8 and 9 at the InterContinental Hotel in Sydney.

Killeen  sat down with Rail Express publisher Informa Australia to discuss his background and to give some insight into his presentation ahead of the event.


Michael, can you tell us a bit more about your background and your role at Qantas?

Over the last 20 years I have worked in a range of blue chip companies, including Qantas, as well as major consulting organisations. My experience has been across procurement, supply chain, asset optimisation and ICT.

From an industry perspective, I worked in manufacturing, mining and aviation.

At times I have been responsible for asset bases of over $2.5 billion, costing nearly $1 million per day to operate.


What’s in store for your keynote address at the Asset Management in Rail Conference?

The work I will discuss relates to my role as 747/767 fleet manager.

During a period of rapid transformation within Qantas, including the retirement of the 767s, I led an asset management reform which touched a number of parts of the business.

I hope to be able share some key lessons learned, including those things that worked well and some that we would do differently.

Asset management has a lot to offer in terms of not only its technical content but also as a lever for change. I will show how we applied asset management as a framework for business change.


What were some of the challenges you faced transforming the Qantas asset management system?

The problems we faced were similar to the problems that many of the people in the rail industry undoubtedly face.

These included clearly communicating and explaining the need for significant change and engaging closely with our people through each stage of the process.

Many people involved in aviation have been so for a long time so change is going to be challenging for a lot of people.

Getting people on the journey was extremely important.


How do you optimise your assets?

Our asset optimisation was underpinned by focusing on the value that assets deliver rather than the interests of the organisational silos that contribute to their success.

We encapsulated this in our asset management plans which defined what needed to be done for the assets, not for the organisational silos.


What are you most looking forward to about the conference?

My experience across a broad range of industries has taught me that no one industry has all of the answers – some industries do things better than others despite the perception – so I am not only interested in sharing experiences with people in the rail industry but, I am also looking forward to meeting the people and learning something from the rail industry that I can bring back to aviation as a better way to approach a problem.


Killeen will be joined at the ARA’s Asset Management in Rail Conference by a number of other prominent speakers, including:

  • Maria Palazzolo, CEO, GS1 Australia
  • Warwick Talbot, General Manager, Engineering and System Integrity, Maintenance Directorate, Sydney Trains
  • Rob MacGregor, Business Development Manager, Inspired Systems
  • Paul Reichl, Senior Research Engineer and Data Scientist, Institute of Railway Technology, Monash University
  • Simon Ratcliffe, General Manager – Maintenance, Reliability & LCC, Downer Rail
  • Tony Frazer, GM Asset Management, Interstate Division, ARTC
  • Christopher Stinchcombe, Director, Rolling Stock, Yarra Trams