Rail Express caught up with Wendy McMillan in August to talk about her first six months in charge of Bombardier Transportation in Australia.
REX: You joined Bombardier as President for the Southeast Asia and Australia Region in January. What goals did you set out to achieve over your first six months in the role?
WM: Coming to Bombardier I wanted to focus on building customer and employee satisfaction, sustainable growth, project delivery and transforming the business into a more effective and efficient model across Southeast Asia and Australia markets. All of these objectives were underpinned by a complete focus on safety.
REX: I imagine those first months involved a lot of travelling.
WM: Yes, that was key to engaging with as many of our customers as possible – but equally as important, engaging and travelling to meet with my teams in as many of our locations as quickly as was possible within that six months was very important to me.
Additionally, embedding a culture that values diversity at all times in everything we do was a key objective, as you can appreciate, we already reflect within the region significant diversity within our teams. However, I wanted to highlight the integration and development aspects, particularly for our indigenous and female team members.
We are a global organization with an inclusive workplace and a diverse workforce. Inclusiveness is about more than creating an open and equitable environment regardless of a person’s ethnicity, culture or gender. It’s about embracing the different ideas, perspectives, skills and experiences brought to the table by all our employees. We value diversity because it leads to better ideas, stronger products and higher customer satisfaction.
We cover the full spectrum of rail solutions, ranging from trains to sub-systems and signalling to complete turnkey transport systems, e-mobility technology and data-driven maintenance services. Combining technology with empathy, Bombardier Transportation continuously breaks new ground in sustainable mobility by providing integrated solutions that create substantial benefits for operators, passengers and the environment.
REX: So those were your goals – how did you go?
WM: The leadership team and I wanted to immediately capitalise on the synergies identified through the region and I’m happy to confirm that this has occurred.
Ensuring that our customers, our employees, our partners and stakeholders understood what we were undertaking, along with our key objectives, was of paramount importance. The implementation of our strategies was and is thereby set up for greater success.
REX: What did you learn about the business?
WM: With various production and engineering sites across the globe, we are a global mobility solution provider leading the way with the rail industry’s broadest portfolio. This means the business must think smarter to get the most out of its resources and do more with less to deliver for our customers, partners, and stakeholders.
To keep ahead of the pack, we must adapt, be agile. In the long term our performance will help grow cities, develop communities, directly contribute to economies and anticipate future mobility challenges.
I would also note the power of authentic leadership and how working together as a strong team cannot be underestimated. Driving change and asking people to adapt with the business as it grows can be challenging. Bombardier was built on passionate and creative minds and we want to ensure we take our people along for the journey. We are a family at Bombardier, the importance of the right culture cannot be undervalued.
Bombardier has built a diverse portfolio of winning mobility solutions – but it’s not just the services and products we offer that make us a leader; it is the people. Our most important success factor is our people. Together we are fixated on making mobility more efficient, sustainable and inviting than ever before. Bombardier is committed to attracting and retaining the right talent by providing the conditions to develop a fulfilling career at Bombardier.
REX: Were there any surprises during those first months?
WM: If there was a technical or product aspect to note that I learnt more of since joining it was the sheer extent of our RCS business. In terms of our offer and the breadth of our markets that we cover globally, our leadership in this field; and in terms of our people – the pure commitment to our business and end customers never fails to impress me and the way its delivered – I’m fortunate to have such a professional and caring team.
REX: What do you see as BT’s ongoing role in Australian states like Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia?
WM: Ensuring we remain our customers’ local partner of choice is critical, and we take great pride in supporting this. We also want to highlight that within the industry we continue to offer the best local expertise and capability, meaning we can deliver a high level of local benefits to our customers and partners.
In Victoria, the locally built VLocity trains have generated more than 600 local jobs whilst achieving over 65 percent local content. The iconic FLEXITY E-Class trams are also locally manufactured at our state-of-the-art production site in Dandenong. The Dandenong site is the centre of rail vehicle manufacturing in Australia, employing a growing rail skills base and making a substantial contribution to the local economy.
Locally-built Melbourne trams and VLocity trains for the Victorian Regional Rail network, have a developed and robust supply-chain, and reflect enhanced local talent pools through employee skill development and apprentice programs – whilst continuing to promote sustainable local manufacturing in Victoria. Bombardier also supports component work for other Australian states from Victoria.
Recently, Bombardier completed the installation of in-train 4G signal technology enhancing cellphone connectivity and improving the passenger experience across the VLocity fleet.
Bombardier is a major long-term, reliable partner for the railway transport industry in Queensland. As a full solution provider, Bombardier is looking forward to demonstrating continued excellence in the Queensland rail market, supporting rail operators in the realisation of their long-term mobility plans, across a range of rail solutions, strengthened by our partnership approach. Bombardier is proud to partner with the Queensland Government to deliver the new generation trains to the passenger rail network in South East Queensland. The significance of this project cannot be understated, with 70 percent of Queensland’s future population growth targeted in the South-East region, the NGR fleet will bring a significant 26 percent capacity increase to the rail network. It’s a game-changing project that will help meet growing demand for rail services in this booming region.
The AUD $4.4 billion NGR project features include capacity for 964 passengers in each six-car train, onboard WiFi, CCTV throughout the train, LCD infotainment displays, toilet modules, 12 allocated spaces for mobility aids and more innovative enhancements to the passenger experience.
The project includes the design and delivery of 75 new passenger trains, construction of a new maintenance centre at Wulkuraka near Ipswich and 32-years maintenance of the fleet.
In Queensland, our high-quality interiors of the eco-friendly FLEXITY trams have been designed locally with a strong passenger focus and manufactured to the highest standards demanded by our customer. Based on Bombardier’s family of highly successful FLEXITY light rail vehicles, the Gold Coast’s trams feature Gold Coast’s signature blue and gold colours and a wave motif on the cab front.
Since 2011, Bombardier has been working closely with the Queensland State Government and GoldlinQ to deliver these iconic Gold Coast trams which have dramatically enhanced the public transport experience on the Gold Coast. The high-quality interiors of our eco-friendly FLEXITY trams have been designed locally with a strong passenger focus and manufactured to the highest standards demanded by our customer.
In Perth, the Bombardier Joint Venture recently celebrated the final delivery of the B-Series Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) trains. The Joint Venture has supplied and maintained 78 B-series Electric Multiple Units over the last 15 years for Western Australia’s Public Transport Authority (PTA).
The B- series EMU platform has been locally designed by Bombardier in Australia. This latest EMU delivery milestone adds to the more than 1,200-strong EMU vehicle fleet of various designs already operating at high reliability and availability delivered across Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia by Bombardier over the past 40 years.
For Adelaide, Bombardier has been supporting Adelaide’s mobility needs since 2005 with its diesel and electric commuter trains. With over 50 percent local content for the A-City EMU exported from Victoria.
Bombardier remains the sole rail manufacturer in Australia with capacity to manufacture trains and trams in Australia. We have industrial design, engineering, manufacturing, maintenance and rail signalling teams all based in Australia, allowing us to provide the highest level of local content.
REX: How do you think your past experience on the other side of the rollingstock/signalling market (i.e. as a government customer) has enhanced your view on the market in this role?
WM: 30 years of experience through the government, rail, transport, infrastructure and consulting sectors has provided me with an in-depth understanding of both sides of the industry, an industry that I am incredibly passionate about. This experience has enabled me to take on new challenges and consider problems from a different perspective – however some aspects never change – a comprehensive focus on customer, delivery, your people, your business. In doing so, you must be a good listener, and have the EQ and ability to see things from another perspective.
REX: Your role is also responsible for the Southeast Asian market. What are you anticipating Bombardier’s role to be in this market over the next 5-10 years?
WM: Bombardier has been contributing to the growth of the Southeast Asia region for 30 years. Our involvement in the expansion of the public transport network continues to evolve as the estimated demand for smarter mobility solutions soar.
Bombardier has an established presence in Southeast Asia investing in training and improving the skills development of local employees and supporting the local industry with rolling stock, rail control solutions, product maintenance and services, as well as refurbishment programs.
Currently, Bombardier is moving millions of people across Southeast Asia daily and we see there is a growing market for public transit driven by urbanisation, environmental concerns and, most importantly, infrastructure spending by cities and governments. Our aim is to move more people safely and reliably across the region.
By providing innovative, high-quality mobility solutions in Southeast Asia, Bombardier has been a significant contributor to job creation and economic growth in the region. We are a proud local mobility solution provider and employer that is fully integrated into the local fabric with global expertise.
REX: Do you see Bombardier’s Australian manufacturing/engineering capabilities playing a part in Southeast Asia projects in the future?
WM: Bombardier is a global mobility solution provider and we continue to lead the way with a full suite of transport solutions, ranging from trains to sub-systems and signalling to complete turnkey transport systems, e-mobility technology and data-driven maintenance services. – Together We Move – is our key driver and as a team, we never stop moving to keep people and goods in motion in and between cities.
The skills executed locally in Australia have already benefited other regions across the global Bombardier business. From the world-class, multi-award winning Industrial Design Team, including virtual reality and 3D modelling, to whole-of-life service management of Bombardier’s suite of products, these expertise not only assist the region in which we operate but more broadly across the world.
REX: BT has a global focus on mobility solutions. What phase of growth do you think Australia and New Zealand are currently in – how far do they have to go?
WM: As the world continues to vary and expand, we must listen more carefully to our customers to better deliver on what they require and solve their problems – sometimes before they know they have one. To achieve this objective, our business must have strong leadership focussed on customers, developing new business and skills and the ability to manage a multitude of complex projects. Our obsession with producing and providing quality products and services, and meeting delivery schedules is crucial. Bombardier’s extensive and diverse portfolio of mobility solutions is not solely what makes us a global leader. The most important success factor is our employees. Together we’re focused on making mobility more efficient, sustainable and inviting than ever before.
We see in the next couple of years, there will be more projects considering Australia is a vast country and requires connectivity which is safer and faster supporting economic growth, and further opportunities in New Zealand.
Bombardier offers the broadest portfolio of rail vehicles and technologies in the industry and can offer individual solutions for all cities in both Australia and New Zealand. Focusing on the most pressing public transport challenges, Bombardier offers all products needed for a comprehensive transport system – from metros, regional commuter and light rail vehicles as well as automatic people movers and monorails and high-speed trains along with rail components, signalling systems and our important services business.
There are various projects in Australia and New Zealand that Bombardier is keen to participate and deliver. State and Federal governments have set out their respecgive visions for rail as a key provider of connectivity, social equity, enabler of economic development, with massive investment allocation over the next few years. With our presence and experience in the region, we are well poised to increase our share of the accessible market.
REX: More than just a manufacturer/supplier, Bombardier has a stated aim to become a “solution provider, customer, partner, supply chain engager and local content expert”. Can you go into that?
WM: Bombardier is uniquely positioned to meet our customers needs, not only as a supplier of rollingstock and systems but as a partner who can best deliver local benefit across the communities in which we operate. Through our existing and extensive supply chain we aim to increase operational efficiency and improve quality and customer satisfaction.
Despite the internet, people are actually moving more and more, across cities, across regions. Digitalisation helps us to increase capacity and deliver more and more automation in everything we do: preparation, driving and maintenance. Data through this and whole-of-life cost considerations underpin our approach. In short, we are indeed a solutions provider and actively promote this capability to our customers and partners, day in day out, as our abilty to provide such a unique turnkey service, we believe, is the value proposation our customers are searching for.
We are well aware that to deliver what our customers and partners need, we must continue as their local business of choice. Bombardier is sincere about supporting and investing in the local community, its people and its economy. Our ability to singlehandedly manufacture trains and trams in Australia is what sets us a part, allowing us to maintain the highest level of local content and expertise across the majority of our projects.
Every single day, 500 million passengers globally rely on our mobility solutions to stay on the move. Our user-centric approach enables us to create exceptional experiences. We are partners to more than 200 cities across the globe, making reliable, safe, and sustainable transport available for all in a world of urban growth. With 500 customers in 60 countries, we serve as a trusted and strong local partner all over the world.
Making reliable, safe, and sustainable transport available for all in a world of urban growth and digital change – that is one of the main challenges of our times. Working with our customers, we strive to create holistic, high-quality mobility solutions that anticipate the needs of tomorrow and maximise value for customers and passengers already today. As a team, we never stop moving to keep ideas, people and goods in motion. Combining technology and performance with empathy and understanding, we serve as a trusted and strong local partner all over the world.