Tapping into existing knowledge about what can go wrong when producing complex data documents.
V/Line were about to launch into a complete timetable update when their existing external production studio closed down. Some of the work been moved in-house, putting considerable pressure on the in-house studio. V/Line had to outsource production of timetables and they also needed the process of producing timetables to improve as the timetabling staff were very busy.
There was a considerable body of knowledge that we had to collect and convert into standard operating procedures so that the timetables could be produced by anyone in our business.
There was also a lot of detailed checking done by busy people at V/Line who had plenty of other work to do. Some of the checkings was for the accuracy of data production and some was to ensure the styles had been applied correctly – exhausting for everyone involved.
But the checking couldn't be handed to anyone with less knowledge because understanding the source information requires a level of expertise. So we needed to make the checking process less onerous.
And there was a lot of uncertainty around volume and deadlines – could the work be done in the time available?
In the process of building that body of knowledge, we brought consistency to the time formats, names of stations, and the legends. We also improved the way the data was displayed on the temporary timetables, making it more readable.
For greenfields timetables, we worked with V/Line to have the source data produced in a more useful format – better source data makes it easier for us to automate production.
Online proofing was one of the first processes we added, with workflows to make sure everyone who needs to be involved in checking is included in the process at the right time with the right level of permissions. We modularised production and costing to take the guesswork out of costing.
Templating and automation were added wherever possible to reduce manual work to the bare minimum. As we already produce timetables for Metro Trains, we have a lot of knowledge about templating, styles and formatting shortcuts already to hand. And we know a lot about how to avoid what can typically go wrong when producing timetables.
And we build a database of the network to predict which components will need to be updated whenever there is a line change. This helps us to produce quotes faster and is a way of checking that we have been supplied with all the files we need.
We continue to test our processes to find new ways to automate them knowing that every little tweak improves them and frees up time to tackle urgent work.