CN: Mobile cranes help train keep a rollin’

Canada’s largest rail operator has developed a new parts management and maintenance program to reduce the downtime of mobile cranes at its intermodal terminals.

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For deliveries that positively, absolutely have to get there, rail may not be the first mode of transportation that comes to mind. Most of us think of freight trains lumbering across the prairie to deliver grain, coal or other commodities that get there when they get there. Yet, talk to Gordon Graham, senior manager of intermodal development for CN, and you learn that rail is now an integral link in today’s time-sensitive supply chains. “We’re not like your father’s train,” Graham explains. “Customers ship with us because of the quality of the level of service we provide.”

Service has become a critical enabler of CN’s success in recent years. “We are trying to grow opportunities by providing a reliable service that gets a container delivered when it’s committed to get it there,” Graham says. In fact, rail is increasingly an important link between trucks and ports in retail supply chains, just-in-time manufacturing and parcel delivery.

To make that transition, reliability is a key selling point. A customer trusts that his containers will arrive at an intermodal terminal in time to be transferred from a rail car to a truck, or vice versa, to get to the next point in their journey on time. For that reason, the mobile cranes, also known as reach stackers, that handle containers at CN’s network of intermodal terminals have to be available when they’re needed. To minimize downtime and ensure that critical parts are available, CN has developed a program with one of its mobile crane providers (Hyster, and their distributor (Wajax, to manage critical parts, especially expensive parts with long lead times.

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About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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