Interview/ Schedule control

Schedule Control Work Determines a Project’s Success

Shinpei Matsunaga

Shinpei Matsunaga (joined the company in 2003)

Schedule control / Transportation systems

Project Department

Mechanical engineering graduate

Interview

In my first year, I managed Guideway Vehicle production in a plant, and learned about manufacturing from Craftsmen

Shinpei Matsunaga

I grew up with a drafting table in my house, because my father worked in mechanical design. Having this contact from an early age, it was natural that I majored in mechanical engineering at university and wanted to work as an engineer in the future.
When I started my post-university job search, I focused on the railway industry. I learned, however, that the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Group (MHIG) has a hand in a broad range of industries, including the transportation industry. That ultimately was the deciding factor for me to join MHIG.
I was first assigned to a manufacturing department at a guideway vehicle production plant in Mihara, Hiroshima Prefecture. My job was to manage the production of guideway vehicles in terms of cost, schedules, and other factors. Because I worked right in the plant, I could see every process on the work floor, from plate materials to the finished vehicles. I became quite knowledgeable about manufacturing, being in an environment where I could talk directly with experts about welding and other schedules.
I was transferred in my second year to a section responsible for schedule control for entire transportation system projects. The section’s work involves the complete transportation system, so all processes are under its purview. We must ensure that all system components are connected together and operating properly before testing that the vehicles run as planned. These system components include not just building the vehicles, but also laying rails, running electric power, installing signaling systems, and setting up communication equipment. The design, procurement, construction, testing and commissioning, and handover take a very long time. So the sense of accomplishment is huge when you finally see a system open and people actually riding the trains. The Dubai Metro, which was completed a few years back, opened with a grand fireworks display. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be there because of other work commitments.

Schedule control plays a key role in ensuring QCD

Only a small number of us are in charge of schedule control for transportation systems. As a result, I’ve been to nearly every work site of every transportation project over the last 14 years. When a project is first launched, I stay at the site until we have reached an agreement with the client about the contract details and schedule. As soon as one agreement is done, I’m off to the next site, constantly circling the world.

In my second year with MHIG, despite knowing very little about MHIG’s engineering technology or much English, I was suddenly jetted to an overseas site where I had to deal with a client. I remember how nervous I was explaining the project’s schedule and being unable to answer each time the client asked me a question. It wasn’t until after I’d completed an automatic people mover (APM) project at the Dubai Airport that I believed I could actually handle the job of schedule control on my own.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engineering (MHIENG) is currently undertaking the Doha Metro project, a rapid transit system with four lines with a total length of about 82 kilometers and 37 stations. Constructing this subway to connect stadiums for the 2022 soccer World Cup was one of Qatar’s public commitments in its World Cup bid.

I went to Qatar to negotiate the construction schedule when the project was launched. It was a real struggle and we couldn’t reach an agreement.

One reason why schedule control is such hard work is that tunnel construction and station construction are usually done by local construction companies or local workers and not by our company. In a transportation system project, each process is dependent on the previous process — once the tunnels are bored, the rails can be laid, and once the rails are laid, the system equipment can be installed and then trial runs can begin. This means that, for example, if the local engineering contractor in charge of tunneling gets behind schedule, all other processes are delayed too, which has a huge impact on the final completion date. Delays in completion are subject to massive penalties, so to get back on schedule we sometimes have to hire new personnel. Negotiating with the company that caused the delay to pay for such additional expenses is an important part of the schedule manager’s job. To avoid these situations, it is imperative to check whether or not the engineering contractors are staying on schedule.

Schedule control plays a key role in ensuring quality, cost, and delivery (QCD). The contract value of large-scale transportation systems or plants is enormous, so construction delays are subject to huge penalties.

Failures in schedule control may cause the project to fail, and a failed project may have dire consequences on the company’s business. Because my mistake can have a direct impact on the company’s sales and profits, I believe schedule control work is one of great responsibility and importance.

I want to put my energy into nurturing younger employees

I want to put my energy into nurturing younger employees

With the establishment of MHIENG in 2018, a single organization now runs schedule control for transportation systems and chemical plants. I hope to apply the schedule control know-how from chemical plant projects to transportation systems projects.
My work going forward is to train younger workers properly. A key part of bringing along the next generation is ensuring they can stand on their own two feet. You can’t be called a schedule control manager unless you thoroughly understand the work and technology and can explain it to clients. Of even more importance and difficulty is concluding agreements with clients on contracts and schedules. Once you can do these things, you can be called a proper schedule control manager. My goal now is to mentor as many younger employees as possible until they can function on their own.