Exclusive Interview with Mr. Pascal Schweitzer, President, Freight Services, Wabtec Corporation

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Interview Insights:

Rail Analysis: We know your organization is a prominent supplier of rolling stock solutions. Can you give us an overview of your Service operations in the railway sector across the world?

Mr. Pascal Schweitzer: Wabtec is a global leader in technology solutions for the rail industry, covering both freight and transit segments. We support railroads with a broad offering, including freight and transit locomotives, critical components and solutions for their rolling stock, network operations, infrastructure maintenance and digital needs. We have around 8 billion dollars (USD) in revenue and 25,000 employees all around the world. Freight Services is one of our tier 1 businesses, that I have been responsible for over the past 5 years.

The main mission of this business is to work alongside our customers to optimise their locomotives over their entire life cycle. Presently, we have roughly 23,000 Wabtec locomotives in operation across the world. These are all high horsepower mainline locomotives, and they are operational across all the important regions in the world: North America, India of course, Australia, South Africa, Kazakhstan, and the CIS countries. We partner with our customers and take care of the maintenance and warranty of the locomotives, making sure that the parts are available and on time, bringing necessary technical expertise, and developing upgrades to maintain and improve the performance of these locomotives over their lifetime.

 


 

Rail Analysis: Could you please tell us about your Indian operations – how is it unique and what are the present services you are providing in the railway or metro sector in India?

Mr. Pascal Schweitzer: India is a very important country for us. We have around 3000 employees and almost all of Wabtec’s product lines are now present here in India. We also have around a third of our Global engineering base housed in India.

We are engaged in the public private partnership project with Indian Railways, which is the first of its kind in India. As part of this arrangement, we supply 1’000 new world- class locomotives, and provide the required maintenance to guarantee a fleet availability of 95%, leveraging our suite of innovative solutions.

We have built a brand new factory in Marhowra, as well as 2 dedicated maintenance sheds, one in Rosa and one in Gandhidham. In Roza, we are maintaining 250 of these locomotives with around 250 employees, all hired from the local community. In our dedicated center, we have trained around 6,000 locomotive drivers from Indian Railways.

In Gandhidham, we have just celebrated our first anniversary and the model is slightly different in that our team of technical experts support the Indian Railways staff. At Wabtec, it’s important for us to strive to be flexible and adapt to the needs of our customers.

Mr. Pascal with Ms. Sujatha Narayan and Freight India Leaders at Gandhidham

 


 

Rail Analysis: As we all know, the pandemic has affected global operations especially when it comes to services. How has Wabtec improvised and managed the problem in India?

Mr. Pascal Schweitzer: This pandemic has been a challenge for everyone, all around the world. We have worked hard to find the right balance between ensuring safety of our employees, and continuing to support our customers. Throughout the pandemic, we did not stop delivering locomotives, nor did we stop our maintenance activities. Our team has been absolutely remarkable.

One thing that the pandemic has proven in India and all around the world is how important the rail industry is and how important a lifeline it is for communities.

We have people who have remained on site for extended periods of time to make sure that we maintained the availability of our locomotives while being compliant with lockdowns in place. One of the key reasons for my trip to
India has been to visit our sheds in Roza and Gandhidham and our other locations here to show our appreciation of how our teams have responded and managed the crisis in the hours of need.

We have also benefited from the great support and the great partnership from Indian Railways in working together with safety as our number one priority.

 


 

Rail Analysis: Can you share with us some insights into the modern training methods you are adopting in your shed at Roza for the loco pilots?

Mr. Pascal Schweitzer: We have leveraged the entire knowledge from the company in terms of maintenance methodology.

Our world class training center at our shed in Roza, trains our own personnel and the locomotive pilots in the advanced simulators. All the people that are currently working at Roza have been hired locally with very limited knowledge and now with the training, they have turned into experts in their respective domains. Indian Railway pilots have been trained utilizing advanced simulator methodology to go through the special program that we have created for them. We have built on site a dedicated hostel for their comfort. Our relationships with the locomotive drivers is very important for us.

Making all the checks in incoming Shed at Roza

 


 

Rail Analysis: Please also highlight some interesting achievements at your shed at Gandhidham in Gujarat and the interesting collaboration between your organization and the Indian Railways?

Mr. Pascal Schweitzer: We try to be as flexible as possible in all our projects, and all around the world, we have different types of arrangements. In Roza, the model is that we are responsible for everything and the team there is 100% Wabtec’ personnel. But at Gandhidham, it is a different arrangement which is closer to our global expertise and our mainstream business. With the Indian Railways, this is the first of its kind in our collaboration with them, wherein the team there is the personnel from the Indian Railways including locomotive experts, technical advisors and we manage the training and development of these personnel.

 


 

Rail Analysis: What are some of the other technologies you would like to introduce in the Indian market?

Mr. Pascal Schweitzer: We are working on a number of opportunities. One example is around new solutions and technologies for track maintenance. We feel there are good opportunities toautomize a lot of the track activities in railway projects. Recently we acquired Nordco, a company which specializes in this domain. So, this is a very interesting area for us to explore with Indian Railways.

 


 

Rail Analysis: You look after the Services’ portfolio for Wabtec, what exactly are your focus areas of visiting India this time and what kind of Service portfolio are you looking to develop in India?

Mr. Pascal Schweitzer: I am happy to be here after a long time and meeting everyone. India is an important country for Wabtec Service, as well as across all functions from engineering to supply chain to commercial.

Across our entire organization in India and globally, we have many Indian colleagues that are absolutely key to our company and our success, and we are here for the long term. So, for me, visiting India and our important customers and teams and staying in touch is really important.

We have developed this specific strategy around creating as much value as possible over the entire life of the locomotives; making sure that the asset is reliable and available and making sure that overtime we are able to improve fuel efficiency to deliver the desired outcomes. Our focus is to achieve goals together with Indian Railways!

 


 

Rail Analysis: What is the feedback you have received from customers on services and maintenance schedules?

Mr. Pascal Schweitzer: The feedback has been encouraging. Drivers really like working with our locomotives because the comfort and safety that we bring in suspension, noise level, air conditioning and other modern technologies are really optimizing their experience. We are very pleased and proud with this feedback!

IR Staff working on Locomotives in Gandhidham


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