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MTR combats staff retirements with knowledge management

Jack Loo | Aug. 15, 2011
Hong Kong’s MTR IT head Daniel Lai shares with his recent and ongoing projects.

SINGAPORE, 15 AUGUST 2011 - Hong Kong’s world-class rail operator MTR has built a knowledge management initiative to help address upcoming waves of staff retirements, according to its head of information technology, Daniel Lai.

Estimates from MTR indicate that some 100 employees will retire in 2012. The number will rise to 350 the following year, and from 2014 to 2017, there will be 500 workers leaving the organisation every year. “We need to have a system in place to retain the knowledge from these experienced staff,” said Lai.

Implemented in 2008 and completed this year, the knowledge management initiative, called Learning Organisation, comprises of several programmes with the objective to collect and capture knowledge. One such project is the M-Tube, a YouTube-inspired site that allows employees to upload video clips of best practices and experiences at work, such as the most effective ways to release parking brakes in trains. 

Another initiative is a portal called MTR Creator, which is used to collect ideas and documentation. The site has some 13 special interest groups and has 6,000 members, about half of the organisation’s workforce.

Among its ongoing IT projects, MTR is employing artificial intelligence (AI) to help power its engineering scheduling system. MTR’s lines and trains operate 19 hours a day, leaving only a time period of less than five hours for maintenance and other work. The AI scheduling engine can help to fully utilise the limited time and ensure that there is no conflict in work efforts. 

One programme involves working with Google to put the MTR stations onto 3D virtual maps for passengers to have a better view of the facilities. The IT division is also looking to convert 2D construction drawings into 3D format to improve the overall project management process.

Meanwhile, Lai is looking to make available MTR’s unified communications platform, whose functions include video conferencing and instant messaging, on mobile devices like tablets. The project aims to help command centres coordinate with engineers on their rectification works more efficiently.



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