Understanding the repair shop processes and challenges

Project Summary

This research’s goal was to understand the processes in the locomotive maintenance shops across CN’s network and identify avenues for improvement and streamlining.

During this research we also dove into the existing work-arounds to adapt the current paper-based processes to each location and the reasons behind these work-arounds.


Initially the scope and scale of this project were massives. So the first challenge was to understand in details the process in place.
The team assembled to look into these questions was just 4 people (my manager and I as well as 2 consultant user researchers) and we needed to get a deep understanding of what makes or break a locomotive repair shop as well as what does a locomotive mechanic actually do and need to perform their job.


To answer all these questions and learn as much as we could on the workings of a locomotive repair shop we conducted a 2 month-long contextual inquiry that brought us to 5 different locations accross CN’s network.
This study was a mix of interviews, shadowing and workshops with participants from all levels of the process, from unionized-repairmen to process managers and supervisors.
We designed this “multi-tools” approach to get as clear of a picture as we could of the current expected process and how it’s implementation varies accross the shops.


At the end of this long inquiry we had gathered enough knowledge and understanding of the repair shop processes to be confident in illustrating the current issues and possible solutions. Thanks to the “multi-tools” approach we were able to identify personas that would be impacted by the application’s deployment and that were not identified otherwise. We finished by producing and presenting a lenghty research report that illustrated the current process as well as being used a playbook to start building the Repair Shop App.