In almost all forms of media, reaching December results in reflections on the year that has passed. I am sure that a common thread for these recaps of 2021 will be the various challenges and experiences related to COVID-19. The railway team at Hanson is no different, except that our common thread is a focus on the benefits that came out of those challenges. The new technology we work with every day has improved our ability to collaborate with each other, our clients and other project stakeholders.
This first occurred to me on a status meeting with the client for a time-critical siding extension project. Using Microsoft Teams, our lead designer was able to share his desktop and review all aspects of the work. This didn’t involve reviewing printed pages, but we actually viewed the MicroStation files, looking at the track plan, profile and various cross sections. We discussed options for the structures on the tight right-of-way (sound familiar?) and how to best maintain the drainage paths seen during the previous field visit. The Hanson team was able to discuss each area of the project, present potential solutions for conflicts and collaborate with the railroad owner on the preferred answer. I remember feeling excited about this new approach and how much it would improve our ability to serve our clients. And our team had a sense of pride after recognizing the benefits of this tool and implementing it so seamlessly.
This same scenario is being repeated daily within our company as we improve our allocation of engineers, technicians and scientists and work to engage subject matter experts in various fields to help solve problems in real time. It has enhanced our ability to collaborate across the states we work in, thereby increasing the slope of the learning curve for many tasks. These tools are also used to attend virtual conferences — which I think is not the preference for many — but this approach has at least allowed our industry to share our stories and new lessons learned. And at the end of the day — or year — isn’t the love of learning and an interest in solving problems why most of us entered the field of engineering in the first place?
We hope you have a wonderful holiday season and wish you a safe and prosperous new year. Please check out our holiday e-greeting, created especially for you, below.
Mat Fletcher, P.E., S.E., is a senior vice president and the railway market principal at Hanson.