End Of Day Checklist

Everybody loves the end of the day. There aren’t many feelings better than punching out after a hard day’s work. Our Patriot Rail and Ports teams are no exception. Railroading and stevedoring are rigorous and dangerous. The two most important things we do on any given day are moving our customers’ freight efficiently and damage-free and getting everyone home safely.

At the Sacramento Valley Railroad (SAV), 90-degree weather two-thirds of the year can make the days seem particularly long. But this crew, like our other Patriot teams, doesn’t leave when the labor is done. There is too much value in immediately discussing today’s performance and preparing for tomorrow.

The Benefits Of The Checklist

The end of day checklist, a ritual that began organically, has evolved into a best practice. Our operations managers devote time to their teams to make sure, first and foremost, that all of our objectives were accomplished for the day. After that, the discussion turns to how the work got completed to ensure everyone understands why tasks were done the way they were from a safety and efficiency perspective. Next, we speak to how every individual’s contribution positively impacted the team and the customer. Finally, we talk about tomorrow and make a plan, so surprises are mitigated when we return to work in the morning.

Utilizing an end of day checklist to immediately debrief and prepare has multiple benefits, the most obvious being that it ensures everyone is on the same page. Each member of the team understands the value they bring and how their actions affect overall productivity. It is also beneficial to reflect and report on adherence to safe practices and reiterate protocols that must always be followed. Additionally, it sets an expectation for what lies ahead and what will be required to continue to reach our goals.

This is of particular importance when labor roles can and do change daily. Preparation reduces distraction, and focus is a prerequisite for safe operations.

“It’s so important that the guys know what to expect the next day,” says SAV Operations Manager Joe Gallegos. “If someone is going to be performing a job duty tomorrow, that’s not the same as what they did today, and I want to communicate that.”

“I don’t like surprises, and my guys don’t either,” Joe continues, “so I make sure they know and understand what’s going on.”

This is true of scheduling as well. The SAV works with two Class I railroads, the Union Pacific (UP) and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF). Various circumstances can cause these trains to arrive at unusual times. Ensuring these exceptions are accounted for enables the team to prepare effectively and prevent delays in customer cargo movement. Joe receives the timetable one day early and can communicate any necessary accommodations, like having additional crewmen be available early or late, during the end of day checklist debriefing.

Everything Is Accounted For

At Patriot, we take pride in our attention to detail. After a long day in the railyard, it would be easy just to clock out and go home without thinking about what was accomplished or what tomorrow may bring. Instead, our teams take the time to reflect on the day. They celebrate the things that went right. They discuss how to prevent things that maybe didn’t go exactly as they expected. They prepare for tomorrow, and they put it all in the context of how it affects our customers’ experience. It’s always worth a little extra time because punching out feels good, but exceeding customer expectations feels even better.

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