Wednesday, November 29, 2017

SMRT culture: We will sue you!

Whose stupid idea was that? All the lawyers (add the law students as well) must be laughing their heads off and making SMRT leadership the butt of their jokes.

Well here is a cautionary tale for Thales eh? The margins they are making off SMRT better be good for all these troubles.

"depends on contract terms" Don't you check those terms first before shooting your mouth off? Yet another negative on their culture. Die first than learn the lessons and get to the root of the problem. According to Philip Yeo, Dr. Goh would have fired the entire top management and start afresh.

SQ classy act at Denpasar

Another classy act by Singapore Airlines other airlines would try to imitate. Too bad if you are booked with a budget airline.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Public wants COI for the Bishan tunnel flooding

Khaw Boon Wan and the entire PAP behind him said it was not necessary to convene a COI on this incident. The public overwhelmingly disagree to the tune of 69% I am part of that majority. Like them I don't think the government have been honest with the rot in our train system. In fact, I fear that they do not fully know or understand it themselves. This is something they should never have allowed the ball to drop because they ought to know that afterward it is impossible to pick the ball up.

See relevant story.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

SMRT: Bloomberg noticed Thor is angry

Received that from Bloomberg every morning in their Forward Guidance Asia briefing. Our rail woes was featured in this installment.

This is inexcusable. The Faraday cage protecting the commuters and drive inside the cabins should always work. Since when the lightning conductors in our buildings do not work?

Bloomberg had a cheeky slant in their story. They quoted the NEA and PM as follows:

The lightning isn’t all that shocking. Singapore’s National Environment Agency says: "Singapore has one of the highest occurrences of lightning activity in the world. Situated close to the Equator, the warm and humid tropical conditions are highly favorable for the development of thunderstorms." Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong once called Singapore "a lightning capital of the world."
Putting one and one together this is suggesting that nobody should be surprised lightning hit another train sometime and there could be casualties.

So much for getting to the root of the problem. Words are cheap, action wise that has shown be insufficient and even insincere. It has become even embarrassing to offer apologies. So they have chosen to deny or trivialize the problems instead. This is admitting that they cannot solve it. As the former PM was also quoted in the story:

"Bangkok bears its traffic cross, Singapore its frequent MRT breakdowns," former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, now emeritus senior minister, said in a recent Facebook post.
What if Thor gets angrier? He should take care to use his hammer on those responsible and not us. As it is, those responsible do not ride the trains and it looks like the system is ageing faster than it is being renewed. If so, this would not be the last time Bloomberg has a story like this, and there will be worse stories coming.

Update: 7:15 pm

It appears that Thor was mistaken. His eyesight must be bad. He had hit track side equipment instead.

If SMRT had a much better reputation, few would believed the Faraday cage failed. Like I said earlier, that's basic. Also nobody from the company came out to confidently assert the absurdity of such a possibility. Evidently even SMRT engineers confidence toward their systems have been severely dented. How can you blame them having been ambushed so many times.

Update: 7:20 pm

Yeah, everyone could have done better from the PM to you and all the way down eh? How many times do you have to say that? You blamed them but what you have done to enabled and motivated them to achieve? I think they could also said the same about you as well. Didn't they do much better everywhere else? They couldn't do better because I think the conditions they were given to work with were impossible. Now learning this fact the hard way, the system would be shut down completely on two days and more time would be given for engineering and maintenance work. No problem, you blame others, and we all blame you.

SMRT: Even Thor is angry

Now even Thor is angry with SMRT. Unfortunately he has failed to discriminate the innocent from the culpable. Has he? Perhaps we need an investigation eh?

This is yet another incident which is not supposed to have happened. The train was supposed to be earthed to the rails and the lightning safely conducted away. What happened? You better hope the truth on this one is not as inconvenient as the others. That is the only reason why they never got to the root of the problem. The only other possible reason is that they are stupid and incompetent.

We are now at the place where either they have something to hide which getting really hard to conceal or they are just plain hopeless idiots to be booted out.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The incredible PM Lee Hsien Loong

We have heard, "get to the root of the problem" ad nauseam. I think they are still rooting for the root and worse mistaken something else for the root. I think many of us have ran out of patience with them. The problem is we have no choice other than this worsening team to back.

The PM doesn't want to speak plainly and so insult our intelligence. In simple language, he is asking us to tough it out. That is not a problem but the terms and conditions for doing so is. Where is the accountability?

As always they created the problem and socialize the solutions. It is always heads they win, tails we lose. There must be ways to teach them a lesson before we have an alternative party to vote for. But I think voters in KBW, Shanmugam and LHL GRCs should send the strong signal by not voting for the PAP.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Medical insurance and high prices

A few years back I kept complaining here about how health insurance will in the end cause a spiral in healthcare charges. Today I found a very good clip which explains it very well for the US system. Well that isn't our system but almost all system have some US-like incentives to keep the system at the cutting edge of performance. Therefore the risk of it getting out of hand is always there but in reality, all health care costs are going up and it is only a matter of how quickly.

Wifey's O&G doctor at Gleneagles always ask if we were using insurance. That was years ago and also when I started researching. Over time I found this doctor to be increasingly money minded...

Monday, November 13, 2017

Pope Francis: Enemies within; Friends without

This article occupied a tab on my Chrome browser for countless days until I made it a point to read it yesterday. What a sorry state the Catholic Church is in. To us outsiders it looked like they finally had a leader who could lead them into the 21st century but inside the secret society, they wanted him dead  instead.

Priests praying for the death of their Pontiff. How low can you get?

But within the church, Francis has provoked a ferocious backlash from conservatives who fear that this spirit will divide the church, and could even shatter it. This summer, one prominent English priest said to me: “We can’t wait for him to die. It’s unprintable what we say in private. Whenever two priests meet, they talk about how awful Bergoglio is … he’s like Caligula: if he had a horse, he’d make him cardinal.” Of course, after 10 minutes of fluent complaint, he added: “You mustn’t print any of this, or I’ll be sacked.”
I think Protestantism have its own similar problems but because of its diversity it is much harder to make out.

The good work of the churches is not being done at the top but anonymously and unheralded at the the bottom. Even if its heads fell off those who belonged to the their Lord will just carry on as usual and trust God to regrow the leadership layer. This is the way Protestantism has always renewed itself and stayed relevant. The Roman Catholic Church being hierarchical have no such luck.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

SMRT: Better at politics than maintenance

The offer of amnesty was a clever move by SMRT management but you can't draw wool over the eyes of HR people after trying to do that with engineers. The management is just lucky that most people are not familiar with engineering or HR.

Amnesty is a shrewd move to reset all the mistakes and cowardice before. With it you can bury the possibility of pursuing an inquiry that you winked in approval as the working level running against time and resource constraint took risks with maintenance. The problem is those workers never imagined something like this would happen and when it did they would find it hard to trust you.

Who cares about what the other experts think, what mattered here is the HR perspective as clearly spelled out by David Leong (see above). A cultural issue is a HR issue and not engineering or audit issues.

Amnesty doesn't work for companies. It never has and never will. An example which it works was when President Jokowi declared a tax amnesty for Indonesia's rich. You can sack an employee but compared to citizenship, that is as good as impossible to remove.

Update: Nov 7, 8:05 am

Of course there were no lapses on LTA and MOT part. The structure was set up in such a way that SMRT will take the hit for any failure. If you were prepared to suffer the political hit of allowing lines to be shut down occasionally for maintenance, none of these would have happened. Planned downtime is better than forced downtime but you people were wishful, hoping that you can dodge the bullet. Unfortunately you never understood train systems well enough to know that with sufficient confidence. That is why newly built lines have problems which commuters cannot help but noticed even on open day and first day. 

Those who are shrewd would avoid working for SMRT or any train operator. It is a heads and tails you lose between you and the regulator. You also end up as the punching bag for commuters as well. 

Desmond Kuek full of misplaced confidence from the SAF never understood what he signed up for. 

Update: Nov 8 5:45 am

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Next Fed Chief: Yellen by another name

That disgrace in the Oval Office would try as much as possible to expunge Obama's imprint from the US government. Some things e.g., the ACA are simply too bobby trapped for him to do that. This is silly, to have Jerome Powell as the next Fed chair is practically Yellen by another name and sex. But to be fair, he is untested in crisis and has a resume inferior to Janet Yellen.

SMRT: Why did they falsify maintenance record?

Nobody asked the very simple question which I believe many engineers are asking among themselves. What is the motive of the engineering manager and crew to falsify the maintenance records?

My take is that the pitiful few hours every night they have to do their maintenance work, there was never enough time to do the needful. Risky trade-offs have to be made all the time and they must have thought something so boring and safe was indeed safe to ignore until events proved it was a huge mistake.

The solution to this problem is both simple and brutal. The price of a more reliable train system is simply to run it less and allow more time to keep it in good shape. This option would not be available like it is in London or New York where traffic can easily flow over to alternative lines. We will get there as we build more lines but that is many years away. Meanwhile the bosses at SMRT and LTA are simply taking advantage of the commuting public ignorance and shoved all the blame to the poor manager and team. Problem is the rest of the engineers and technicians manning other parts of the system aren't fooled. The cowardice of the top bosses have just created for themselves growing monster size problems to come. High time they come forward and confess their wrongs to us. They have lived lies for so long and that is why the problems remain and we are often caught by surprise.

Desmond Kuek is right there is a cultural problem at SMRT and he, his senior management, the board of directors and LTA are the cause of the problems. Unfortunately unlike in the past the working level is now shouldering all the blame.

Update: Nov 3, 6:15 am

To me this isn't just for the Bishan flooding incident but a mine sweeping move to pick out all the time bombs in the system. If it is a cultural problem, the risks are system wide. You don't need an amnesty to identify a local problem. It doesn't take a lot of time to match documentation with work done. In fact, you do not even have to wonder and figure out how to investigate this because it is so obvious! That is why the auditor interviewed for the story refused to be identified. Prof Lee Der Hong was right that amnesty was a bad idea but without being explicit given the situation the organization have driven itself into, a practical and unavoidable idea. On the other hand the staff aren't stupid either because together we stand, divided we fall. Maintenance shortfalls and shortcuts are probably pervasive.

Practically every blog post on the MRT I suggested the organization do not know or understand the system they are running. That is still true and will be for a long time.

Related: Concerns raised over SMRT’s corporate culture, system of checks

Update: Nov 3, 7:00 am

This is really putting the front to the back. I had the ST clipping first but didn't find the time to use it in a blog post until I shared the following with my siblings yesterday, which gave me the motivation to have the first post on this topic.

That clip has gone totally viral as a Whatsapp video. I had receive multiple copies. I posted to the family chat group yesterday...

Note: No engineering manager will falsify maintenance records without upstairs also winking the eye. But if something goes wrong guess who kena.