ERAM Serves as Model for Chicago Center
Thursday, August 02, 2012
The level of collaboration and ensuing success at Chicago Center (ZAU) in transitioning to En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) is so profound, say the ZAU leaders, that it transcends solely the safety and technology domain. It is spilling over into labor relations and even – in the case of one recent positive visit by U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill. – government affairs.
“ERAM has provided us a model to use in many other aspects of what we do at Chicago Center,” ZAU NATCA Facility Representative Toby Hauck said. “ERAM was truly the catalyst to a much more collaborative environment. We have used the same model from TMA to schedule and annual leave negotiations.”
As a result of collaboration, ZAU is looking at its first 72-hour test run later this month, a longer run after that and, eventually, continuous operations in early fall.
“Toby and I have capitalized on the ERAM transition to build lasting models for union-management collaboration and organizational integration,” ZAU Air Traffic Manager Bill Cound said. “What this facility has achieved thus far could not have been accomplished without mutual respect, open dialogue, common commitment to problem solving and shared goals – the very building blocks of collaboration.”
Adds Jay Baglieri, the facility’s NATCA ERAM Principal Representative, “Toby and Bill have created an atmosphere of total collaboration here, and we should be a model for future projects in the FAA.”
Due to this collaboration, ZAU is joining a lengthening list of centers currently enjoying a high level of ERAM success. Other facilities that have run limited live operations this year are Houston Center (ZHU), Los Angeles Center (ZLA) and Oakland Center (ZOA). Facilities on ERAM continuous operations are Albuquerque Center (ZAB), Denver Center (ZDV) and Minneapolis Center (ZMP). Facilities that have been running ERAM for over a year and have declared Operational Readiness Demonstration (ORD) – which is very significant – are Salt Lake Center (ZLC) and Seattle Center (ZSE).
The heart of the ZAU collaborative effort resides in the facility’s ERAM Core Team. Led by Baglieri and Dale McNeal, the Agency’s ZAU ERAM point of contact and a front line manager (FLM), the team oversees coordination with FAA Acquisition System Toolset (FAST), Technical Operations, Airspace and Procedures, Plans and Requirement, Quality Control and Training. The Core Team is also responsible for planning and developing ERAM training and scheduling all ERAM activities.
Hauck said they took a long look at the candidates to lead NATCA’s ERAM efforts at ZAU. Baglieri rose to the top of that list.
“It was our opinion that this representative needed to be strong in people skills and well voiced in the LR/HR world,” he said. “Who better qualified than the first NATCA president of Chicago Center? Jay’s ability to work across the lines of business has proven very valuable to the success of this program here.”
Baglieri said he agreed to Hauck’s request to represent ZAU on ERAM because he knew he would get support not only from NATCA and management but also, most importantly, from the ZAU workforce.
“This facility has always been able to make anything work,” Baglieri said. “The controllers have been engaged and are doing everything possible to get us to continuous operations in a safe and efficient way.”
In early 2011, ZAU established the ERAM ZAU Implementation (EZI) Team to integrate ERAM across all operational and staff functions. The union-management group’s dedication and hard work has paid off. ZAU is now close to reaching its goal of continuous ERAM operations. But, adds Cound, the lessons learned from the EZI Team will continue to pay dividends far beyond ERAM.
“They taught us how to manage large projects successfully in a collaborative, integrated environment,” Cound said. “They have proven the value of using this team model for managing large projects, including future NextGen activities. Toby and I have worked hard together to build leadership capability at Chicago Center, without distinction to whether those leaders represent union or management. Our efforts have included both joint training activities and hands-on experience working in a collaborative environment. Our ERAM teams played a big role in this effort by providing a platform for people to build leadership skills and demonstrate the importance of inclusion and teamwork.”
Hauck had high praise for McNeal, who is fairly new as the FLM at ZAU. “He has been able to bring a sense of organization the project desperately needed to move forward,” he said. Baglieri said McNeal may have come on to the project late, but he “has caught on quickly. The best attribute he brings is he is organized.”
The onset of the ZAU EZI Team provided a focal point from both labor and management on different aspects of the project. Hauck said they started meeting every week with all offices and lines of business. These meetings opened up communication and distinguished the benchmarks very early in the process.
He and Cound then took a piece of advice they learned from ZSE: “Don't get in the weeds with the system; let your folks do that.”
“We also took a lesson learned from ZSE to heart; we involved the terminals we service,” Hauck said. “This communication has been extremely beneficial not only in the ERAM arena but in many other aspects of what we do. We trusted our team and let them go.”
Baglieri said he used what he learned in his interaction with key sites ZLC and ZSE to build ZAU’s Site Implementation Plan (SIP). The EZI plan came next, which now currently provides the framework for weekly meetings. Motivating the entire team, Baglieri added, is the knowledge that failure is not an option where ERAM is concerned.
“We have worked above and beyond to make it work,” he said. “I think it’s evident in the results.”
Regardless of whatever hurdles are still to come, Hauck adds, “I am confident that the process and team we have established at Chicago Center can handle it.”
“The biggest challenges we face, both as a facility and across the FAA, require people to work effectively across organizational boundaries,” Cound said. “One valuable lesson we have learned through the ERAM experience is that collaboration between union and management can help break down the barriers that too often exist between different areas and offices within the same facility.”