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John MBULI, Maintenance Engineering Manager, ALSTOM

Merci beaucoup d'avoir accepté l'interview.

Could you tell us about your background?

After having completed my master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering at the university of Paris Saclay, I decided to pursue my interests in Railway Transport Industry. That was back in the fall of 2016. My interests in the railway industry were obvious even back then especially in the context of ecological transition due to its potential to provide a sustainable and low-carbon transportation alternative. That period was also the height of “servitization” in the railway industrial jargon, meaning, all the major manufacturers were transitioning into providing both products and services. To that effect, I was hired as a research and development engineer, by Bombardier Transport France and the Université Polytechnique Hauts-de-France. I was tasked with developing a dynamic decision support system for the maintenance planning of the fleet of cycber-physical systems with an application in the railway transport industry. This was also the subject of my doctoral thesis.

During this time, I also worked on other innovative and technical R&D subjects with Bombardier within maintenance and systems engineering such as Condition-based maintenance (CBM) and predictive maintenance in application to various train systems. All these works, apart from providing engineering solutions, contributed into scientific literature in form of several publications.

Upon the completion of my doctoral thesis in 2019, I joined services engineering team at Bombardier Transport France with which I already had a pleasure of working during my doctoral years, as a systems maintenance and commissioning engineer. I remained in that position during the acquisition of Bombardier Transport by ALSTOM in 2021 before evolving into my current position as Maintenance engineering manager focusing on logistics support analysis (LSA) and integrated logistics support (ILS).

Could you please describe your current job ?

My job as a systems maintenance and commissioning engineer consisted of analysis, specification, development, testing and commissioning of condition-based maintenance (CBM) algorithms to replace the periodic and systematic preventive maintenance tasks, but also Prognostic and health management (PHM) algorithms for predictive maintenance. This is done in all train systems from complex ones such as the brakes, propulsion and the AGTUs to simple ones such as the wipers and the coupling systems. I have also had a pleasure of working with various types of trains (both in France and abroad) such as the TGV, NAT, RER, etc.

As a maintenance engineering manager, the role I have taken up recently, I’m looking forward to working with maintenance task sheets as far as the integrated logistic support and logistic support analysis aspects are concerned in the whole life cycle of an asset. I’m also interested in testability and troubleshooting guides development.

What advice would you give to a student who wants to embark on a thesis?

The most important thing, which might sound like a cliché but it’s always true, is that, Pursuing a doctorate is a long-term commitment, so it’s always a good idea to take your time in choosing a program that aligns with your goals and interests. In other words, due diligence is important in choosing your research subject.

Moreover, developing multi-domain soft/hard skills is quite essential during your doctoral journey. It’s a fact that you will encounter problems that require you to draw upon skills from other fields different from yours. Having multi-domain skills will make you more effective in addressing these challenges. Not only will this enhance your problem-solving abilities in tackling complex problems during your doctorate but also it will broaden your career opportunities after it.

Furthermore, it is important to build and maintain professional relationships. Overall, building relationships during doctoral studies will provide a range of benefits, including networking opportunities, emotional support, learning opportunities, professional development, and community building. By investing time and energy in building relationships, you will enhance your experience and increase your chances of success both during and after your doctoral studies.

All in all, a doctoral thesis journey is quite an experience which brings its own set of opportunities. So do not hesitate! Just dive in!

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