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CN Grain Teamwork


CN teams pull together to move Western Canada’s grain

CN teams are moving this year’s bumper crop of grain from western Canada’s grain elevators to ports both west and east with speed and efficiency thanks to fine-tuned planning and dedicated teamwork.

CN moved record amounts of grain in April, with 2.7M tons shipped.

Tight-knit Teamwork

Julie Ebbesen, Senior Manager – Grain Operations in Edmonton and Senior Manager – Bulk Operations Alyssa Cromwell in Vancouver and their teams are at the core of CN’s grain transportation program.

Julie’s team builds a weekly plan based on customer needs and shares it to the company’s grain website. Alyssa’s team coordinates delivery of the loaded cars to the ports in Vancouver, Prince Rupert, Thunder Bay and Quebec.

“Once the cars are spotted, we plan how they will be moved and set priorities based on available slots in the ports,” she explains.

Operations Groups Work Together

For Operations people across Western Canada, such as Assistant Superintendent Gerry Huard in Edmonton, teamwork like this provides a ‘big picture’ of CN’s grain, helping to ensure grain cars are turning over more quickly than ever.

“At the Edmonton terminal, we move anywhere from 400 to 1,200 grain cars a day,” he says. “The daily updates make it easier for us to plan how we will get the grain empties that come in from our terminal to their destinations on time.”

Trainmasters Dwayne Miscavish in Humboldt, Saskatchewan and Ken Wilson in North Battleford, SK, who diligently ensure the fluid movement of grain trains to and from Saskatchewan’s grain elevators, also appreciate the daily calls.

“It means we are able to address any potential ‘hiccups’ before they happen and develop the best plan to deliver on the orders,” says Ken.

Support From All Sides

For Dwayne, the keys to success are a focus on safety, forward planning and execution of the plan which requires constant communication with grain elevator operators, Motive Power, Mechanical, Transportation crews and Ports.

The Western Operations Centre also plays a key role, ensuring that the spots are protected and that certain trains are given priority when necessary.

“The Transportation crews are the backbone of the program,” emphasizes Dwayne. One of those crew members is Locomotive Engineer Chris Silzer in Humboldt who spots empty grain cars at nine customer locations in northern Saskatchewan. “For some customers we spot 50 to 100 cars every couple of days; for others it can be once a week,” he explains.

Customer Focus

At the most eastern end, Superintendent Tim Pulak in Winnipeg, helps ensure that empty cars from the port of Thunder Bay are distributed to grain elevators as needed.

Like his colleagues, he is firmly focused on customer satisfaction. He understands the grain business as his family still has a farm in the Gilbert Plains, MB area.

“When our plan is communicated to the grain companies, we make sure we are there when we say we are going to be there for both the grain companies and the grain producers,” he says. “The success of our grain program starts with the customer and ends with the customer.”