If you look up ‘ingenuity’ in the dictionary, it’s defined as a “skill or cleverness that allows someone to solve problems”. The ingenuity of our team is a key part of BSD’s success, and a great example of that skill and cleverness in action can be found with Michelle (Shelly) Boatman, 3rd Shift Supervisor with our Passenger Revenue team. She’s part of a well-oiled machine that keeps Metro Transit’s fare collection system working smooth and efficiently.
“The Revenue Team likes to think of ourselves as a race car pit crew,” Shelly said. “The buses arrive back at the garage each night and we work hard to expediently repair and restore the fare collection equipment before the buses leave the garage again. It is a challenge every night but we welcome it and continue to improve upon the process.”
In 2019, Shelly was presented with a challenge – how to replace our farebox cash modules (the component that accepts cash and coins) in the most cost-effective way. The modules are complex electro-mechanical devices with numerous small and delicate components, and after six years of daily service, were starting to wear out.
“We bought a few cash module replacement heads and they cost $3,428 each,” said Linda Jones, Director of Passenger Revenue. “We both thought this situation was too expensive to sustain, as we knew the whole fleet of fareboxes would need new cash module heads over the next four to five years.”
So, Michelle got to work. She took apart of a few of the cash modules to see if they could be rebuilt instead of purchasing new ones to replace them. She discovered a cost-saving solution: find a way to buy new wheels for the cash module, which pulls the currency through the farebox. Shelly determined that the wheels were the crucial parts they needed. Unfortunately, they couldn’t be purchased from the vendor and were too unique to find in the general market.
Instead of giving up, Shelly kept working the solution.
“We decided to caliper measure the wheels and work to find a machine shop vendor to make the metal portion of the replacement wheels for us. We also worked to find a second vendor to recoat any existing wheels and to coat the new ones we had manufactured by the machine shop,” Shelly said.
Once the wheels had been fabricated or recoated, Michelle began the meticulous process of installing them into the farebox cash modules beginning last year. With this new process, each farebox cash module now costs $170 to repair instead of $3,428. Michelle has repaired over 106 farebox cash modules, or one fourth of the fleet, on her own.
Doing the math, Michelle’s ingenuity has saved Metro Transit more than $345,000 for the repair of the first 106 cash modules. And when she completes the whole fleet, she will have saved Metro more than $1.2 million!
Thank you Michelle for your skill, dedication and cleverness! Get to know a little more about her by checking out our Q&A below.
Has ingenuity always been something you utilize at work?
Ingenuity has become a cornerstone of keeping Metro competitive and meeting our future goals with purpose. Being creative allows us proactive success rather than reacting to problems after it is too late. Ingenuity gives us the edge to take Metro into a more prosperous future and it improves our abilities as professionals at the same time.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I enjoy my children, gardening, and walking. And I love to cook.
Favorite/funniest memory from work?
I enjoy the moments when someone I trained surpasses their training and becomes a full contributor with their own ideas to share with our team. We all keep improving every day and that is very gratifying.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the St. Louis area?
Any restaurant with St. Louis’s own toasted ravioli of course!