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Rail News Home Canadian National Railway - CN

July 2016

Rail News: Canadian National Railway - CN

Rising Star: Christopher Howard, CN

Christopher Howard, 37

Senior Manager AAR Processes

By Julie Sneider, Senior Associate Editor

Christopher Howard doesn't believe in failure. When things don't work out, he views those situations as opportunities for improvement.

That philosophy applies to his personal life as much as it does to his role as senior manager of AAR (Association of American Railroads) processes at CN.

Howard's decision in 2009 to join CN in the first place stemmed from a bad situation: the Great Recession, when he worked at the Nissan auto plant in Mississippi in 2008. As a newer hire, Howard knew he was likely to be laid off.

"The automotive market was slowing down, and I decided to be proactive by looking for other jobs in North America," he says. "I came across the railroad's training program, and it intrigued me because they were willing to train you. It seemed like a great opportunity."

Howard applied for a job as a CN trainee on a Monday, and by Friday he was hired in CN's transportation department. But before Howard could complete the year-long training program, a CN senior manager recruited him to work in the mechanical department serving the railroad's southern region. Howard's duties included coming up with better ways to accomplish freight-car repairs in the rail yards, improving customer satisfaction and streamlining the freight-car inspection process.

From there, Howard quickly moved up the ranks. In 2013, he became a member of CN's headquarters asset freight group, where he put in place processes to load rail cars properly, reduce heavily defective freight cars, and improve and manage fleet. Now based in Chicago, he and his team audit billing processes, damaged freight-car reporting, system technical enhancements and FRA reporting of accidents to speed up repairs. His team also provides safety and compliance audits within CN, aid in improving terminal management techniques and drive productivity improvements in the United States and Canada.

Howard's educational background includes degrees in mechanical drafting, business and industrial technology. A student of lean manufacturing methods, he has earned certifications in Six Sigma business improvement practices.

As a member of multiple AAR committees, Howard assists in spearheading rule changes that benefit the rail industry by making railways more efficient, according to CN's written nomination of Howard as a Rising Star.

At CN, Howard has implemented policies and procedures that streamlined line-point repairs, integrated business systems, enhanced technology innovations and improved rail-yard inspections, CN officials wrote. He also assisted in developing AAR's and CN's Rail Safety Audit.

In his relatively short rail career, Howard believes his greatest contribution to the industry has been his ability to evaluate procedures, then find new ways to make them safer and more efficient by applying technology and predictive analytics to remove the potential for human error.

"I like to challenge the status quo," he says. "When you work with some of the greatest minds in the rail industry, you use their expertise to drive positive outcomes and improve upon what our forefathers did." Howard describes himself as a self-starter and someone who never stops learning, especially when the lessons come from his wife, Jenetria; 4-year-old son, Christopher Jr.; and 11-year-old daughter, Natalie.

From his family, he's learned creativity, patience and love, he says.

Rising Stars 2016 Award Winners:

Bernando Ayala
Jeff Bernstein
Andrea Berry–Morris
Kristina Brevard
Matt Campbell
Allison Fayfich
Jon Gabriel
Greg Godfrey
Christopher Howard
Amanda Jones
Michael Keller
Gretchen Kostura
Jeremy Kramer
Leslia LeMaster Wilson
Mike Logan
Kylie McLaughlin
Kate O'Connor
Rapik Saat
Darin Selby
Jerry Vaughn



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