2022 40 Under 40: Derick M. Lee

Aug. 23, 2022
Derick M. Lee, Maintenance Analyst Supervisor, Utah Transit Authority (UTA)

One word to describe yourself: Zealous  

Alma Mater: University of Utah David Eccles School of Business  

Fun fact about yourself: I love to spend time in the great outdoors with family and friends, camping, riding my Harley-Davidson Fat Bob 114, and jumping the Sky-Ski.   

Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent (and why): Salt Lake Central Station in Salt Lake City Utah.  It was the first station I exited a commuter rail vehicle embarking on my transit career journey. The first station I experienced getting onto an electric propulsion bus in revenue service.  It is the first station I see when I leave one of the offices. It is the station that reminds me of the value transit provides for the people, the impact that is taking place, and what an opportunity it is to work alongside dedicated people to make everything happen.   

Favorite route you have ever ridden or frequent (and why): Glacier National Park shuttle service along Going-to-the-Sun Road.  My wife’s parents and family grew up in Montana. 14 years ago, was my first-time visiting Montana where I not only got engaged to my spouse, but experienced the service provided by Glacier National Park and enjoyed the paradise that it is. 

In Derick M. Lee’s role of maintenance analyst supervisor for UTA, his primary responsibility is data analysis for 350 buses located at two of the five bus maintenance garages. He also supervises two coach cleaners at one of the garages. He is in a unique position to see areas where uniformity would improve processes between the shops. His personal goal is to ensure that what data is available adds value through analysis.  

He has primarily accomplished this by emphasizing to the mechanics the importance of properly annotating maintenance accomplished on the buses in each work order line item, as well as the time taken for every repair from each mechanic. Communicating the importance of this has increased overall paid versus labor time coding from 60 percent to more than 95 percent. To further bring uniformity throughout all the maintenance shops (bus, light rail and commuter-rail), he has visited all eight additional maintenance shops at UTA (13 total), offering to provide analysis of the fleets, as well as share best practices between all shops.  This collaboration has led to the breaking down of barriers between shops.   

Not only does Lee analyze maintenance data, but he also proposes answers to fix issues or enhance efficiencies of bus maintenance/repairs or on the shop floor.  Using historical data, he researched and determined predictive modeling to replace expensive voltage regulators, alternators, turbos and radiators on a time determined basis rather than waiting for a road call from these parts wearing out.  This initiative has led to increased miles between maintenance road calls. To further reduce road calls he has been pushing to retrofit most buses with telematics to improve analytics to diagnose potential trouble areas even better.  

To become an even better analyst, Lee is self-taught to understand maintenance work and develop data visualization for effective use in maintenance, particularly for the mechanics who use the data he provides. He tested the overall cost savings between the diesel bus modes (power, standard, economy) and determined power mode was most cost effective and most desirable to bus operators.  He facilitated 11 LEAN initiatives with the bus maintenance employees. These analysis saving initiatives led to a savings of more than $250,000 budgeted in 2021.   

Being a 24/7 operation, Lee often adjusts his schedule to meet with all shifts to discuss goals and Key Performance Indicators. Lee has quickly learned to ‘speak’ analyst, operator and mechanic, a gift not many analysts acquire. He understands the entirety of the operation, not just the numbers. He engages with personnel and has cleaned the buses with coach cleaners to better understand their responsibilities and issues they may have. He has also made it a point to take them to lunch, getting away from work and focusing solely on them.   

He’s a member of the UTA Continuous Improvement team.  A few of his contributions have led to better budget oversight and uniformity of charges to correct budget lines throughout the bus maintenance shops. Another improvement is oversight of ensuring the mechanics return used parts for warranty recovery.   

Lee is a team member of the American Bus Benchmarking Group, providing additional information to the group through his regional general manager that is not normally provided through the normal information request process. He is also pursuing two master’s degrees, Master of Science in Business Administration, and Master of Science in Business Analytics, expecting to graduate from both by the end of spring 2023. 

Is there a specific experience that led you to where you are today?    

I don’t just have one experience but a journey that I am continuously on. From a young age, all I wanted to be was an electrician. I took residential wiring classes in high school, I went to a couple national competitions, I had a year scholarship and worked doing it. Then it all changed when I decided to challenge myself and pursue a degree. I had no idea what degree I wanted, however, I continued to push myself to figure out what else I had a passion for. I have made many stumbles and changes along the way, but I know today more than ever that transit is a great place to be. I have found my passion for people, business and empowering both with the value of data in the joys of transit.    

What do you enjoy most about your job?    

Being able to collaborate with people that are passionate about what they do and helping them continuously improve their work, their business and themselves. Being able to utilize data to find opportunities and work with multiple stakeholders in continuously improving their work for impacts to every person that rides transit. Being able to work with the people, the business and the data is always an enjoyable challenge. I still also enjoy electrical work, but now I get to work with the future of the electric fleet.     

What’s the most challenging part of your job?    

The opportunity of working with all people in every level of the organization helping them understand the data available, what it is saying, and opportunities for the future in a way that relates and impacts each individual, their work, and how it aligns with the agencies mission and vision. It is an opportunity that I truly enjoy the challenge and continuing to improve and move it forward each day.  

Accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?    

Working with the multiple maintenance shops for different transit modes throughout Utah Transit Authority in helping align the agency on various data needs that help support the needs of the agency, the great people that are doing the work, and the service provided. Truly looking for ways to bring the data to the people, the business, and the stakeholders is what I continuously strive for. Knowing a lot of the work that goes on throughout the agency and being able to support, lead, and engage with others is where it is at. Leading with data.  

Best advice/tip/best practice to share from your area of expertise?    

You can manipulate, evaluate and study data without making an impact.  It is when you get to know the processes of the business, collaborate with the people doing the work and help support them, that the difference can be made.  When looking at the data, relate it to the person or group in a way that impowers them.  Never be afraid to offer up your insight, and always be willing to step away from the data and help them improve their work. Lead with humility and remember to always strive for the best.  It is not all about your successes, but about how many times you continue to pick yourself up, from when you fall.