Smart maintenance - technology and experience
Sander Brinkhuis (36) is Sales Manager at Strukton Rail. He knows everything about the importance of data acquisition and analysis.
Rail travel is a sustainable and reliable means of transport. It is expected that rail travel will increase in the coming years, partly due to further urbanisation.
The rail network in the Netherlands is extremely special; it is a high-capacity network used by over a million people each day to get from A to B. The rail network is also used for freight transport. A significant modernisation programme is being implemented on and around the railway to enable this to run sustainably, smoothly and efficiently, including maintenance to the rails, switches, energy supply, communication systems, etc.
Less time for maintenance
This modernisation is necessary, as more and more trains are running and the time available for maintenance is therefore becoming increasingly limited. That is why Strukton Rail has implemented smart maintenance, so that we can optimise the maintenance time that is available. Advanced technology helps us in this and is a key factor in the Control Centre. Daily maintenance support is coordinated from the Control Centre, enabled through analysis of the combination of all kinds of data and feedback from our engineers. We use this to improve the analysis software and algorithms: this is smart maintenance.
In many places maintenance companies work in accordance with maintenance contracts that state exactly how often and when various works must be carried out. Strukton also operated in this way, until recently. In practice this meant that work was often inefficient and the incorrect maintenance was carried out; which is annoying for travellers as trains are out of service unnecessarily. It is also annoying for rail managers, as costs become higher than necessary, for example because the cause of the problem is not resolved long-term.
Strukton Rail chooses smart maintenance to make optimum use of the maintenance time we have available
Are things very different now? We have been using our Condition Monitoring System POSS for many years to collect huge quantities of data regarding switch degeneration behaviour. Software and algorithms analyse all these data. If the behaviour of a switch differs from the norm - higher power consumption for example - then our algorithms recognise this and produce an automatic analysis report. We then send an engineer who knows where to search for the fault. POSS enables us to know what kind of fault has caused a similar error message in the past. Information that the engineer collects on site is added as data to our systems, enabling us to build a huge knowledge library comprising a unique combination of technology and experience. This also results in our analysis software becoming increasingly intelligent.
Eurailscout rail inspection systems measure the rail network status in various European countries. These data also arrive at the Control Centre. If the wear and tear on the track is too close to the limit value agreed with the client, it is time to take action. Here too, we combine the knowledge of the ‘eyes and ears in the field’ after maintenance has been completed with data collected via sensors and other measurement instruments. This enables us to see whether the maintenance is effective and whether the measurement results are now within the norm. We do all of this to ensure that we take the right action at the right time.
The holy grail is 100 per cent availability. Our unique combination of technology and the experience of our field engineers means that we come very close to this
Interested national and international parties regularly come to visit our Control Centre. They take a look behind the scenes and see with their own eyes how we achieve added value with our service. The response I often receive is that people really enjoy seeing our technology in real life. They observe operations and the daily routine and see the role technology plays in this.
We can serve clients in all kinds of ways. For example, by advising them on how to obtain the best from their infrastructure in a safe and efficient way. Or by implementing technologies that they can maintain themselves, based on condition values.
100 per cent availability
In the areas that Strukton Rail is responsible for maintenance, the availability of the Dutch railway network is high. Our smart maintenance enables us to achieve an over 99 per cent availability of the contracted railway infrastructure. When I inform international parties of this percentage, combined with the extremely limited amount of time we have for maintenance, they are extremely impressed.
But the holy grail is of course 100 per cent availability. Our unique combination of technology and the experience of our field engineers means that we come very close to this. These two sources of information enable us to make a sustainable means of transport even more attractive, with improved connections, improved availability and improved reliability.