Below Rail Infrastructure, Rail Supply, Rolling stock & Rail Vehicle Design, Technology and IT

Digitisation in track maintenance

Rail Express speaks with track maintenance and construction machines OEM Plasser Australia about applying digital and condition monitoring principles to enhance its offering.


Plasser is already a market leader in the field for the supply of track construction and maintenance machines. Looking forward, a spokesperson tells Rail Express the company sees two of several new applications of condition monitoring principles as the next step for the Australian market.

Plasser is using condition monitoring to help operators better maintain their machines – through the PlasserDatamatic platform – and to help operators better manage their fixed infrastructure – through the PlasserSmartMaintenance solution.

Monitoring the machine

“For operators using Plasser machines, smart maintenance gives them a better opportunity to increase their return on investment, in the form of sweating the asset. This can now be performed with a level of comfort based on the data gleaned,” the Plasser Australia spokesperson says.

“By monitoring conditions and quality of components, we can actually get a better idea of when the machine may need to be serviced.”

PlasserDatamatic combines a number of systems to automate notifications based on the operator’s parameters and the known lifetimes of components on Plasser’s machines. When the time is approaching for a machine service or part to be maintained or replaced, the operator is notified ahead of time and can arrange the best time for work to take place.

Various aspects of the system can be enhanced with active condition monitoring. As an example: “You can monitor the condition of the oil. There are certain Australian Standards for engine oil and hydraulic oil condition, and if those standards are exceeded you’ll get an alert email, and you’ll know it’s time to schedule the machine for maintenance and address the issue.”

PlasserDatamatic incorporates an edge device on the machine, called the MachineDataConnector, which reports key information about the machine back to a central database, which is stored in the Cloud.

The operator can examine the information and coordinate actions through a web interface, called the MachineConditionObserver, and a mobile app, called the MachineMaintenanceGuide. The web interface can be customised, and the platform itself is designed to be scalable, providing key data for multiple machines to all members of staff involved in the operation and maintenance of those machines, whether they are in the office, the depot, or in the field.

“Over time, the platform increases the efficiency of the machine, increasing the return on investment, because the machine is spending more time out there working, and then being maintained when required and according to the real time data,” the spokesperson says.

Monitoring the track

Plasser is also applying digital methods to help operators respond to increasing pressures to reduce maintenance costs and time windows, with its PlasserSmartMaintenance solution, which aims to digitise track maintenance.

The solution uses modern sensors to study the rail corridor – primarily the track and overhead infrastructure – and create a digital twin of the asset.

Plasser’s concept to best use this digital technology is to seek opportunities for better cooperation between the fixed infrastructure and the maintenance machine, by incorporating data on infrastructure, geometry and operational parameters into the maintenance program.

“Nearly every network operator would benefit from this system,” according to the spokesperson. “The digital twin gives us the benefit of recording the fixed infrastructure and creating a virtual track. Through managing that data, we can put the required geometry movements into the track.”