Rail industry news (Australia, New Zealand), Condition Monitoring, Passenger Rail, Industry Infrastructure, Products & Technology, Industry Safety, Operations and Maintenance, Technology and IT

Siemens helping proactive condition monitoring

siemens proactive

With rapid advances being made in digital technology, more operators are recognising that manual monitoring of track condition is unproductive and uneconomical. As digital technologies continue to advance at a rapid pace, industries are using more and more data-driven processes in their operations.

And for the rail sector, one of the most useful applications has been in condition monitoring of railway systems, where users can monitor the state of critical components, enabling them to schedule maintenance activities in advance if and as needed.

Yet around the world, the uptake of automated condition monitoring is surprisingly low.

Rail Express speaks to Siemens Mobility engineering specialists Dion Marriott and Andrew de San Miguel about the importance of condition monitoring, and the Siemens solutions that help rolling stock maintainers oversee the health of their systems.

De San Miguel, Head of Customer Service and acting Head of Engineering and Manufacturing Production for MRX at Siemens Mobility in Perth, said capital costs and mindsets were the principal reasons why condition monitoring has not been adopted quicker across the globe.

He said implementing a comprehensive condition monitoring system was perceived as expensive, requiring the acquisition and installation of specialised monitoring equipment, establishing data infrastructure, and training personnel.

“Some railway operators, especially those with limited budgets or financial constraints, may prioritise other areas of investment over condition monitoring as they are more easily able to create business cases based on what they know,” he said. “If you have a brand new depot, it’s easier to install the necessary equipment and see the benefits, but it might be seen as more of a challenge for older sites.

“Many railway networks have been in operation for decades and rely on older, legacy infrastructure. Retrofitting existing lines and depots with automated condition monitoring capabilities can be challenging and may require significant modifications to processes, equipment and infrastructure.”

De San Miguel said condition monitoring was relatively new technology in the railway industry, and some operators may simply be unaware of its potential benefits or may not fully understand how it can improve their maintenance practices.

“Rail maintainers may struggle to see the benefit and opportunities of having high quality repeatable measurement data available from anywhere with an internet connection and may be concerned about the change management that their organisation will have to go through. For example, they might have a fleet of technicians who are used to doing things a certain way for many years and may be difficult to migrate to a new way of doing things,” he said.

“A common observation on the resistance to change is the perception that they’ve been running operations a certain way for decades, and are not under financial pressure, so why change?”

Even in Australia, some of the older networks have not had condition monitoring applications factored in, De San Miguel said.

“But with the new technologies now available, there is no doubt that condition monitoring is the most efficient and ultimately economical way of helping to identify potential issues in advance, enable timely interventions, servicing and improve the overall performance of the railway network,” he said.

Marriott, Product Line Manager for electro- mechanical products at the Siemens Port Melbourne site, said railway systems were complex, involving numerous interconnected components.

“Condition monitoring helps identify potential safety hazards such as faulty signals, abnormal vibrations, overheating, or irregularities in train systems.,” he said.

“By promptly detecting these issues, operators can take corrective actions to prevent accidents, enhance passenger safety, and ensure the reliable operation of the railway network.

“It can identify emerging issues, plan maintenance interventions, and reduce unplanned downtime, improving the overall reliability and availability of the railway system, ensuring consistent service delivery and customer satisfaction.”

Condition monitoring in effect changes rail maintenance from a reactive process to a predictive one with safety and cost benefits.

“The result is less reliance on scheduled- based maintenance: with asset turnouts for instance, it cuts down on site visits, typically now every three months, for basic inspections and tests,” he said.

 

Railigent X makes intelligent use of rail asset data to create added value.

 

THE X FACTOR 

Siemens Mobility’s extensive range of condition monitoring solutions uses advanced data analytics and machine learning algorithms to gain valuable insights.

They can empower users to identify patterns, predict failures, optimise maintenance strategies, and make informed decisions about asset replacement, upgrades, or improvements.

All are based on Railigent X, an open IoT- and AI systems-based application suite developed by Siemens for rail assets, covering the entire digital value chain.

It makes intelligent use of rail asset data to create added value. Railigent X empowers rail operators, maintainers, and asset owners to understand their data, generate valuable information, and acquire deeper insights into asset performance.

Analysing rail asset data provided by these apps leads to improved operation, optimised maintenance, higher cost-efficiency, and ultimately 100 per cent availability of rolling stock and wayside assets.

SUITE SPOTS

  • Rail ailXplore APM

Marriott said Siemens was trialling RailXplore APM (Asset Performance Monitoring) for point machines in Australia and New Zealand, a digital performance twin for trackside signalling assets, specifically for lineside structure and point machines.

“With this, we can access live data of assets 24/7 and benefit from experience as a manufacturer and supplier, plus data analytics to maximise the efficiency, reliability, and availability of the system,” he said.

The product enables health checks on the status of the complete system, boosts the operations and maintenance decision- making, eases operator and maintenance communication, and allows remote monitoring of asset conditions.

Around the world, RailXplore APM has been used, trialled or requested for use in places such as Belgium, Spain, China, Italy and Singapore.

  • Vehicle Equipment Measurement Systems (VEMS)

VEMS provides a range of automated inspection equipment for rail vehicles to determine their serviceability and safety.

It is a suite of modular measurement solutions installed on or adjacent to the track to provide contactless roll-by checks of vehicle integrity, wheels, brakes, pantographs, collector shoes and visual inspection.

De San Miguel said VEMS solutions excelled in condition monitoring and provide detailed, objective, and repeatable inspections to support the management of maintenance activities.

“The systems are supported by a comprehensive Data Management System (DMS), including a measurement database and facilities for analysing, viewing, and exporting measured data – along with tools to connect this data to third-party maintenance solutions via a standard REST application programming interface (API).

“We have a system manufactured here in Perth that measures wheel profiles and parameters for brake pads, shoes or pantographs.

“We basically take images or 3D LIDAR scans and can detect any issues on the train. For example we can look for broken windows, graffiti, the height of a component or the position of a vale.

“We import images into the Siemens ecosystem via Railigent, which use the data to support complex decision-making. For customers who don’t use Railigent, we can import data directly via our REST API.

“The benefits are increased safety, because we replace personnel from actually being in contact with the vehicle for testing; plus if you can combine our data with the right engineering practices, you can significantly increase your asset life, whether that be wheels, brakes pads or collector shoes.

“And you can also potentially remove the requirement to have physical inspections within a within the stabling yard, so you may not have to bring vehicles in anywhere near as much, which also increases throughput.”

  • Broken Rail Detection (BRD)

The train-mounted broken rail detection system checks the condition of the rail network during operation, identifies any damage, and reports the rail status to the following train.

This increases throughput, because tracks can be quickly maintained and released for operation, instead of being blocked for days due to damage.

“A break in the rail can be identified with a very accurate GPS position, facilitating identification and repair,” Sam Miguel said.

“Each train is equipped with a pair of sensors on one of the bogies. We’re looking for broken rails in the track and we’re using a magnetic field to detect if there’s a discontinuity in the rail, and then we report that back to the customer for relevant remedial action.

“While the train is in motion, these sensors scan the tracks features to the millimetre and reliably detect track damage even in hard-to- reach and dark areas and where no physical separation has yet occurred.

“The system improves rail safety and operation by significantly exceeding the performance limitations of current detection technologies. It’s easy to install and operate on a variety of rail-based vehicles and is simple to integrate in existing signalling and maintenance solutions.”

  • Unattended Track Geometry Measurement (UGMS)

UGMS track recording systems are fitted to revenue trains, enabling track managers and engineers access to frequent track geometry data that accurately reveals the rate of track deterioration at any location, providing feedback on the quality of track maintenance and renewal work as well as warning of any sudden change in track quality which might be a cause for concern.

“They are mounted underneath the body and we can measure the track geometry as the vehicle traverses, which means you can get continuous feedback,” De San Miguel said.

The data helps to maintain the track within safe operating standards, minimising the risk of derailments and allows the track to be operated at commercially acceptable speeds.

Using UGMS avoids the need to use high- cost measurement cars which have previously been used to record this information.

 

VEMS solutions provide detailed, objective, and repeatable inspections to support the management of maintenance activities.

 

THE SIEMENS WAY 

Marriott said industry had to consider the tools available and the opportunities that digitalisation offered, to help maximise efficiencies.

“Large investment has come into the industry, offering a way to upgrade and innovate for the next phase of the future and that’s where the benefits of condition monitoring come in,” he said.

“This intelligent processing enables us to get the data and make use of it rather than just warehouse it, and the benefits of monitoring systems are becoming more recognised.”

De San Miguel said Australia was often criticised for its high costs and perceived lack of R&D and innovative spirit.

“But for Siemens in Australia and especially here in Perth, it’s definitely alive and well,” he said. “We’re an operator of a vehicle and we’re a  deliverer of full turnkey projects, and having access to that data at a global level about how vehicles are operating across the world gives us the competitive edge. It’s why we are able to deliver the best solution, and in Railigent we have the knowledge to combine with our local capability to perform.

“We are a rail industry manufacturer and understand what we’re monitoring. We’re end-to end: from design to monitoring and servicing, ensuring that maintenance windows are minimised and assets utilised to their maximum level.”