Asset management must be a consideration for the rail sector

asset management

During holiday season asset management is very important to the rail industry. Here, Marcel Van Velthoven, CEO of ZNAPZ explains why

When I am writing this, the sun is shining and the temperature in the office is actually too warm to do any work. Clouds are drifting and many people passing by are definitely dressed to enjoy the summer.

Without their knowledge, asset management played a key role

Many people take the train to go on holiday, to take them to their final destination or to the airport. Going on holiday is for many people a stressful event and having a reliable form or transport is very important. Without our knowledge, the railway industry has fully prepared for the holiday season. Since the rail industry has many stakeholders, not only the availability of the trains was planned, but also the work schedule for the activities to be done during this period has been changed to fit with busy time.

Expectations vs reality

The first question we ask with regards to this is, what do we expect from our assets? The railway company should align the assets with their strategic business plan. Which has an immediate effect on the schedule of the trains. Also, all activities, the transport of the passengers and the maintenance of the tracks and all other activities should be done in a healthy and safe environment. Defining those deliverables, e.g. 90% of the passengers should have a seat on journeys of more than 20 minutes – must be done thoroughly and well measured if the objectives are met.

During the holiday season, we have different passengers who have different journeys. Also, the availability of the rail staff is different than outside of that period since the train drivers and other personnel also take holiday breaks. Not only the train personnel but also the maintenance personnel of the trains and the tracks take holiday during this period. How can we manage this?

Maintenance on the tracks is required and is an on-going process 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. A maintenance is not taking a holiday. On the contrary, if additional trains are scheduled to be driven on the track this may have an additional load effect on the maintenance. However, there is help available in the form of big data.

In today’s environment, we are more and more able to predict the required maintenance of our assets. Not based on the preventive maintenance schedule logged in the calendar, but based on the actual status of the assets, condition based, and this is based on realistic models that indicate when maintenance really needs to happen. Is this of importance during normal operations? Even more so during the holiday season where we have a changed demand and capacity to deal with, as well as even more of a demand on reliable services.

So without the knowledge of the public, asset management has supported the rail industry in enabling its staff to take well-deserved holidays. At the same time, the schedule was maintained. Prior to the holiday season, additional work was done to have the railways and the trains prepared for this period.

This is all achieved using big data. Combining different data sources to have an accurate prediction of the use of our assets and the demand of our assets for service or maintenance. One of the key questions is how do we make this predictable?

Big data

There are two trends that enable big data to play a far bigger role in our lives than ever before. First, we have our social networks. People like to share many activities they plan and perform. This often unstructured data is now being analysed, not only by the likes of Google but also by IBM’s Watson. Based on these analysis trends, in time are becoming predictable with a high accuracy. The second development is the Internet of Things (IoT). Many assets, pieces of equipment and other devices are equipped with a variety of sensors. The information of one sensor doesn’t tell us a lot, but the information of various sensors combined is giving quite an accurate picture of what is going to happen. Adding to this the cognitive computing technologies that Watson offers gives a realistic prediction. Now we have our steer in our hands and we can choose which direction to go.

A more challenging question is how will this affect our behaviour? The rail industry can fine tune their capacity on the need of the passengers and they will be able to adjust their maintenance schedules to align with the required capacity. Information about the capacity and any changes in schedules will be able to be shared with the passengers quickly. Slowly but surely we can expect trains to drive on demand with Swiss accuracy. Taking away part of the stress a holiday can bring.


Marcel Van Velthoven



Tel: +31402668636

Please note: this is a commercial profile

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    Leading In Asset Management Systems. ZNAPZ is one of the European leaders in asset management systems. We have more than 20 years of experience in asset management information systems. We help companies to set best practices and support them with state of the art Asset Management Information Systems. To optimize their asset management and maintenance […]

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