Marcel van Velthoven, CEO of AMOSA, argues that the rail industry has many challenges and in response to this, he explains how asset management and an increase in the maturity of the organisation can assist
The rail industry has many challenges: An increasing demand in capacity, new digital technology, new customer requirements and an ageing workforce. This while the rail industry is one of the industries who have the highest adoption rate of the ISO 55 standard.
How to cope with this?
The rail industry is one of the industries with the highest investments in the market. In Western Europe alone in the next 10 years, the rail industry will invest over €600 billion in maintenance, renewal and expansion of their assets. These must be managed, in particular, to comply with the increasing demand of the regulators, who not only demand good service but also transparency of investment decisions and cost.
To cope with this, many rail organisations have adopted asset management as a practice to streamline their activities and get a good insight into the demands and the performance of their assets. Maintaining this is a challenge, especially given the ageing population of the workforce. Several rail organisations have indicated that between 20-25% of their staff will retire in the next five to 10 years. This is an incredible loss of knowledge and experience, which compensates for the often still limited documentation of the assets in the organisation.
The Amosa team has been working in the rail industry since the mid-1990s, starting with infrastructure in the Netherlands and growing into many other regions in Europe. We first supported companies like Volker Rail and Bam Rail who took over maintenance activities from Prorail, with the right information system. This has been expanded over the last 20 years to become a robust asset management information system, with best practices.
Today, we are working with our rail customers to apply the latest digitisation technology, to make better use of information technology to support their business processes.
What are the key challenges?
With an ageing workforce, it is paramount that the knowledge and experience of the staff, many of whom have 30-40 years been working in the company, been kept. The Equipment Maintenance Assistant from IBM, based on Watson technology, is a tool that enables all kinds of information to be kept and managed. It goes even further, when the data, structured and unstructured is stored, the system categorises the knowledge and starts creating useful information. When patterns, like required maintenance, are planned, the system will advise the staff what to do based on the analysis of the previous years of work. The responsible people can validate the recommendations, add or alter the information, which is then stored as the new best practice.
With machine learning (ML), the system gets wiser by the day and follows the organisation with the new processes, measurements and maintenance practices. It enables all digital data being kept today to run a real-time RCM analysis based on these latest findings.
IBM’s Equipment Maintenance Assistant is proof that digitisation can work and support the organisation in their day-to-day operations and take away some headache from the ageing workforce.
How is this supporting the maturity of the organisation?
With the departure of older staff, the organisation matures negatively. The team gets younger, the experience is reduced and risk increases. However, with the right tooling in place, the organisation is supported with best practices. Now, this knowledge is no longer dependent on one individual, but is available to all staff, at all times and places. Making this information available on mobile devices creates a knowledge base at hand for all people in the office and the field, doing their maintenance work.
How can we make this work?
Like most modern projects today, it is wise to start small. Taking a subset of tasks in a small area with a small team. Registering the day-to-day activities and processes and storing the data that is available and the data that is required. Developing an electronic work package, which will inform the staff when this task is required what and how they should do this. It will also recommend what data must be gathered at the location and for the task to be executed.
When electronic data is available, this will immediately be taken into account by the Equipment Maintenance Assistant, not only during the job but at any moment in time. Developing a 24/7 operations room for the rail organisations maintenance department. With the right dashboard, all the risks become visible and the required investment in time and cost.
Rail infra and rail operators are using the Internet of Things (IoT) today to gather data, however, the data gathered is hardly as valuable as it can be. It requires an increase in the maturity of the organisation to cope with the new processes, educate your staff based on these practices and develop a self-learning organisation from a people and systems point of view.
This will support your ageing organisation and the challenges rail companies have to cope with.
We have started this process together with SBB and created a road map on how this change can be adopted and successfully applied. This will support SBB in their aim to cope with the cost cuts that they are facing, their ageing workforce and the demands on them from a technology and an increased customer expectations perspective.
Please note: This is a commercial profile
Marcel van Velthoven