Leveraging data to optimise maintenance and operations
Effective maintenance is the key to smooth operations on railway networks. To get the most out of maintenance budgets – and to improve reliability – rail businesses need condition monitoring solutions that provide insights into the way assets are performing.
Thales has created ViewTrac to meet this need. ViewTrac provides extended business analytics and rules-based condition monitoring, allowing operators to develop new predictive capabilities. The result: improved maintenance efficiency and lower life cycle costs.
New value from existing data
High-quality data is at the heart of condition monitoring. Most systems derive data directly from assets, such as point motors and other trackside equipment. While ViewTrac is capable of doing this,
ViewTrac allows customers to identify problems that are buried in the data
ViewTrac uses business analytics to
extract value from CBTC data.
the initial focus has been on integrating data that is already generated by modern signalling systems: specifically, data produced by communications-based train control systems, such as Thales’ SelTrac® CBTC.
“CBTC systems produce enormous amounts of data,” says Walter Kinio, Director, R&D and Technology, Thales Canada. “A single metro line on a large system can produce gigabytes of data a day. Mining that data can provide real insights into what’s happening with the system. This allows customers to move from traditional schedule-based maintenance to a more targeted approach.”
What makes CBTC data such a valuable resource is that it contains information about both track and trains. This includes data about the movement of points, the behaviour of communications systems, unexpected train behaviour such as over-speed events, how far each train has travelled – even the exact moment at which a train’s doors were closed at a specific station and how many seconds later the train departed.
Thales’ ViewTrac solution uses business analytics to extract value from this data, correlating multiple variables and creating clear visualisations that make it easy to obtain and share new insights – and then act on them.
“Let’s say you have cases where a train stops slightly too far down the platform,” says Mr Kinio. “This can have a number of causes. Using a single chart, you can look at trains, you can look at stations and you can look at the number of incidents in a given timeframe. By doing that, you can quickly spot trends and determine whether faults are train dependent or location dependent.”
Using ViewTrac, customers can analyse journeys and pinpoint where delays are occurring. “You can also do benchmarking exercises,” says Mr Kinio. “For example, you can drill down to the level of an individual train and look at how all the other trains are doing in comparison.”
ViewTrac also underlines the way condition monitoring can spot early signs of asset failure – signs that are sometimes so subtle that they cannot be identified by traditional maintenance inspections alone.
“One of our customers asked us to analyse some data from the failure of a point machine last year,” says Mr Kinio. “What the data made clear was for the nine days prior to the failure of the machine, its move times were getting progressively worse each day – but only by around one tenth of a second, which could only be picked up by statistical analysis. A conventional inspection is unlikely to have picked that up.”
Spotting symptoms early allows maintenance teams to carry out remedial work before assets fail. The system is capable of recognising trends, and warnings are automated. “We refer to this as ‘push’ technology,” says Mr Kinio. “You don’t have to constantly check the database. ViewTrac allows customers to identify problems that are buried in the data and when the system spots a trend, it will tell you.”
The ability to gain insights like these has important implications for both maintenance and operations. And with transport operations becoming ever-more data driven, it’s clear that analytics and predictive technologies will play an increasingly important role in maintaining a competitive edge.
|THALES' VIEWTRAC AT A GLANCE|
• Delivering insights – data mining and ‘push’ notifications
• Easy visualisation – reporting and dashboard views
• Tailored alerts – customer authoring tools for easy alarm definition
• Remote access – via web-based interface
• Interoperable – integrate data from any source