What Do We Need for Advanced Field Service Management of Signaling Solutions?
Being a complex interconnected system of physical and digital assets, today's railroads pose a continuous challenge on how to keep them operated without violating transportation processes. It is obvious that the industry suffers from a lack of a unified technology base and updated approaches regarding system maintenance. Today’s complicated situation on maintenance of signaling solutions requires dexterity and flexibility to optimize this process. This article from PSA will talk about how to competently leverage cutting-edge technologies to provide comprehensive service for rail signaling solutions. Through the interconnected nature of the rail signaling system, the techniques described below apply to any rail asset, from a track circuit to a bridge.
Challenges Associated with the Maintenance of Signaling Solutions
The complexity, diversity, and extensiveness of railway systems contribute to the challenge of organizing maintenance processes for signaling solutions. To maintain stable transportation processes and safety, service activities have to be organized within a stringent time frame, which imposes additional restrictions. The communication system within maintenance does not cover all the interdependent systems, assets, and business processes, which prolongs the time required to agree on all the actions. Accumulation of the legacy assets on the field led to the complexity of rail signaling that has only increased throughout its history. This caused a lack of specialists with the necessary knowledge, as well as the necessary replacement equipment. Complex scheduling conflicts are not uncommon here, especially with unplanned maintenance.
Urgent maintenance is a bottleneck in service activities for rail. For example, when a level crossing fails, responsible people become known about it over time, often from third sources, such as the public. The search for available specialists with specific knowledge may also take time and rescheduling of maintenance plans. The absence or lack of primary information from the field highlighting the details of the breakdown forces maintainers to conduct additional research and request additional equipment. The components required to troubleshoot the issue may not be available due to the obsolescence of technology or the complexity of the procurement and certification procedure for an alternative solution. This brings about the excessive incident-response time, putting the railroad at high risk and causing train delays and road traffic congestion.
Excessive spending on planned maintenance, updating projects for signaling solutions, and unexpected procedures often lead to budget overruns and additional costs. There is a lack of predictability that brings about unanticipated failures. Maintenance schedules that solely rely on RULs, may not effectively prevent failures and can even result in unnecessary maintenance tasks.
How to build a Robust App to Elevate Maintenance of Signaling Solutions
An effective application for rail maintenance management should leverage modern technologies in the most competent way to be adapted to the rail environment. The solution should not complicate the already complex signaling system, but fit organically into it, taking into account its future needs. Check out the highlights below.
Real-Time Asset Monitoring
To address the issue of excessive incident-response time, you need to have a great technology base. Reliable equipment is installed on-site to ensure precise measurements in various environmental conditions, be it harsh weather conditions or vibrations from the train passing by. Alternatively, it should be reliably protected from such conditions. By doing so, you can steer clear of receiving low-quality data, which is often the culprit behind decreased system efficiency.
Automatic Assignment Management
The maintenance management system is to comprehensively address the challenge of human resource management. Generate a maintenance schedule, send a failure notification to the right person at the right time, and provide information about service history – this is the open list of how the comprehensive management system can relieve human tasks. By adding AI, you can automatically generate tips on how to solve a problem, thereby filling the knowledge gap and accelerating maintenance activity.
Flexibility & Interoperability
The solution is to comply with the complex nature of signaling solutions. A simpler and more affordable solution involves ensuring compatibility with current legacy systems, while a more advanced solution is ensuring wider interoperability to be compatible with the future rail solutions. A total transition to digital for rail is just around the corner, but there is no consistency in the vision of the future upgrades. So it's better to be prepared for multiple options and ensure comprehensive compatibility.
A boosting benefit is the ability to connect to other subsystems,like inventory management for example. This helps prevent downtime when a replacement of the obsolete asset or when necessary components go out of the market. The development of a custom replacement solution requires a significant amount of time, and would better be performed in advance. The solution also should be easily customizable for a specific location, type of asset, tracking indicators, and have a scalability potential.
Having the real-time monitoring established, you can shift to condition-based and predictive maintenance processes. By adding an analytical module to the real-time monitoring system, the application gains the ability to provide predictive indicators of pending failures. This not only optimizes human resources by lightening the schedule but also addresses the issue of budget overruns.
Easy to Operate and Install
The solution must meet the critical requirement of seamlessly integrating with existing processes and being compatible with the current technology stack. Depending on the request, the solution can be integrated into the current ERP or other management system. Access from smartphones and tablets is crucial to ensure mobility for any maintainer and simplify communication on issues.
It’s recommended to ensure an intuitive interface that is easy to understand without training. For the operator, this means easy searching for information, tracking, assigning, and making edits. For the maintainer, this means obtaining information and ease of communication. For the authorities, it should provide a clear observation and switch between locations.
Ensuring transparency of operations for all stakeholders is crucial, especially to streamline oversight. For operators, this is a chance to assess employee productivity and create reports for rail authorities. They have access to date, time site photos, and detailed maintenance information to draw insightful conclusions and generate comprehensive reports.
For maintainers, it’s crucial to have direct access to information that helps simplify and speed up the maintenance procedure before they arrive on site. It involves complete information on the breakdown, tips on the repair, and the ability to refer to historical data and contact an authorized operator in case of concerns.
For authorities, timely information on failures has to be provided to prepare for their possible consequences. It simplifies control of service organizations and the ability to make informed management decisions based on statistical and analytical data.
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