Probing the future is the key to improving the infrastructure

You might not be surprised if we tell you that heavy urbanization is increasing the pressure on infrastructure. The fact that technology enables better operations in the infrastructure is no surprise either. But if we really need to optimize the infrastructure, we need to start seeing into the future, according to Niels Kloppenborg Laursen, responsible for material at DSB. He is responsible for IR4 trains and his work is primarily about securing and improving the operational stability of the trains. So that they can run reliably six months ahead. He is in many ways like a wizard of DSB who can predict the future.

Niels Kloppenborg Laursen, responsible for material at DSB.

The infrastructure is in growing pains

According to GeoTema, Denmark has reached an urbanization degree of 87.7% which has put a huge pressure on the infrastructure. Furthermore, when the demand for workforce increases, a well-functioning infrastructure is crucial to secure physical access to jobs. The technology driving this change has been improved, and today it is the foundation for increasing operational stability making sure that everyone can be at the right spot at the right time.

Predictive Maintenance

When a trains operations fail, it impacts not only the people inside that train but also passengers on other trains on the same line. Like waiting on the highway during rush hour. Only so many cars can fit in the lanes. Unfortunately, in these situations, it’s not a possibility to magically make new tracks appear. Everyone needs to wait, which in the end creates irritation among passengers, distrust to the infrastructure but it also has economic consequences. To prevent this from happening, DSB is working actively with predictive maintenance. By employing artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, DSB can predict maintenance on trains, to make sure they are operational as long as they are reliable, and then get them serviced at the workshops when they are just in need for it. Sensors along the tracks measure a bunch of variables like the weight of the train, roundness of the wheels, temperature of bearings and brake discs.

Data creates punctuality

Even though Denmark is a small country, it’s still one of the countries in the world which is most advanced in the use of data collected from measurement systems in the infrastructure. We can predict and prevent technical failures on trains and hereby reduce delays remarkably. To be honest, it’s not without reason that we have the second most punctual railway infrastructure in Europe. Back on track! (Pun intended). In Denmark, we have seven measurement systems established across the country. The Swedes have implemented 214, Switzerland 400, but they primarily use the data to protect the infrastructure structures such as bridges, tunnels etc. As an operator, DSB is much further ahead in terms of utilizing these data for predictive maintenance. The punctuality of DSB is 94,1% on the long distance tracks and 98,7% on the S-track – primarily caused by the use of predictive analytics and maintenance.

WILD-measurement number 1524. The RFID-tag is connecting the measurement with the specific locomotive, and is also capable of telling the data-system which way the locomotive is facing, to precisely estimate what data point is connected to what wheel.

 

Here we see the same type of data collected as above, but this time the historic development is depicted graphically. Because the RFID-tags connects to every single wheel, it’s possible to operate the data sets connected.

How DSB is gaining territory on the battlefield for infrastructure

Through the use of Radio-Frequency Identification tags (RFID) measurement data is connected to every single wheel or bearing. By analyzing the development of the data points collected, it’s possible to predict wear and tear before it reaches the critical limit. This way maintenance can be performed accordingly, and DSB gains a small bit of territory. Conveniently, this also secures that you don’t end up in a situation where you need to empty a train at Korsør or Nyborg.

Prepared for the future

If you want something to last for 40 years, you gotta invest in it after 20. You would do the same with your Tesla or Volkswagen. It needs repairs, change of battery or engine. By predicting errors you can save both time and money. And you don’t risk being helplessly stuck in the emergency lane with a broken engine. To approach the increasing urbanization, the infrastructure is required to handle growth and increased complexity. That is why operators need to be well prepared for this. Whether or not the Danish railways will be more punctual and efficient in the future because of this is unknown. But one thing is sure; predictive maintenance lifts the Danish operational stability.

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