With commodity markets regaining momentum, improving supply chain efficiency is key to elevating national productivity.
The Australian heavy haul industry – a world leader in innovation – is currently well-positioned to support the boom. But in the face of rising global demand, concerted efforts may soon be required to bolster operations and meet the many challenges ahead.
In the lead up to ARA Heavy Hall Rail 2018, we caught up with Speno’s Michael Charlsworth to hear how his firm’s renewed focus on technology and human resources is set to drive productivity across the board.
The Australian heavy haul industry is a world-leader in innovation. What value does technology, and especially specialised maintenance technologies add to productivity and efficiencies?
Track maintenance and risk management are an integral component to a successful rail network. High production rates are a necessity with track occupation time becoming more and more a premium commodity and rail safety an absolute in terms of vehicles traversing the network and the protection of track workers on the ground.
New technology tools allow information to flow through to the track maintenance professionals with a focus on track reliability engineering.
When combined with specialized maintenance technologies, significant improvements can be leveraged in track quality standards and processes through regular qualitative data set evaluation, improved maintenance plant efficiencies which ultimately lead to higher product quality and higher production rates.
With continuous measurement and overlay off key track network health data, track maintenance professional have the ability with key accurate data and trending to make informed decisions on where to best apply resources and materials to achieve the best productivity and efficient outcomes.
This overall focus on leveraging key technology benefits delivers a reduction on track access required for maintenance purposes (and hence increase in access for revenue traffic) but increase the quality and reliability of reporting by increasing the level of automated inspection.
Ultimately with this approach through the realized improved efficiencies and production rates, a potentially significant nett cost benefit can be realised.
Australia’s current ‘rail renaissance’ is contributing to a ‘too many projects – not enough people’ challenge. What are some of the things that Speno is doing to address skills and human resources?
Speno recognized the specialized skill shortage in our industry 5 years ago and managed the concerns of not enough people by our core commitment and focus to encouraging and support high levels of traineeships and apprenticeships where operationally suitable.
As part of this commitment, we are also proactive in offering specialized and comprehensive in-house training for Rail grinding Machine Operators, and sourcing external coursers and accompanying certifications for strong career pathways that each employee can work towards. This ongoing and relentless investment in training is allowing us to support the rail industry and meet this ever growing need for skilled human resources within the industry.
What excites you about the latest technological innovations in the industry?
Data acquisition and data handling to better understand the rail network health, is an exciting and ever changing opportunity in the industry. We are continuously exploring and delivering innovative solutions in this space from a data acquisition perspective from the implementation of new or improved technologies in ultrasonic rail flaw detection, non-contact laser profile measurement of rail, ground penetrating radar, eddy current and vision systems.
This improved data acquisition has allowed the use of customized software interfaces to enable end users a significantly improved ability to better understand and collate the required information to develop more informed and intuitive decision making for the rail network maintenance activities.
This combined new approach to data acquisition utilizing the latest technologies in combination with the specialized analysis tools, has the ability to continue to deliver significant and sustainable improvements in asset health, lifespan, reliability and reductions in associated maintenance costs.
Michael Charlsworth will address delegates at ARA Heavy Haul Rail 2018– 16-17 October, Perth – sharing further details of Speno’s operational strategy.