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Transport & Logistics

Using technology to reduce maintenance times by almost a third

7 Nov 2013, by Informa Insights

Ross Spicer, CEO, Downer Rail
Ross Spicer, CEO, Downer Rail

Downer Rail has instigated sweeping changes to how it approaches passenger and freight rail maintenance, with reductions in maintenance times of up to one third.

Its new approach to passenger and freight rail maintenance focuses on long-term Through Life Support (TLS) relationships, condition-based monitoring and Lean methodologies.

“Our focus is keeping our customers’ trains on the tracks for longer, delivering a return on their asset investment,” said Ross Spicer, CEO of Downer Rail.

“In some cases we’ve reduced maintenance times by 29 per cent, with further reductions predicted for the next 12 months.”

Condition-based monitoring has played a key role in minimising maintenance times and extending the maintenance cycle.

“With condition-based monitoring, we monitor trains constantly. We track things like vibration levels, temperatures, oil levels, electrical responses and more,” explained Roy Sullivan, Group General Manager of Production at Downer Rail.

“We can identify emerging faults before they become failures, resolving them in advance. We can often resolve faults remotely, either by liaising with the driver, or sending a maintenance technician out to the train while it is in service, which means the train may not need to come in for maintenance.”

AusRAIL_PLUS_2013_200x90Condition based monitoring has the added benefit of reducing the time taken to identify faults. “We can order parts in advance, ensuring they are there on time when the train arrives to be repaired,” said Mr Sullivan.

Downer Rail’s freight team is combining condition-based monitoring with fuel-reduction technologies to achieve significant fuel reductions for its locomotives. “We’ve worked with our technology partner EMD to introduce fuel reduction packages for our freight customers,” said Mr Sullivan.

“The technologies automate on board activities that were previously performed manually, such as engine start/stop times, selecting optimal throttle positions and brake settings.”

While condition-based monitoring has been critical for reducing maintenance times, Downer Rail’s commitment to the introduction of Lean methodologies across its maintenance facilities has also played a vital role.

“Our Lean methodologies mean that tools and lower-cost replacement parts like fasteners are available at the point of service. Train schematics, engineering documents and work orders are available via iPads used on the shop floor, and we’ve established visual communication centres throughout our facilities,” explains Mr Spicer.

Downer Rail will roll out its Lean methodologies across their Australia wide strategic rail footprint over the next 12 months.

“The most important thing for our customers is that they know we are a rail partner they can trust and rely upon,” concludes Mr Spicer.

“It’s not about transactions, it’s about working together to deliver measurable financial returns ensuring that we are increasing the reliability and availability of freight and passenger trains in service.”

For more information about Downer Rail’s approach to Through Life Support you can see Downer Rail Group General Manager of Production, Roy Sullivan, present at the following AusRAIL 2013 session:

Wednesday 27 November
Keeping Your Trains on the Track: Reducing failures and extending the time between maintenance cycles
Roy Sullivan, Group General Manager of Production, Downer Rail

To arrange an appointment with Roy Sullivan, Ross Spicer or the Downer Sales team please refer to the Downer Group web page.

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