Condition-based Maintenance of Infrastructure with the ConnAct® System

In rail-based transportation, multiple and multifaceted demands are made of infrastructure components and systems over their life cycle. Apart from the fundamental safety-related aspects, faultless function and availability are essential for economic operation and ultimately for passenger and customer satisfaction. A coherent concept for infrastructure maintenance paves the way. The ConnAct® system offers all the possibilities of targeted condition-based maintenance and is thus the starting point for an economic and effective maintenance concept.

1. Infrastructure in rail-based transportation

Rail operations have a very complex infrastructure. The demands made on all system components concerning safety and availability are high. Safety considerations are the starting point. Availability of the infrastructure of rail-based facilities must also be scrutinised over its entire life cycle – right from selection and acquisition of the components and system. All these aspects must be the subject of mandatory focus if economical operation is to be ensured.

Being able to monitor and diagnose equipment like point controllers, signalling installations, level crossings, point machines and point heaters and systems from a distance is vital. If networking is then planned and set up in a structured manner, opportunities arise for an effective and demand-driven maintenance concept with consistent evaluation. ConnAct® is the centrepiece for data transfer of the application parameters and thus the networking hub of the infrastructure equipment, offering all possibilities of data storage, diagnosis, remote monitoring and evaluation.

2. Requirements of infrastructure maintenance

Infrastructure maintenance comprises all the measures taken during equipment life cycle and is structured into four columns: Inspection, Service, Repair and Enhancement.

2.1 Inspection: Commissioning infrastructure equipment forms the basis for inspection; the application parameters are set in line with on-site conditions and recorded. These records later serve as reference values for maintenance measures. Commissioning is thus the first inspection as it were. Even at this stage, the ConnAct® system is active, recording and storing the actual parameters in a digital commissioning protocol. During subsequent inspections, these stored application parameters are compared, adjusted and saved once again.

2.2 Service: After commissioning, components are serviced on interval basis. For economic reasons, interval-orientated service should be replaced by needs and condition-based service. The ConnAct® system provides the necessary foundation for such organizational change with possibilities for remote monitoring and diagnostics. Interval-orientated service becomes an economic targeted and need-based service concept for the components and modules in the infrastructure system.

2.3 Repair: Measures for repair of failed components are cost factors which are difficult to calculate. Every rail operating company tries to limit damage as far as possible and to minimise downtimes with preventive measures and standby services. Here, too, the ConnAct® system is a helpful tool with the advance warning module of equipment diagnosis to indicate possible breakdowns and prevent system failures in good time.

2.4 Enhancement: Measures for improving equipment are based on experience gained during service and repair work and with the help of the advance warning and user diagnosis system which are integrated into ConnAct®. With an ingenious help and evaluation tool from the ConnAct® diagnostic applications, the system learns through operator entries and error reports during service and maintenance work. So, here too, ConnAct® offers a high potential for increased performance of rail equipment.

With all of the maintenance modules listed above, ConnAct® helps operators to minimise costs and build an effective, bespoke and economic system aligned to requirements and the infrastructure periphery deployed.

3. ConnAct® - Structure and Modules

The core component of ConnAct® is the controller which stores data and ensures connectivity for remote polling and data transmission. It comes with modules for Service, Operation, Application and Diagnosis:

3. Core component controller ConnAct® At the heart of ConnAct® is the controller with professional connection management. The controller is installed in the infrastructure component (e.g. point controller, signalling installation). It stores and transmits data. The controller collects data and application parameters from the infrastructure components which are directly coupled, and operates without retroactive impact on the safety components. The ConnAct® controller is a compact controller with network and fieldbus interfaces. The mobile telephone module transmits and receives information and together with connection management, it provides a safe VPN connection. The controller is an integral part of the system but can also be subsequently installed in existing equipment. Depending on operating mode, the controller continuously transmits process or status data or only event rec order data via the mobile telephone network. Professional connection management ensures connectivity to the facilities using machine-to-machine (M2M) technology. IT safety is guaranteed, and cyber attacks ruled out.

3.2 ConnAct® Service. With this standard function, the equipment data transferred is analysed with a diagnostic software on the basis of a service concept aligned to the operator’s specific requirements. If necessary, the data is then analysed by a HANNING & KAHL expert who informs the operator information and recommendations how to proceed – if desired, one of the operator’s expert employees can also carry out this analysis.

The operator can then either take action independently or avail of the services provided by the equipment manufacturer. An individual service package can be compiled. This can be a hotline on workdays (08:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.) or a 24/7 hotline with on-call service.

3.3 ConnAct® Diagnosis. Continuous real-time monitoring (online monitoring) of the infrastructure is the basis for continuous system monitoring AND early detection of incorrect developments, and thus for demand-driven service. With bespoke diagnostic possibilities, HANNING & KAHL components and also systems provided by other manufacturers of infrastructure can be integrated and monitored. Preventive measures or malfunctions are automatically identified and forwarded in rule-based manner to the processor in the control room, the workshop, the on-call team or the mobile unit. As mentioned, the diagnostic application also helps with commissioning and during inspections by setting and saving the system parameters. In subsequent inspections, the parameters of the application are compared, adjusted and saved once again. With the help and evaluation tool of the diagnostic application, the system learns from operator entries and error reports in the course of maintenance work. Thus, there is also a high potential for increasing the performance and economic efficiency of the equipment.

3.4 ConnAct® Operation and ConnAct® Application

ConnAct ® Operation and ConnAct ® Application offer additional possibilities to the Service and Diagnosis maintenance modules. The ConnAct® controller networking concept can be used expediently and complementarily. The Operation module records process status in real-time e.g. for visualisation of the process sequences for point controllers – and signalling installations and complex depot controllers. Apart from this observation process, the operating channel simultaneously enables the setting of routes and various other operating actions. Thus, the system provides the basis for the operator workstation of depot controllers or the basis for rail-operations monitoring as a control room workstation. The ConnAct® controller can also be used as the technical basis for further non-safety-relevant applications - such as: interface to traffic signalling systems or gate controllers, signal switch-on (request signals, matrix signals), processing the setting commands of communication systems, point heating, time synchronisation via radio-controlled GPS clock, processing of substitute requests such as key switches, pushbutton stations, the formation of a route manager and more. It enables rapid and economically-efficient software maintenance without intervention in existing safety-relevant software.

4. Properties of ConnAct® and economic benefit beyond the life cycle

Depending on the configuration and modules of the ConnAct® system used, various savings potential arise for infrastructure operators. Judging by the experience gained with ConnAct® over years in diverse applications and rail-based operations, HANNING & KAHL has ascertained the economic benefit:  double-digit percentage savings are definitely possible over the life cycle.

Taking the example of a point machine in rail-based public transport, with targeted deployment of ConnAct® diagnostics and comparison of nominal and actual values of setting time, setting and locking forces during operations, savings of up to 35% can be made on maintenance costs.

Summing up the properties of ConnAct® and the modules:

  • Professional connection management with the ConnAct® controller
  • Modules: Service, Diagnosis, Application and Operation
  • Digital commissioning of systems and components
  • Advance warning and alarm function when status changes
  • Learning-help function for rapid and targeted repair measures
  • Map representation of the network with the infrastructure components
  • Tabular and graphic representation of the actual and nominal states
  • Intuitive and multi-lingual user interface
  • Operation on all common end devices

For infrastructure components and systems in rail-based transportation, a bespoke maintenance concept is a vital factor for passenger satisfaction and thus a guarantor of success. With the ConnAct® system you are on your way. By expedient ConnAct® networking of the infrastructure facilities, the costs of inspection, service and repair are substantially reduced. The purposefully deployed modules Service, Diagnosis, Application and Operation of the ConnAct® system are the basis for an effective and economic system aligned to operators’ requirements based on the infrastructural periphery of each particular rail-based operation.