Behind the scenes: how Europorte implemented their new maintenance workflow on Railfleet

Story by Kaat Van de Vijver, Digital Marketing Manager at Railnova
Sep 14, 2017

We all know that preventive maintenance decreases the chances of equipment failures. However, not all preventive maintenance types are equally beneficial for your rolling stock. For example: even though it might be tempting to take the easy road and stick to calendar-based maintenance only, you then risk over- or under-maintaining your assets. Keeping that in mind, usage-based preventive maintenance (while taking a bit more work to set up) is a far more interesting option to ensure more accurate maintenance periodicities, while extending the life of your components closer to design.

That’s exactly what Europorte, a subsidiary of the Eurotunnel Group, envisioned for their E4000 fleet. Although they already had a usage-based (km) maintenance plan in place, they wanted to further optimise it and extend their large motor maintenance cycles. At the beginning of 2017 they therefore switched from a km-based maintenance plan to a plan that combines MWH-, KM- and calendar-based activities.

We checked in with Sylvain Cozette, the E4000 fleet manager from Europorte, to see how they managed their maintenance plan changes and what the implications of these changes were. The previous maintenance plan worked well up to a certain level, but it had a couple of issues, as Sylvain Cozette points out:

“We didn’t change everything at once, but roughly the main issues with the previous plan were the following: around half of our E4000 locomotives run in Germany and there they have a maintenance operation called HU, which needs to be performed every 8 years. The initial maintenance plan didn’t take these operations into account.

On top of that we also had a lot of separate large operations that required dismantling and reassembly, which are quite expensive operations to perform.

A third issue we had was that, in the initial maintenance plan the locomotives would be inspected after 12500 km, which was anticipated to be every month or month and a half. This didn’t correspond with the reality, as we usually only saw the locomotives every 2 months, 2,5 months.

Lastly, the locomotives came to the workshop every 400 000 km, for large engine maintenance. However, from experience we found that the mileage did not stick close to the actual usage of the asset at all. The traveled kilometers didn’t seem the right parameter to help us extend the engine life and perform maintenance at the right time.”

Moving from KM-based to MWH-based

Although kilometer-based maintenance is a good first step to extend maintenance periodicities closer to design, you still risk to perform maintenance too early, and in the long term, to over-maintain your assets. That’s one of the main reasons Europorte changed from a KM-based plan for their motor maintenance to a MWH-based plan:

“Because our previous KM-based plan didn’t stick close enough to the actual usage and wearing of the engine, it seemed more appropriate to change the maintenance parameters to the power generated by the engine, instead of kilometers. So, now we perform the large engine maintenance at 5000 MWH instead of 400 000 km. This helps us to stay closer to the actual usage of the locomotive and push back the maintenance operation.”

Next to the new engine maintenance plan Europorte also solved some of the other issues they were coping with, such as limiting the amount of dismantling and reassemblies by performing multiple large maintenance operations at once. The new maintenance plan is now much more tailored to Europorte’s needs:

“Since we’ve launched the new plan we’re combining calendar-based low-level maintenance (so we can follow up on our assets more regularly), with KM-based higher level maintenance and MWH-based engine maintenance operations.”

As mentioned above, Europorte risked to perform engine maintenance too soon with the old maintenance plan. The new plan allows for more accurate maintenance planning, reducing the overall downtime of assets:

“One of the advantages of the new plan is that we’re able to push back the large engine maintenance operation because we adopt the usage-based maintenance more finely. At this moment we perform the maintenance at 5000 MWH, while we didn’t achieve the 5000 MWH with the previous KM-based maintenance plan. The large engine maintenance operation is a very heavy one that takes quite a bit of time, and the new plan has enabled us to push back the operation by 6 to 12 months.”

This means that, thanks to the new maintenance plan, Europorte was able to extend the engine maintenance periodicities by 16%.

By pushing back these large, more expensive, maintenance operations Europorte extends the life of asset components, which, in the end, results in both time- and cost-savings.

Another something that helps Europorte save time, is the fact that maintenance due dates are calculated automatically in Railfleet, the fleet management and maintenance planning software Europorte is using. The transition from one plan to the other only required them to modify the parameters in Railfleet, the system did the rest by calculating and updating the due dates for all upcoming maintenance operations:

“Actually, the transition was quite simple. As we’re able to do the setup ourselves on Railfleet, we only needed to enter all the new parameters, which didn’t really exist before, and the new calendar for the first level maintenance operations into the system. The system then just applied the maintenance plan of all the upcoming operations for the fleet.”

Putting the new maintenance plan to work

Putting a new maintenance plan to work, and getting all stakeholders on board, might seem like a daunting task, but thanks to a close collaboration with all their stakeholders Europorte was able to smoothly roll out the new plan at the beginning of 2017:

“As some of the locomotives are rented, the changes were part of a project with multiple stakeholders: we worked with the locomotive manufacturer, as they had the knowledge about the initial maintenance plan, and the experience. We also worked with the maintainer, as they would be executing the maintenance plan and should agree on the new plan. Another important party was the lessor: they too needed to agree on us doing the maintenance one way or another. Finally there were of course also people from Europorte involved, as we’re both the operator and the ECM of the locomotives. We were in charge of the project, but the idea really was to work together with all parties to roll out this new plan. So when the time came to launch it, everyone knew what was going to happen as we collaborated closely with them.”

To make sure that everyone was on the same page, and to guarantee that everything would be done in a correct and safe way, Europorte also drafted a dossier:

“We’re ECM of the locomotives and we’re responsible of the maintenance organisation. This of course doesn’t mean that we can do anything we want to. So, to make sure that everything would be done correctly, we drafted a dossier. This document contained all the modifications that were to be applied to the maintenance plan and showed the railway authorities that, from a security point of view, there would be no impact. The maintenance documentation was also updated and transmitted to the maintainer so they could apply it.”

What’s next?

The new maintenance plan has been up and running for the last 7 months, but this doesn’t mean that Europorte is resting on its laurels.

“As last year’s work was quite a large project we don’t see ourselves perform any modifications this size in some time. However, a maintenance plan always evolves, and we do make small changes to take into account any problems that occur. We’re also always open to explore new opportunities to further optimise our current processes.

For the large engine maintenance we currently have the counters from our maintainer who reads them during all operations, so we have them at least every 6 weeks, when we perform the first level maintenance. Once we receive them we can put these counters into the system ourselves and have it calculate the 5000 MWH operations automatically. A next step we’re starting to look at now, is to capture these MWH counters automatically, instead of manually, and feed these counters directly to Railfleet so that the calculations can be made faster and more precisely.”

Curious to find out what we can do to help you extend your maintenance periodicities and cut maintenance costs? Get in touch with us for a live demo!

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