Improve fleet availability with automatic detection of abnormal behaviour

Story by Florian Louvet, Professional Services Software at Railnova
Jun 12, 2017

At Railnova we believe there are two major actions railway operators should perform in order to optimise fleet availability and reliability:

  • digitalising fleet actions, such as dispatching maintenance work orders and changing train asset operational statuses online, on a unified platform
  • receiving and acting on real-time remote data of rolling stock

This post will focus on the second action, by illustrating how real-time remote data can help you perform live diagnostics and automate abnormal behaviour monitoring.

To prevent possible inline failures, and thus ensure better fleet availability, you should have an automated process in place to notify you of abnormal behaviours on your assets. This notification process, based on live data from various sensors, will allow you to perform diagnostics in real time and help employees in the field or in the workshops act before a failure happens. We call these notifications alerts.

Below we’ve listed a couple of smart alerts we believe are interesting to implement, in order to improve the reliability and availability of your rolling stock.

1. Abnormally low battery level

Abnormally low battery voltage levels are often still undetected when the train is parked, even though they can cause starting problems on the locomotives and, consequently, service disruptions.

We believe that any operator should find solutions to avoid delays or even cancellations of trains because of low battery voltage level issues. With the rise of IoT, the railway industry now has the ability to remotely access and monitor real-time data from various components, such as battery voltage, at its fingertips. These IoT tools allow both meticulous monitoring and timely alerts, so battery issues can be avoided.

Smart automated monitoring also allows you to dissociate different criticality levels of the low battery issue. For example, you could separate low battery alerts into these two levels:

  • Warning: The battery voltage level is abnormally low, but from experience you know that you have one day or more to act before the locomotive is not able to start without external power supply.
  • Critical: The battery voltage level is critical, and you should act immediately as the locomotive won’t be able to start without external power supply.

At Railnova, we offer these two levels of alerts for all the locomotive types we interface with. For flexibility and easy setup, both warning and critical alerts levels are directly inferred from the historical data of the locomotive by statistical and machine learning techniques.

With this advanced analytics approach we insure that you won’t get unreliable alerts.

Already have a Railfleet account? Learn how to set up the low battery alert here.

2. Low fuel level

If you operate diesel locomotives, you probably want to be warned when the fuel tank level of your assets reaches a low level. This lets you reroute trains in time, with the help of real-time geolocation, to let them finish their journey as they were meant to.

At Railnova we also offer this type of alert, and notify you when the fuel level contained in your locomotive’s tank reaches 25% of its capacity. This leaves you with plenty of time to act!

See how you can create your own low fuel notifications on Railfleet.

3. Fault codes

Locomotives’ components generate a variety of fault codes. These are informative, warning or erroneous messages depicting the state of one or more components of your rolling stock. Fault codes occur for a wide range of events on modern locomotives, from alerting you of a fire, to informing you that the locomotive’s time has been changed. This means that you should select which fault codes are critical or relevant to your operations.

At Railnova, we allow you to set up alerts on those fault code occurrences that might have an impact on your fleet availability. Based on previous analysis and our acquired expert knowledge, we can help you select, from the great variety of fault codes, those that can help improve your operations. Afterwards you can dispatch the appropriate fault codes to whomever needs to be alerted in your organisation.

Learn to set up fault code alerts on Railfleet.

4. High engine coolant temperature

High coolant temperature damages your diesel locomotive’s motor. To extend the lifetime of your motor, and to avoid failures, you should monitor the engine coolant temperature and set up alerts to be notified when the coolant temperature is too high.

At Railnova, we offer the high engine coolant temperature alert on various types of diesel locomotives such as G1206, T77 or BB400. The alert is created based on expert knowledge acquired during our years of service.

Follow these steps on Railfleet to be alerted about high coolant temperature.

Receiving and acting on alerts, a checklist:

The examples mentioned above are only a small selection of alerts you can implement. The type of alerts you should implement depends on your fleet and what’s relevant to your operations. Not sure how to get started with alerts? Use the checklist below to start receiving alerts and acting on them:

1. Define what you need to measure in order to improve fleet availability and reliability

2. Look for a powerful and safe remote monitoring solution that allows you to measure the necessary parameters, if you haven’t got one already (Be sure to check out the Railster, Railnova’s own remote monitoring equipment)

3. Define what’s most critical and limit alerts to those that are important to your operations. On Railfleet you can decide whether you want to receive the alerts by email, on the Operational Dashboard or both. This allows you to limit the noise in your email inbox, while you still have access to the alert on the dashboard.

4. Confirm alerts in real time by analysing the data you’ve captured from your assets (e.g. by using the comprehensive graphs in the Railfleet Data Inspector, or in the detailed data table on the Railfleet Telematics Raw data page).

5. Create defect reports and plan maintenance interventions based on the alerts you’ve received to prevent possible inline failures from happening. Turn your alerts into actions.

Once you’ve covered this checklist you can go even further and share the alerts with your stakeholders, so that e.g. your maintainer already knows what’s going on with the asset before it arrives at the workshop. Sharing asset information not only helps you build and share knowledge about your fleet, but also allows you to streamline both your communication and maintenance planning.

Curious to find out how we help clients such as Lineas and Europorte increase fleet availability and reliability through alerts? Get in touch, we’re happy to share our experiences!

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