Customer application March 1, 2020
Condition-Based Monitoring of Rolling Stock

“Condition-based monitoring” promises to make maintenance of railway vehicles more efficient, in terms of both time and costs. Westfälische Lokomotiv-Fabrik Reuschling GmbH & Co. KG shows how railway operators can implement condition monitoring for their rolling stock.

The way locomotives are driven determines how quickly components wear or operating materials age. Therefore, it makes sense to monitor railway vehicles on a continuous basis. This process is called “condition-based monitoring.” “If we know what the loads are, we can maintain the vehicles dynamically. But to do that, we need data” explains Udo Pinders, Managing Director of Reuschling. Westfälische Lokomotiv-Fabrik is well known throughout Europe as a reliable expert partner for maintenance and modernization of all types of railway vehicles.

For effective service and condition-based maintenance, this company, from Hattingen in North Rhine-Westphalia, relies on a modular system with a cloud connection. In the process, automation technology from WAGO forms the interface to a Web-based system for fleet management of rolling stock – the J.I.M. Portal, which stands for “job-based intelligent monitoring.” What that means is: Instead of only paying attention to hours of operation, condition-based monitoring makes it possible to replace wear parts and operating materials only when really necessary.

Condition-Based Monitoring – Here’s How Wago Supports You:

  • A modular system with cloud connection: WAGO forms the powerful interface to the Web-based J.I.M. portal.

  • 200 measured values per second: Since processing with CODESYS was no longer possible, the XTR Controller programming was done on the basis of Linux®.

  • Pressure, temperature, acceleration: Condition-based monitoring makes it possible to draw conclusions about the driving behavior of a locomotive driver, for example.

» If we know what the loads are, we can maintain the vehicles dynamically. But to do so, we need data. «

Udo Pinders, Managing Director of Westfälische Lokomotiv-Fabrik Reuschling GmbH&Co.KG in Hattingen. This company is well known throughout Europe as a reliable expert partner for maintenance and modernization of all types of railway vehicles.

How Condition-Based Monitoring of Rolling Stock Works

For condition-based monitoring, Reuschling first accesses the data generated in the locomotive’s existing safety controller via Modbus TCP and uses the WAGO XTR-type controller to record it. “However, that’s not sufficient for wear detection,” says Udo Pinders. Additional sensors are necessary; Reuschling connects these directly to the WAGO system, which is approved for railway applications. The XTR Controllers of the I/O System 750 are specially designed for adverse environmental conditions. An interference-resistant XTR I/O solution is just as rugged in the face of extreme temperature changes, vibrations or impacts. These are exactly the conditions that characterize operation of a locomotive during freight transport and shunting. Therefore, the system meets the requirements of the body responsible for maintenance in European railway transport, the Entity in Charge of Maintenance (ECM).

The WAGO XTR-type controller collects all the data that is relevant for condition-based monitoring. It was specially designed for adverse environmental conditions – whether extreme temperature changes, vibrations or impacts.

Condition-Based Monitoring Produces a Digital Fingerprint

For condition-based monitoring, pressure, temperature and acceleration are the primary types of sensors that Reuschling is integrating into the machines in order to modernize old switch engines. For instance, with knowledge about the time progression of both negative and positive acceleration, “we can deduce the driving behavior of the locomotive engineer” says Michael Lingen, CEO of Ikado GmbH, a company from Aachen. His IT systems company programmed the WAGO Controller XTR on the basis of Linux® and was also commissioned to design and implement the J.I.M. portal in collaboration with Reuschling. “When we continuously record the driving parameters that are important to us, we get a digital fingerprint in the analysis.” This reveals driving conditions, provides insights into how gently or roughly shunting operations are being performed and, taken together, allows forecasts of when the next service is due.

Establishing condition-based monitoring of rolling stock (from left to right): Udo Pinders, Managing Director of Westfälische Lokomotiv-Fabrik Reuschling GmbH & Co. KG; Kilian Fröhlich, Global Key Account Manager for the Railway Industry at WAGO; and Michael Lingen, CEO of the IT systems company Ikado.

» The modularity of the WAGO I/O System makes it possible to handle new tasks in an ECM-compliant way. «

Michael Lingen is CEO of Ikado GmbH, a company from Aachen. His IT systems company programmed the WAGO Controller XTR on the basis of Linux® and also designed and implemented the J.I.M. portal.

Condition-Based Monitoring – a Continuous Overview of Operations

Continuous condition monitoring gives railway operators an ECM-compliant tool for optimizing their rail logistics in an event-driven way. For example, if a locomotive is continuously overloaded by an excessive number of heavy cars, then mechanical damage inevitably occurs over the long haul due to excessive negative acceleration during pushing. Therefore, in this regard, the analysis provides valuable indicators – without which the overload behavior could not even be detected – and this allows the correct response. In a different situation, the alarm for an acceleration sensor, which is transmitted to a control center immediately via mobile communications, can indicate an accident.

Condition-Based Monitoring and Railway Standards

“We need an operating and driving strategy. This in turn requires data with corresponding intelligence” says Udo Pinders in summary. Behind all of this lies the safe railway management required by national and European standards. The safety standard entails time intervals for technical monitoring, for example. With the additional sensors on board, Reuschling is converting monitoring on required dates into a continuous process. “We place a temperature sensor on a bearing and observe a trend: If it gets warm, then to me, that’s a technical indication that the bearing needs to be replaced,” explains the Managing Director. Measurements, recordings and documentation of vehicle data make maintenance flexible, without losing sight of the required proof of safety.

The body shell of a fully restored locomotive engine on the company premises of Westfälische Lokomotiv-Fabrik Reuschling in Hattingen will be ready for rail use again soon.

Condition-Based Monitoring Requires High Computing Power

Reuschling uses the XTR system from WAGO – in parallel with the locomotive safety controller – for collecting the signals and for pre-processing with corresponding algorithms. According to IT expert Michael Lingen, condition-based monitoring in railway vehicles requires high computing power. Even just the acceleration sensors used bring the total to 600 internal measurements per second on all three axles. “From these, we read in 200 measured values per second,” explains Michael Lingen. Processing with CODESYS, which is widespread in automation, is no longer possible – so his IT systems company runs the WAGO XTR controller with Linux®. The data bundled and pre-processed by the I/O system is transferred via LTE – provided with precise timestamps and GPS coordinates. This allows detected event frequencies to be associated with locations as well. Not only the rail maintenance, but also the leasing business, benefits from this navigation aid. The background: Temporarily leased locomotives can be more easily located when they are on the premises of large distribution centers and switchyards.

» We need an operating and driving strategy. This requires data with corresponding intelligence. «

Udo Pinders, technical director and authorized representative of Westfälische Lokomotiv-Fabrik Reuschling

Condition-Based Monitoring Is Just the Beginning

Udo Pinders and Michael Lingen agree: In the process of digitization, data analytics and the J.I.M. portal, with its current scope of condition-based monitoring functionality, are just the first in a series of possible applications. It is also possible to achieve greater efficiency and operational availability in rail logistics by using the cloud to provide locomotive drivers with valuable tools for operation and for eliminating minor faults on their own. The J.I.M. portal already makes it possible to transfer the visualization of the locomotive operation to the cloud with minimal delay.

Condition-Based Monitoring: A Modular System Grows along with the Challenges of the Future

Since the possibilities are still far from exhausted, both companies appreciate the flexibility of the WAGO I/O System 750 in the XTR expansion stage. “When the project began, we briefly considered developing our own closed systems – building the hardware ourselves. But we quickly ran up against functional limits,” says Michael Lingen in summary. The modularity of the WAGO I/O System makes it possible to handle new tasks in an ECM-compliant way through a simple combination of additional standard modules.

Text and Photos: Thorsten Sienk

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