Preparation of the digitalisation of maintenance processes in regional rail transport

The term digitalisation has circulated for a long time now with many industries being considered widely digitised, or at least digitally advanced. Many public transport and train-operating companies have picked up this important and necessary development; however, primarily administration and sales processes were initially or are currently digitised.

Most of the other corporate divisions are still paper-based showing a high amount of manual handling which often means duplicating work and leading to inefficiencies. Information on follow-up processes or data for further analysis are not readily available or only with a considerable time lag. Hence, decisions in these transport companies are not appropriate or are only made at high costs. In addition, this mode of operation does not represent a modern work environment which may lead to difficulties in the recruitment of new employees.

The project scope was to realign the TOC’s future maintenance processes and organisation – in close collaboration with the company’s staff – and thus to modernise this division making it sustainable.

IT framework already created

An effective digitalisation requires, apart from financial means, a clear objective as well as a concept regarding the information technology to be used, appropriate processes and necessary data or alignment of future information requirements. Not only will internal procedures improve, the foundation for the creation of corporate knowledge is also laid. In this project, our customer selected the basic IT required to support the company’s digitalisation in advance. We consider this not as a best practice, as the technology is ideally adapted based on the company’s processes rather than the other way around.

Therefore, the TOC’s existing IT was to be properly incorporated in the target processes. First of all, existing procedures, working methods and tools in use were examined, in order to correctly assess required changes and to clearly identify items for digitalisation. For this purpose, we created a strength-weakness profile of the organisation and examined internal processes. We then made suggestions in regards to changes and renewed processes based on our findings.

At the same time, we assessed the IT selected for the capacity planning, activity records, inventory management as well as for the audit-proof document management of all maintenance activities. It was not an integrated solution, but specialist software for each area of application. Thus all interfaces needed to be assessed and integrated in the solution.

Digitalisation concept in place

Based on the above, we developed company-specific blueprints for the core processes: maintenance, the renewal of infrastructure facilities as well as preparatory work. Those blueprints included detailed workflows and interaction between IT systems and organisational units involved.

Furthermore, the project results also showed underlying data structures and data to be generated for an optimised and standardised assess management. Hence, the foundation for knowledge generation (e.g. predictive maintenance) was laid by using the maintenance inventory and transaction data created.

01. February 2019