Paperwork is inconvenient. In the maintenance depots of DB Fernverkehr, however, it is still part of everyday life. Work orders have to be distributed as hard copies, signed off and later archived. This creates a lot of paperwork. The printouts also have the drawback that they must be physically collected and returned. In the vast maintenance halls, this task is extremely time consuming.
On top of this, there are the environmental and cost aspects arising from the consumption of paper and printer ink. For this reason, the maintenance department at DB Fernverkehr decided to convert the system as part of the digitalisation process. Modern tablets are to replace the old paper forms. This also eliminates the subsequent digitalisation and archiving of the paper orders, which generates considerable savings.
Collaboration between DB Fernverkehr, DB Systel and SAP
In the DIVA project – a German acronym for the “digital and innovative processing of work orders” – the project team comprising employees from DB Systel, the customer DB Fernverkehr, the ISI requirement management (Integrated Maintenance System) and the software partner SAP are working together on implementing the requirements.
“The initial plan was to digitalise the paper notes on a 1:1 basis and commission an in-house development”, says Volker Schubbert, who looks after the project for the customer. But this approach was later rejected as the costs were too high.
Instead, a way was sought jointly with DB Systel to use existing software for the tablets. Together with partner SAP, a solution was quickly found. It turned out that about 75 percent of the required functions are already covered by standard SAP applications.
“The collaboration of all those involved, including the software partner SAP, was excellent right from the start”, says Mona Hohendorf, who is handling the project on behalf of DB Systel. SAP had given the partners extensive coaching in programming by means of consultations and training courses. The concept was drawn up in mixed teams. These included – apart from the partners mentioned above – representatives of the customer from head office, the depots and the works council.
Decision in favour of Android
As three quarters of the functions needed were already available, the programming effort for DB Systel was considerably reduced. The underlying functions were created in the initial stage on the basis of the SAP standard. The key in-house developments were the checklist solution and implementing legally compliant double-checks on orders, in order to guarantee the dual control principle.
“Ultimately we made the conscious decision in favour of Android as the operating system, because other rail companies are also using this software“, says Schubbert. In this way, various applications can be used on a single device. The application was programmed in such a way that it can run on various platforms and devices without any great effort. This eliminates the need for possible future hardware modifications.
Robust outdoor devices
Commercially available tablets are to be used. The team ultimately decided on tablets with eight or ten-inch screens. “The outdoor devices have the advantage that they are more robust than normal tablets and better meet the requirements in the working environment of a maintenance depot”, says Schubbert.
DIVA was tested in practice in January and February in three pilot depots in order to guarantee the process security. These explored the potential for improvement in a real working environment.
So far, the feedback has all been very positive. “Users have awarded us top marks for user-friendliness and for the training”, adds Schubbert. There were reassuringly few reservations.
Here, at DB Fernverkehr AG, we are now using mature products to digitalise our maintenance services. For instance, our work orders are now on tablets.
“Together, we have solved all the challenges”, says Hohendorf. All those involved in the joint teams worked on a very target-oriented basis. Schubbert is also impressed by the joint development: “Due to the close collaboration, everyone had the same objective and contributed toward achieving this aim with their own individual skills. This enabled us to achieve a joint success.”
After a second pilot project in July, which included a full-scale practical test, trial operation for DIVA began in the pilot depots. By mid-2017, all depots are expected to have converted to this paperless method of working. This will herald a new era in maintenance for DB Fernverkehr.