© gettyimages (Monty Rakusen)

Digital analysis of the track system

En route to transparent tracks

02/2019 – The digital recording of the track condition is taking significant strides forward: the new database technology, SAP Business Warehouse on HANA, makes possible the paperless inspection of track magnets. And it does not stop there.

Monitoring 30,000 kilometres of rail together with points and overhead lines is a mammoth task. Especially when the measurements are made with 20-year-old systems and recorded on paper. To remedy this situation, the project “Integration of the digitalization condition recording of the track system” (IdZ) was launched three years ago. The objective: to replace the old “Integrated Inspection System” (IIS). Users are now noticing the first changes: farewell to paper records. And that’s not all:

Digital maintenance of the landscape

IdZ is a joint project by DB Track and DB Systel. Among other things, their digital experts are enabling the expansion of the old system in the SAP data platform HANA. “The process started in 2017. Now the first results can be seen,” says Marco Faber, head of the Solution Center Business Warehouse at DB Systel.

The pivotal point of the change is the relocation of data into the SAP Business Warehouse on HANA (BW on HANA) – the first of its type at Deutsche Bahn. “The subproject ‘Migration to BW on HANA Cloud’ has run very well”, reports Daniel Pöppelmann. He is Product Owner of the DB Systel Team, which focuses on the Big Data platform HANA, and architect of the IdZ project. Together with DB Track, DB Systel analysed which IIS functionalities, interfaces and data are to be transferred to the SAP system and is now implementing this.

Result: “Out of a complex four-system environment we have created three clear systems: two productive environments and one simulation solution”, reports Pöppelmann. The latter had formerly been split in order to safeguard performance. HANA however is capable of managing this without a division into several systems. This is because memory technology and a column-based database technology facilitate performance that is 30 percent faster than the old database system.

UX-compliant without compromises

Yet in addition to the implementation of the new Business Intelligence database, quite practical improvements are also pending. In the second quarter of 2019 the inspection of the track magnets will receive significantly better functional support and will minimise system breaks.

The IdZ project provides staff with a modern IT tool for track magnet inspection. Using the new tool, the quality is improved, the processing of data is speeded up and, thanks to the integration in SAP, all work steps are performed seamlessly in one system.

The workstream leading to the new operator interface is characterised by agile procedures and methods of the classic waterfall model. “To make sure that the customer, DB Track, obtained results quickly, we cut the overall subject matter into small building blocks, which could be implemented in parallel”, explains Pöppelmann. In addition, there were interviews with stakeholders, team leaders and users, numerous click dummies and a test camp. The result is UX-compliant: The digital support of the track magnet inspection now facilitates tools and processes optimised for the end user. Recording the data becomes easier. And the digital auditability makes the printing of long paper records superfluous.

The new track magnet inspection offers an operator interface, optimised for end users, which has been implemented jointly with stakeholders, team leaders and users on a UX-compliant basis.

© DB Systel GmbH

Correcting defects before they appear

Moreover, HANA will soon be capable of recognising patterns in the measurement data which point to incipient defects – in other words, predictive maintenance by means of artificial intelligence. “We are currently setting up the basis for this”, says Pöppelmann. That is to say, HANA enables all data from maintenance messages and jobs from the last ten years to be stored and combined with the current measurement data from the last five years. “The HANA libraries facilitate AI methods, even for predictive maintenance”, says Pöppelmann. “We have already implemented the interfaces and started tackling the frontend solution.” During the second half of the year the next workstream (focussing on track geometry measurement) should already be finished. There is no question about it – the IdZ project will continue to be a talking point.