Research: Innovations to Optimise Overnight Maintenance

Having short overnight maintenance windows is a common challenge for metros globally. Overnight maintenance hours have reduced in 39% of COMET metros over the last five years and over half of them expected to face further pressure to increase service hours over the next five years. During overnight maintenance hours, metros typically spend less than 70% of the period on productive tasks (time-on-tools), which is normally between 2 and 3.5 hours each night.

The study reviews how metros measure performance regarding effectiveness and efficiency of overnight maintenance work, as well as barriers to overnight maintenance hours. Many metros have established procedures for identifying opportunities for innovations to address the barriers. The examples of innovations that have been used by metros to optimise different phases of overnight period include those relating to better advanced planning, changing maintenance philosophy, digitalisation of work orders, optimising staff travel and equipment deliveries, etc.

Research: Planning and Scheduling Work Affecting Revenue Service

All metros must carry out work to enable continued operations and to ensure safety and reliability. These works include not only routine maintenance (which occurs on an ongoing basis) but also periodic work to renew, upgrade, or even replace assets. While every effort is made to conduct these works outside of revenue service hours (during the few overnight engineering hours that most metros have), the volume and scale of some works ultimately require more extensive closures that impact revenue service. This study investigated how metros design work plans, manage and govern track access, and communicate work to customers.

Approximately half of responding metros allow work to impact revenue service, and with increasing demand and ageing infrastructure this seems likely to increase in the future. In general, metros are using three key criteria to determine whether a project should be allowed to affect revenue service: whether the disruption is unavoidable, how urgent the work is, and whether alternative transport can cope with the added demand. In terms of service design during work, selecting the right service strategy is not straightforward. Metros need to balance the impacts of different approaches on operations (e.g. resource needs), maintenance, customer service, and revenues. Finally, in terms of communicating service information, social media is a primary form of communication with customers now, but a mix of channels is still needed to ensure that metros’ diverse audiences are reached.

Research: Modern Maintenance Practices

Technological advances have created the opportunity to transform maintenance practices to develop cost-efficient infrastructure management and improved system performance with regard to safety and reliability. To consider balance between preventive and corrective maintenance for managing track, switches and crossings, and civil structures, the study looked into what the optimal balance should be. Incorporating flexibility and slack into maintenance plans and focusing on dealing with the constraints of staff scheduling and limited track access, are strategies to increase the proportion of preventive works.

By analysing time-use during track access, the study identified major causal factors for lost time during possession to be travel and preparation. Therefore the strategies used by metros to reduce lost time were outlined in the study. The study also looked at key factors that influence maintenance costs, as well as examined metros’ outsourcing strategies.

Automation was seen to reduce the volume of labour necessary, particularly in labour intensive activities such as on-foot inspections. Three main areas of future maintenance practices with potential were identified: better data, improved maintenance practices, and renewals. Good practices in these areas were listed as examples in the report.

Research: Using Data to Improve Maintenance

Ongoing developments in information technologies, specifically the ability to capture, store, and analyse large datasets, are creating significant opportunities to improve maintenance. The study explored the move towards predictive and data-driven maintenance within CoMET and Nova metros.

There is a clear trend in metros to move toward one asset information system. Integration of systems can bring benefits such as increased efficiency in management and data consistency. It is found that metros are adopting advanced technology (e.g. mobile devices, automatic monitoring systems) to collect data more efficiently. Collection of more detailed maintenance data and use dedicated staff to manage data are also used at the same time to improve data quality.

In order to acquire sufficient data for analysis, metros have initiated various pilot projects adding sensors to monitor asset condition. The study collected the good practices within metros in terms of data collection, analysis and applications, as well as the tangible benefits of data analysis. With the development of auto-monitoring systems and evolution of ‘big data’ analysis, there is a significant opportunity to unlock new understanding about asset performance and lifecycles.

Research: Management of Electronics Maintenance

Maintaining the electronics that support rolling stock fleets entails both repairing technology and managing obsolescence issues.  Metros’ strategy choices for electronics maintenance and repair include using in-house resources, outsourced, or a mix of both approaches. The study provided an overview of the key drivers and emerging issues related to electronics maintenance strategy. A balanced analysis considering costs of establishing and maintaining in-house staff and facilities, as well as the danger of over-reliance on outsourcing and losing the ability to remain an ‘Intelligent Customer’ should be taken into account.

A key role played by in-house teams is in the acquisition of spare parts, as obsolescence or supplier choices and finances lead to shrinking stock. Several approaches were discovered, from contractual agreements to a continuity of supply of spares, the use of alternative components and reverse engineering of parts.

As the lifecycles of electronics components are generally considerably shorter than the expected life of a train and its key subsystems, spares and supply management are essential to support the continued availability of electronics components. Regardless of the approach taken to ensuring sufficient supply of spares, developing strong relationships with key suppliers as well as leverage to maintain a strategic position appear to be a major success factor in managing electronics maintenance.