6 min read
- As demand for rail transport has grown, Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has turned to digitization to help maintain critical assets, and keep trains moving reliably and safely.
- Digital Enterprise Workforce Management software automates paper-based processes, improves data quality and helps ensure regulatory compliance.
Australia is both the flattest continent on earth and, with the exception of Antarctica, the driest. One can travel the roughly 2,000 miles over its plains to Sydney from Perth without seeing anything for vast stretches. But don’t let that fool you, Australia’s population is forecast to double by 2070 (to 45 million people) and the majority of this increase will occur in its major cities; both Sydney and Melbourne will add approximately 3 million people each by around 2060.
This boom in population is already straining Australia’s transport sector in the form of increased road congestion, higher parking costs, and heightened public environmental concerns. As a result, public transportation is emerging as the preferred way to move people and freight from one part of Australia to another. And rail, in particular, is poised to play a significant role in meeting sustainability goals: Rail uses around 90% less energy than trucks per unit of freight and is the “only transport mode offering serious competition with trucks for land-based freight,” says the IEA.
ARTC is one of Australia’s largest rail network owners, operating and managing over 8,500 kilometers of standard gauge track in South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland. Responsible for over 20% of rail track on the continent and recognizing the economic and environmental benefits of rail, ARTC is on a mission to make rail the mode of choice in Australia’s logistics chain.
Digital solutions for critical assets
But as demand for rail transport has grown, so have the complexities of maintaining critical assets and ensuring their constant compliance with each state’s relevant occupational health and safety acts and regulations. Keeping the trains moving reliably and safely is a top priority for ARTC, and the company recognized that the digitization of its network could play a huge role in accomplishing this goal. ARTC has invested billions of dollars to build, extend and upgrade their network to get both passengers and freight off the road and onto rail.
Part of this investment was made over 15 years ago when ARTC deployed Hitachi ABB Power Grids’ Enterprise Asset Management (Ellipse EAM) solution to help plan, execute, and track the activities needed to maintain their rail infrastructure. This was only the first step in ARTC’s digital journey. Brian Green, General Manager, Asset Management from ARTC, explained, “There are really three categories of assets we have in our purview: infrastructure, people, and information.” ARTC found that it collected a high volume of information from field-based teams, but the quality of this data was low. Low quality data is costly both in terms of safety and productivity. Green continued, “We needed to transform our current system and processes in order to optimize the quality of the data we collect as an asset that we rely on in order to stay within regulatory compliance. Without this, we cannot ensure safe and efficient business operations…and here is where Digital Enterprise Workforce Management (WFM) comes in.”
Eliminating paper and reducing errors
ARTC has over 300 mobile workers servicing its entire network. Field work – including inspections and corrective work for the track, structures and signaling assets – was managed on paper and transcribed into spreadsheets. Data accuracy errors were a concern, and ARTC struggled to ensure that technicians consistently followed business practices in the asset management plan. Data input lags also negatively impacted safety, operational and productivity goals.
To effectively transform the business, ARTC decided to digitize not only its manual, paper-based processes, but also its entire enterprise strategy. The customer expanded the reach of its existing Ellipse EAM to allow maintenance managers to predefine process steps and data integrity rules to improve data quality as well as align work priorities in accordance with an asset’s criticality. Then, Digital Enterprise WFM provides frontline teams with predefined workflows to drive business best practices and standardized input options – all accessible with the touch of a screen on their mobile devices.
The digitization of the forms used for field data capture has given ARTC the ability to proactively improve their compliance metrics and their productivity. Network Rail Consulting was recently engaged to audit ARTC maintenance standards and compliance. The audit report found that “the achievement and monitoring of compliance are supported enormously by the embedded use of the Ellipse EAM System. The use of the EAM is as good as we have seen amongst our clients both in Australia and globally and we are continuing to work with Hitachi ABB Power Grids to enhance this yet further.” The report continued, “At Network Rail, we started to implement our system in 2003 and have continued to become one of the largest users of the system, particularly in the rail sector, and we recognize that ARTC’s use of this system, particularly with respect to managing defects, is world leading.”
Yep Min Teo, Vice President, Asia Pacific, from Hitachi ABB Power Grids continued, “Hitachi ABB Power Grids enables some of the world’s largest railway operators to minimize risks across their network, enhance operational and financial performance, and execute the right strategies for the future. We recognize that ARTC is a global leader in asset management practices and we are proud to be part of their journey.”
Empowering ARTC’s workforce
To ensure a smooth transition to the new tools and processes, ARTC partnered with Hitachi ABB Power Grids’ customer success organization to develop a change management and training program. “With the implementation of Digital Enterprise WFM, ARTC’s mobile workers turned in their clipboards, paper and pens in exchange for tablets and phones, and they have embraced this change,” said Brian Glawson, Senior Project Manager, Asset Systems.
ARTC has emerged as an industry role model based on how it rolled out this new solution to empower employees. The company is committed to educating and promoting the benefits of the system to its employees, driving engagement with local “lunch and learn” sessions and internal videos featuring early adopters of the system. Noel Milton, one of ARTC’s track inspectors said, “Our Digital Enterprise WFM solution proactively tells us what tasks have to be completed at a given time to remain in compliance. The system is very easy to use - we can see our tasks or work orders in a list or map view - and it allows us to update the status of our jobs extremely fast. This system saves me hours in productivity each week.”
Ultimately, this productivity translates into ARTC’s continued success in managing the seamless, safe transit of hundreds of freight and passenger trains across their network every day.