Railway systems assets are typically a combination of mechanical and electrical parts making their degradation and eventual failure difficult to predict.
The assets here refer to the electronic, electrical and mechanical systems associated with train operation, which do not include stations’ electrical and mechanical facilities, nor the structures. Railway systems assets include rolling stock (trains), signalling and control, telecommunications, power supply and traction power and trackwork.
We will look at opportunities that can be realised to improve asset life prediction despite unknown degradation and imprecise failure mode understanding, including:
- Supplier availability assessment, to increase the awareness of life cycle management of assets and how today’s decisions affect future procurement;
- Obsolescence assessment, to study current asset condition and remaining life, as well as the supply chains of assets;
- Staff, to consider how the maintenance strategy and approach affects the staff implementing it.
Supplier Availability Assessment
Railway systems assets are generally procured from overseas suppliers. Working with a variety of railway operators, this is typically attributed to: a lack of equipment supplier in-country; local suppliers lacking the technology; stiff competition during the supplier tendering process; and local suppliers lacking the quality of output to meet stringent international standards.
There is also often an assumption from procurement decision makers that they would receive the same level of support from an overseas supplier as they would from local suppliers. The supplier may even establish a local office temporarily and have this office serve as a pass-through for parts and service requests to be re-directed to the supplier’s base office outside the territory.
Two problems arise from this arrangement:
- Longer lead time for spares, and
- A lack of specialised engineers (supplier experts for design and rectification) stationing full-time in the local office.
Unless faults are foreseen in advance, the delay caused by sending and receiving parts forces equipment to stay idle for days awaiting the replacement parts’ arrival.
A worst-case scenario can arise when the procurement decision maker takes maintenance for granted. The maintainer must uphold the level of train service (as per key performance indicator) despite the problems of overseas supply.
Opportunity: To consider an optimal life cycle cost of an asset during tender specifications. With an increased awareness of life cycle management of assets, railway companies and government bodies can involve downstream stakeholders in the procurement planning of second-generation assets.