Across the globe, rail network operators face the challenge of creating, optimising and maintaining complex rail networks. What was once a manual, administrative process of collecting inspection data on assets such as switches, tracks, overhead wiring, signals, stations and facilities, can now be streamlined and digitised with Aurecon’s Field Force App.
Field Force is a platform that allows users to quickly and accurately capture information on site and manage it effectively. Data is then sent back to a management interface where reports can be instantly generated in a range of different formats.
Citizens in countries all over the world rely on rail transportation more than ever as populations grow. The enormous challenge this sets for rail network operators means they have to expand capacity, improve performance and safety. This is where digital solutions can make a real and tangible difference.
On a recent project in Australia the Field Force App was used to conduct assessments of more than 900 electrical assets for a rail network. The site data was captured using the Field Force App and stored in a central website to produce a workflow Dashboard. Aurecon’s client was able to track the progress of the project, which is a vital enabler to the future of automated electrical switching for zoned track maintenance.
1. The Challenge
2. The Solution
3. The Results
Operations and maintenance serves as the lifeblood of large railway operations, identifying assets in need of repair or replacement for safe and efficient train operations.
This is why the Field Force App can be such a vital tool to digitise rail processes says Aurecon’s Energy Technical Director Renene Windsor.
"Using this technology in an innovative way is a groundbreaking transformation from paper-based operations to a digitally-enabled rail network operator. The platform is a powerful tool that can capture large amounts of data and ensures its seamless communication to the right people," says Windsor.
"The Field Force App makes life much easier for frontline employees and gives operators information at their fingertips."
When Aurecon’s Australian client needed to work on a section of track or electrical infrastructure, they had to manually isolate that section. This required an operator to drive out to every site, enter the rail corridor and manually isolate the supply.
Once the work was complete the operator had to drive out to each switch, substation or sectioning hut to re-energise the section.
The client’s intention was to automate electrical switching from the Control Centre for future maintenance works. The data captured by the Field Force App gave the wider Aurecon program a full set of digitised asset information to be used as an enabler for future electrical switching automation.
When Aurecon’s Field Force App was deployed on the electrical switching project in Australia the data captured from switching sites was presented in a Dashboard.
The Dashboard presented data in a visual way to show the real-time progress of information being captured from the 959 electrical assets. The platform showed clear workflow management and accountability. This was a fantastic communication tool between Aurecon, its client, and project stakeholders to open important dialogue about project progress.
Holding site asset data digitally reduces administration time and data manipulation risks because there’s less paper-based information handling.
"We know capturing data through an app is a much better experience for frontline employees. For our client in Australia it saves ongoing labour time, but it also provided digital data to Aurecon’s wider program of looking at new ways to automate maintenance processes in the rail context," says Windsor.
To create a digitised version of the rail network, Aurecon prepared an infrastructure review checklist for electrical assets.
The checklist was customised in the Field Force App used by engineers to identify which one of three upgrade options best suited each site based on complexity, age, availability of space and cost. The Field Force App also stored a Take 5 Safety Assessment specific for each site, and site photos tagged by GPS location.
All this data collection was leading to one future goal – a digitised map of the electrical network. When site upgrades are complete, Aurecon’s client can then automate switching in an accurate way for rail track maintenance, while maintaining safety.
The way the Field Force App and website worked was a perfect example of digital collaboration. It allowed for all captured site information and photographs to be housed in a central location and depending on assigned access rights, users had the permission to read or modify the data.
This helped to improve data security and prevented any undesirable data manipulation. And as part of this workflow, Aurecon’s internal scheduler and external Quantity Surveyor could access the raw data to create detailed construction schedules and cost estimates.
This project has really been an example of applying digital innovation in order to increase efficiency, minimise risks, improve collaboration and provide real-time transparency to management and clients.
Across the globe the Field Force App can support asset owners and operators as they face the challenges of creating, optimising and maintaining complex rail networks.