Data hunters and gatherers

When it comes to bogie maintenance, Denis Becker enjoys an enviable position: Not only does he work right on the front lines in maintenance engineering at the Siemens Rail Service Center in Eving, Dortmund, he’s also involved in refining a product that’s used there on a daily basis. It’s the MoComp® Bogie Diagnostic Solution, which is used to gather, analyze, and evaluate data from acceleration sensors mounted in the bogies. We spoke with him about his work and the opportunities digitalization offers for the servicing business.

The MoComp Bogie Diagnostic Solution helps us to avoid unscheduled downtimes and optimize maintenance intervals to align them more closely with the actual condition of the components.
Denis Becker, Head of Maintenance Development Rhein-Ruhr-Express

In-operation diagnosis – for improved servicing quality

Bogies are one of the critical elements in ensuring the economic success of a rail vehicle, since they not only make the journey possible and have a strong influence on passenger comfort, but they also determine the lifecycle costs of the vehicle to a significant degree (approximately 30 percent). “For us, the bogie is a central component in our servicing activities,” Becker observes. “The bogies carry the entire weight of the vehicle, they transmit the traction to the rails, they are on the receiving end of all the forces of acceleration and deceleration – and they have to perform their services reliably, day in, day out, in ice and snow, in rain and in the heat of the summer.


With such a wide range of uses, it’s also obvious that their components are exposed to all kinds of stresses. That means it’s only logical that we have to pay particular attention to them every time the vehicles come in for servicing, using the opportunities offered by digitalization in particular.” He’s alluding to the MoComp® Bogie Diagnostic Solution, which records data from acceleration sensors while the vehicle is in operation, processes it on board and then transmits it landside to the server at the Service Center. For Becker, that’s a key step in the direction of better-quality servicing: “If we can gather data continuously, rather than sporadically in the Service depot, that gives us access to an entirely different database for our analyses. For example, it makes long-term trends much clearer, and the smallest anomalies that develop over an extended period will be picked up by our analytical algorithms. If I have only one measured value, then of course I can’t identify any patterns or deviations, unless the measured value differs significantly from the reference value. But even then, a time series makes the task of damage analysis easier.”

Plan maintenance predictively – for maximum availability

For Becker, the ability to plan predictively is the most important advantage of the MoComp® Bogie Diagnostic Solution, in addition to the improvement in damage analysis. The more data on the bogies is available, the easier it is to plan the maintenance work and the resources needed to perform it, from the required spare parts to the individual servicing tracks in the depot, since not all maintenance activities can be performed on all the tracks. “With the 84 trains we currently have in our Siemens Rail Service Center in Eving, Dortmund, you quickly realize how important early planning is for our activities,” Becker says. “It’s essential to ensure a high level of availability of the vehicles in the Rhine-Ruhr linked transport system, since the Rhein Ruhr Express connects key nodes in one of Europe’s most densely populated regions. That’s why we’re striving to enable almost 100-percent availability for these rail vehicles, for which we’ve given the customers a contractual assurance. To achieve this goal, we’re utilizing the data from the vehicles while they’re in operation, since that means we can make a better estimate of when individual components are about to suffer an outage. And so we can do a better job of preparing the servicing activities, better plan our tools, spare parts, and personnel, and get the vehicles back on the line again sooner.” 

Identifying what’s important – to ensure well founded decisions

The activities can also be better planned, because the analytical algorithms in the MoComp® Bogie Diagnostic Solution filter out random and non-recurring events (such as “running over a pebble on the rail”) and essentially restrict the analysis to service-relevant data. The algorithms used for the purposes are based on the collective vehicle and bogie expertise at Siemens Mobility, and are made available to users via the Railigent® Mobility Application Suite. Pre-analysis of the data directly on board helps guide the landside service technicians’ attention to the essential diagnostic information and help them with the planning and analysis.

Maintenance, research, and development all in one

And as always happens, whenever data is generated, there are people interested in it. In the case of MoComp®, the data from the Rail Service Center in Dortmund flows directly into improving the MoComp® Bogie Diagnostic Solution. That mainly involves making the analytical algorithms more accurate, with regard to long-term fleet analyses, for example, as Becker fully understands: “For the lifetime of the bogies we will continue to expect interesting developments that will also benefit our customers in many different ways – even if we have reached an advanced stage of development with 600,000 kilometers under our belts. Here’s a practical example: When we were analyzing the diagnostic data from the vehicle fleet, we observed the actual condition of some yaw dampers was worsening, but not all of them. We then proactively replaced the modules in question and sent them to the manufacturer for further analysis. It turned out that there was a defect in the dampers. The defect would not have been noticed with a visual inspection, since there was no external damage in the form of an oil leak, for example. Without our diagnostic data, there would have been no grounds to investigate the causes.” 

If 16 wheelsets on a vehicle have to be changed, then I as the maintenance operator need to know that as soon as possible, so I can plan accordingly.
Denis Becker, Head of Maintenance Development Rhein-Ruhr-Express

Improved safety, lower servicing costs

Here’s an example indicating where developments in servicing are headed, especially when the appropriate data is available: Detecting anomalies and wear at an early stage in order to take preventive action and plan maintenance at a suitably early stage. Becker comments: “That not only has the benefit of avoiding unscheduled downtimes but it also means we can optimize maintenance intervals to align them more closely with the actual condition of the components. A part of our responsibility as ECM2 lies in checking these intervals in actual operation and redefining them as appropriate. We rely not only on empirical values but also – thanks to MoComp® Bogie Diagnostic Solution – on reliable operational data. Based on this, and other maintenance information, we can work out the actual condition of the bogies and schedule the necessary maintenance intervals. Longer intervals can generate benefits in terms of availability and also material and personnel requirements, for example. And of course, preventive measures are much easier to plan than corrective measures.

Enabled by Railigent®

The advantage with the MoComp® Bogie Diagnostic Solution also lies in the fact it’s included in the Railigent Mobility Application Suite, whose user interface the Solution uses. The Application Suite thus offers the user of the bogie and drive diagnostic a detailed overview of fleet condition, the condition of the bogies (travel comfort and running stability), and their components (actual condition and remaining service life). “On that basis, we as the maintenance team can draw the right conclusions ourselves from the diagnostic information, and need additional support from the manufacturer only in exceptional cases,” Becker notes. “Railigent is essential to our work in this regard, since it gives us access to the worked-up bogie diagnostic data, and the vehicle itself is connected to our Maintenance Management System via Railigent, and can automatically generate work orders based on the transmitted data. Because all the data from the Maintenance Management System is also linked with Railigent, all the relevant diagnostic information is also present in the system, and can be worked up and displayed using easy-to-follow dashboards.” 

Becker explains: “The Health State and Time to Next Maintenance dashboard in Railigent provides an easy-to-follow representation of current fleet condition. Operators and maintenance personnel can see at a glance all the information they need on bogie and drive functions, and can thus provide digital support for their maintenance work, by being able to order required spare parts in good time and planning the availability of personnel, tools, and equipment at the service depot.”

In addition, vehicle and task-specific planning of maintenance activities helps ensure vehicle planning is as efficient as possible. By having detailed information on actual condition of the bogie components and their remaining service life, a bogie and drive diagnostics solution also helps simplify the overall task of maintenance management by automatically generating reports and work orders.


Manufacturer skills ensure a better ride

As a manufacturer of bogies and drive components, Siemens Mobility has an extensive understanding of systems and components, which feeds into the development of diagnostic algorithms, enabling damage and actual condition to be reliably detected. Continuous diagnosis of system and component performance also facilitates targeted causative analyses and a review of the effectiveness of maintenance activities. Ensuring components function safely is not the only focus, however: The combination of understanding the system and recording the interaction between bogie and track also enables a specific assessment of properties such as travel comfort and running stability. 

The combination of the MoComp® Bogie Diagnostic Solution and Railigent® makes it possible to provide the best possible support for maintenance.
Denis Becker, Head of Maintenance Development Rhein-Ruhr-Express

Knowing what’s important

Thanks to its modular system architecture, the MoComp® Bogie Diagnostic Solution can be coordinated with various applications and customer requirements. In addition to diagnosing the entire bogie, including among others the drive, wheelset, and bogie coupling elements, bogie and drive diagnostics can also be efficiently restricted to diagnosing the rotating components (drive and wheelset) or only the drive.