Managing 4,520 trains, every day, DB Cargo is the largest European rail freight operator offering flexible, reliable single-wagon transport operations across Europe. With a workforce of over 30,000 employees, a fleet of almost 3,000 locomotives and more than 87,000 wagons of its own, DB is a major player in Europe’s rail freight network. With 4,200 customer sidings in Europe and a Europe-wide rail port network, the number of fixed access points to Europe’s largest rail freight network is a major benefit to customers without a siding of their own. DB Cargo is the first rail freight company to steer nearly 5,000 freight trains daily throughout Europe carrying circa 300 million tons of goods to their destination every year.
DB Cargo faces competition, not only from other rail freight operators, but also from other types of cargo transportation. Whilst the decline in oil prices over the past two years has benefitted road transportation, it has put rail transportation operators under increased economic pressure. DB were therefore highly incentivised to review and revise its business model.
The resulting programme “Zukunft Bahn” is the company’s strategy for renewal, their outlook on Internet of Things, and the 4th Industrial revolution.
It encompasses the enhancement of asset management, how to improve reliability and availability, guaranteeing safety and environmental performance, whilst simultaneously identifying how to reduce life cycle costs and drive operational efficiency. Data has therefore become the vital resource which informs the decision-making process, making it faster and better.
Another challenge was that new railway-certified hardware was specified for CBM standalone projects and used for the first time in this project and because the technology was new there were some teething issues with embedding the solution. This also meant that new CBM standalone applications had to be developed and tested. On top of this, DB selected a fleet of locomotives that are part of their international fleet, with country-specific native configurations, which required bespoke development for on-board sub-sets of software.
A third challenge was in delivery and customer support, since DB oversaw the equipment’s installation on site.
Nomad put into place a methodology to control and access the evolvement of the deployment. Using a simple but effective exchange of information process, it was possible to ensure the installation or quickly detect potential problems and identify their causes. Nomad Digital’s solution permits signal and event retrieval, processing and transmitting from DB’s Siemens locomotive fleets, making information available for near real-time and predictive condition assessment of these vehicles. Nomad delivered an embedded computer specially designed for CBM standalone projects that included a set of software solutions for managing data retrieval, processing and communications developed specifically and according to DB’s requirements.
All necessary hardware (rack shelf, cabling, fixings, circuit breakers, connectors, etc) was also designed, engineered, procured and supplied by Nomad. And a full set of supporting documentation was supplied, including: installation manual, bill of materials, cable drawings and individual compliance test protocols. DB Cargo’s team oversaw installation of all equipment on the locomotives, which enabled the transfer of knowledge regarding the hardware, reducing maintenance costs.
Nomad has, in previous projects, proven itself capable of being able to supply robust, reliable and flexible solutions to retrieve data from Siemens TMS vehicles. The proposed architecture has no impact on the operation of the locomotives and doesn’t requires any rehomologation processes post installation, and the GPS and GSM antennas were originally installed by Siemens.
Nomad was responsible for overseeing the installation of the first nine locomotives together with DB Cargo’s team. All other locomotives were installed by DB Cargo’s own staff using Nomad’s installation manual.
It became clear during the installation process that there were issues with the effectiveness of the GPS tracking and GSM connectivity. Through the process of installation and testing it became clear that retaining the native GSM/ GPS antennas as DB Cargo had preferred posed a challenge. Since they had endured long periods without testing some of them were defective and required replacement. Minor software updates were also necessary to optimise data transmission and retrieval in accordance to DB’s ongoing requirements.
DB is completing the installation programme themselves, scheduled around normal maintenance downtime in their depots.
Nomad’s solution has been developed through a process of collaboration with DB that directly reflects their renewal strategy and aligns firmly with their requirements to deliver on their vision presented through “Zukunft Bahn”.
DB’s global strategic development plan is a very bold one. The digitisation programme has a very broad scope and is its foundation for the overall success of the company.