DB to expand digital maintenance efforts in bid to speed up checks
Deutsche Bahn is shifting its attention to AI-supported camera’s, robots and digital measuring systems to speed up maintenance on the S-Bahn commuter trains. The effort, which is now being scaled up, is also intended to counter-balance and dampen the effects of the shortage of skilled workers.
DB is feeling the pinch of an ever increasing fleet, which threatens to put a strain on maintenance staff, especially in light of a forecast shortage of skilled workers. The operator cites the example of Munich, Germany’s third-largest city. There, the fleet of commuter trains will grow by 16 units to reach 289 train sets. They all need to be maintained at the same Munich-Steinhausen S-Bahn plant, which in 2019 was selected as the proving ground for digital maintenance. According to the operator, digital tools and aids can cut down the average time spent on routine maintenance by 20 hours plant, per day.
The process that DB has set up, comprises a special camera gate at the entrance of the site. These images will be processed using artificial intelligence, so that the rolling stock will be checked for damage and/or irregularities. This, then, will eliminate the need for a visual inspection of the roof, which could take hours per train. Meanwhile, a digital measuring system using laser will check the condition of the wheels, while a robotic inspection unit reviews the underside of the trains. These three elements combined should provide staff with a clearer picture of the vehicle’s condition and maintenance need.
DB currently uses 14 camera’s at nine locations for its so-called camera gates. In the coming 29 months, another nine such gates will be installed across Germany. The number of automatic wheel set measuring systems is ten at present, but is forecast to grow to 14 in the coming 12 months.
While the Munich-Steinhausen S-Bahn plant will remain the centre piece of DB’s strategy for digital tools, the factories in Hamburg, Frankfurt and Stuttgart are set to receive those tools as well, in addition to two other sites.