The Benefits of Remote Condition Monitoring (RCM) in the Railway Industry

Within the world of rail operations there is a dependency on the condition of the asset. We all understand that there is a requirement for rail companies to balance the cost of operations and regulatory compliance regarding safety standards, with the need of the general public to experience high network speeds and punctuality of service. One way in which rail companies have been able to out together focused preventative maintenance and self-correction procedures is through Remote Condition Monitoring (RCM).

It is a difficult proposition to maintain an accurate predictive analysis on a manual basis when the assets being monitored include railway networks that are located across large swathes of the country, with difficult and sometimes inaccessible terrain and alternating climactic conditions depending on the location. It makes for expensive manual projects and putting at risk the health and lives of the people tasked with the job of analysis.

Remote Condition Monitoring (RCM) ensures that there is a cost effective solution to thorough maintenance, even in cases where regular inspections are required in tough conditions. It provides a potential outcome for rail clients to automate condition measurements and to report asset failures and predicted asset failures in order to improve the maintenance and self-correction processes within that rail network. Over time this will significantly reduce the operating costs as well as improve the standard of productivity. In turn, these improvements are passed on to the paying public.

With RCM there is a vast improvement in both punctuality and network velocity, which are considered to be primary targets of the rail industry as a whole. The automated system helps to cut down the excessive cost and time associated with manual inspections that have to take place on regular (sometimes daily) occasions. Utilising applications that include sensors to process conditions RCM helps to provide services that are uninterrupted, allowing for a preventative approach instead of a reactive one.

A major issue within the rail industry is that of planned maintenance and the reaction to defects of assets. All assets are inspected during planned maintenance breaks before being signed off for use. When a part defects however, engineers are expected to visit the site of the breakdown. With RCM this process is improved considerably. Using automatic detection methods all aspects of an asset can be assessed remotely, working out when batteries require replacing to provide electrical backup for mileposts alongside rail tracks, to ensure that wheels are replaced in advance of them becoming defective, for legacy door systems to be in full working order, and for a whole host of other rail asset applications and processes.

A preventative approach is the only way to increase standards across the board within the rail industry, and RCM is a fantastic way to do so in a cost effective manner. It is practical and better for rail employees and the general public to maintain rail assets rather than stick with the traditional fix on fail approach. Remote Condition Monitoring and other technical advancements will continue to improve the possibilities for the rail industry in the coming years.