Understanding how Digital Technology is transforming the Supply Chain

Digital technology has been transforming business practices and processes for some time and the Industrial Revolution 4.0 is having a huge impact on all commercial sectors including the rail industry. The increasing expectations of passengers and government regulators are providing the impetus for train and network operators to invest in new systems and technology that will deliver long term financial and operational benefits.

The intent of the UK rail network could not be clearer, as highlighted by the launch of Network Rail’s Digital Railway. The Digital Railway intends to bring technologies e.g. signalling, for track and infrastructure together, along with the procurement for each. This places a greater emphasis on a fully ‘connected’ railway, which requires a slicker supply chain to support it, and contribute to operational and maintenance efficiencies.

An example of such performance gains will be the ability to keep trains running for longer without disruption by minimising planned or unscheduled maintenance interventions, enabling service episodes to be controlled by condition-based intelligence.

Presentation at Infrarail

David McGorman, Unipart Rail’s Digital Director, recently presented the concept of an integrated Condition Based Supply Chain at this year’s InfraRail exhibition. This involves the seamless management of real-time data and information, combined with multiple data sources relating to the asset, to deliver increased operational efficiencies and maintenance savings.

For the train or network operator there are many benefits in having a condition-based supply chain such as maintenance optimisation and increased asset availability. By moving from scheduled maintenance to maintenance by condition or preventative based maintenance there will be cost reductions and increased efficiencies to realised in the utilisation of client’s workforce who can focus on vehicle and track enhancements.

The Condition Based Supply Chain offers the seamless management of data and information, combined with data sources from the asset, to deliver increased operational efficiencies and maintenance savings. On asset sensors are one source of data, but other information can be used to help monitor and predict the need for replacement parts.

Instrumentel Web Portal

Data analytics services in reports, or automated online, can be used to inform a predictive maintenance regime. The Instrumentel web portal Paradigm Insight is used to display performance data, deliver notifications on any device, and provide transparency and traceability of the supply chain network.

The use of digital technology to improve the effectiveness of the supply chain will have a large impact on the 4Cs (Cost, Carbon, Customer and Capacity) that the UK rail industry has as performance imperatives.

Cost reductions

  • There will be cost reductions for maintenance operations as they become more focused on replacing parts that are actually wearing out
  • there will be less delivery vehicle movements as the supply chain is more co-ordinated to reduce carbon emissions
  • the customer will have more reliable vehicles to travel on as work-teams focus on train and track enhancements instead of maintenance tasks and
  • there will be increased capacity as the trains are out of service less regularly.

For more information about the Condition Based Supply Chain CLICK HERE.