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Convincing All Along the Tram Line: Successful Start of the ZF Condition Monitoring System in Graz

Since the end of 2020, ZF's "connect@rail" condition monitoring system has been used in regular operation with the Austrian transport network Graz Linien.

Convincing All Along the Tram Line: Successful Start of the ZF Condition Monitoring System in Graz

  • Digital status monitoring detects wheel damage early on and simplifies maintenance planning
  • Higher hit rate with lower costs compared to previous solution
  • Convinced of the result: Expansion of cooperation already agreed

An initial interim report shows that the digital status monitoring for rail vehicles detects maintenance-relevant errors earlier, with more precision and more potential savings compared to the previous solution. Passengers and residents alike benefit from more safety and comfort. Thanks to the positive results, the partners want to expand their cooperation as planned.

In Graz, Austria, it is easy to reach safely your destination: They have a well-developed public transport system, including the tram network that transports passengers reliably and at regular intervals through the city center of Graz. Thanks to ZF, this transport method has been even more efficient and, to the delight of passengers and residents alike, quieter since the end of 2020. Since then, Graz Linien city’s public transit company has been using the technology company's "connect@rail" digital condition monitoring system. The first interim report shows that ZF technology is convincing all along the line.

Detecting problems precisely, increasing safety and comfort
ZF's modular condition monitoring system monitors the condition of the rail tracks and wheels using bluetooth sensors on the vehicle bogie. Based on daily measurement data such as acceleration and vibrations, damage can be detected early on via cloud computing, contributing to fix it subsequently. This reduces downtimes and helps keep public transport running efficiently.

Wolfgang Malik, CEO of Holding Graz: "Our Holding is not only responsible for the functioning of the city but is also an exemplary environmental company. Whether water, waste, energy and above all mobility, the Holding sees everywhere its task in optimizing the use of resources and the quality factors of urban living spaces in Graz. The application of alternative energy, innovative drive technologies and an environmentally oriented traffic management from all levels are our TOP priorities.

Therefore, I am proud that, in cooperation with the global technology company ZF Group, intelligent sensors that can be used in the entire line network have been developed for efficient, emission-reduced tram operation. We'll keep at it: customer oriented – dynamic – innovative."

"For Graz as a growing city, the task in the coming years is to consume fewer resources and reduce harmful emissions, and to make intelligent use of existing infrastructure and limited urban space. The optimization of the municipal vehicle fleet, as well as intelligent traffic management are central requirements to be implemented in favor of public transport. In cooperation with ZF, first successful steps have already been taken at Graz Linien in the direction of increasing the efficiency of the rail infrastructure and, at the same time, significantly reducing noise pollution – for example for residents," says City Councilor Günter Riegler.

Mark Perz, Board Director of Mobility and Leisure adds: "As the largest mobility provider in the south of Austria, Graz Linien covers an annual distance of 13.2 million kilometers with its vehicle fleet. Safety and comfort of our passengers, as well as our driving personnel have top priority. With the digital monitoring system from ZF, we have been able to further increase the reliability and, above all, the safety of rail traffic."

"With connect@rail, we offer urban train operators a tailor-made and efficient condition monitoring solution. Thanks to cloud and sensor expertise, we are currently reliably detecting problems on the wheels. And more than that, we are working intensively on other functions that will also encompass infrastructure and driveline components in the future," explains Markus Gross, Head of ZF's Rail Drive Systems Product Line.

Safe vehicles for satisfied passengers and residents
The Graz Linien system currently focuses on so-called flat spots – uneven wear on the steel tires of the vehicles. As a result, the wheel no longer rolls gently over the rail, but slides or slips on the track. As a first consequence, you can usually hear and feel blows and rumbling while the train is in motion. In case of increased wear, further damage to the wheel and rail is possible.

But the safety of passengers and vehicles was not the only reason for Graz Linien to focus on this source of error. Residents also complained about noise nuisance. An initial attempt to detect flat spots using a stationary measuring system did not produce the expected success.

"Then we came into play," says Gross. "Together with Graz Linien, we designed our system to detect this type of error source early on and precisely." Only the installation of "connect@rail" provided the necessary information on the existing flat spots. Together with ZF, Graz Linien can now reduce consequential damage, as well as stress and comfort restrictions for people and environment.

Initial results point towards success
After a promising pilot phase in 2019, Graz Linien and ZF signed a cooperation agreement for continuous operation, initially in ten vehicles on eight lines. A good decision: Even in the first cycle since December 2020, eight flat spots could be correctly identified and rectified immediately after occurrence. Moreover, since the system was put into operation, no flat spots have been overlooked in the ten equipped vehicles. A system update at the end of March increased the quality of the predictions even more.

"With connect@rail, our repairs can be planned based on daily updates, thus reducing noise for the residents to a minimum. We save material and costs because we can turn the wheels in a targeted manner," says Thomas Kerschberger, Division Manager for Workshops at Graz Linien." In addition, we detect conspicuous vehicles early on, which we can then inspect in detail." In fact, the system was triggered in one tram particularly often – the ZF system assisted in troubleshooting and corresponding repair work could be initiated.

ZF and Graz Linien jointly presented the comprehensive results in Graz on June 16, 2021.

Partnership is being expanded
Less noise, less maintenance effort, optimized troubleshooting, shorter downtimes: ZF's digital status monitoring system is already a success story. There is no surprise that Graz Linien and ZF have already signed an agreement for further cooperation. Another 10 vehicles will be equipped with "connect@rail".

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