Busier rail networks mean busier depots and a greater burden on depot staff as well as existing infrastructure. Improving productivity and efficiency are key to reducing these pressures and to the continued successful operation of rail depots across the country.
Historically, coordination in depots has been based around a whiteboard, usually located in a control room or supervisor office. Information is handwritten on the board, detailing train expected arrivals and departures, together with the rolling stock maintenance tasks that need to be carried out.
Dissemination of the information on the board to staff working around the depot is a challenge, as is the fact that it could easily be misread due to unclear writing, or corrupted with one wipe, or even completely wiped off. All of these scenarios open up the potential for mistakes which could significantly affect the depot’s output.
A modern, IT-based solution would therefore seem a natural development, in the same way that computer-based applications have been created for so many other information processing and control activities.
UK-based rail technology company Zonegreen has met this challenge with its new Operator Planning Suite (OPS) – a ‘virtual whiteboard’ that has been designed solely for use in rail depots as a cost-effective replacement to whiteboards.
A multi-user, web-based graphical task planning application, OPS has a graphical map layout representing the depot, upon which users can position trains and create and assign maintenance tasks, together with schedules for train arrivals and departures.
Changes and progress can be entered electronically and are automatically and immediately recorded and updated on the system. Zonegreen says that this improved system reliability reduces the likelihood of communication failures and breakdowns.
OPS instantly transmits all information to any part in the depot – or elsewhere. It provides up-to-the minute information on any train in the depot including train ID, train location within the depot, expected arrival and departure times and types of maintenance required. This real-time operation allows maintenance information to be updated and displayed in an accurate and synchronised manner.
More than one copy of OPS’s information can function at the same time as the system uses cloud technology, allowing anyone with suitable login credentials to access the information anytime, anywhere. The system has various levels allowing for different levels of user rights of operation and access.
This feature is a real benefit to areas of an organisation located outside of the depot, especially in large maintenance organisations or Toc’s, as it means they can access up-to-the-minute information.
As well as to those in management and planning, the system is also useful to other depot staff; tasks can be shown in easy-to-read lists, making planning daily workloads simple.
OPS can also produce reports at the press of a button. All maintenance histories and logs are fully recorded, visible and traceable, allowing a user to produce activity reports for a specific vehicle or time period. Further features that unlike the whiteboard, ensure against loss of information.
Zonegreen says its Operator Planning Suite is an affordable and dedicated solution for rail depots, to augment depot planning, co-ordination and communication with the latest in modern, web-based technologies.