2017 Integrated Report – Departure into a new era

Digitalization in rail operations

Expansion of digital command and control technology

As part of a total of four pre-series production projects, we are continuing to press ahead with the digitalization of com­­mand and control technology (Leit- und Sicherungstechnik; LST), thereby laying the technical foundation for nationwide coverage with the European Train Control Sys­tem (ETCS) Level 2 and implementation of the operational control strat­­egy. The technical platform for this will be a modular signal tower with standardized interfaces (digital signal tower; DSTW) specified by DB Netze Track and an integrated operating station. Communications will be carried over an IP net­­­­­work specially developed to satisfy specific railway requirements, taking into account rail infrastructure safety require-­­ments. In the year under review, correspon­ding contracts were concluded for the implementation of the new technology.

For us, the standardized LST platform represents the basis for a later site rollout, which, over the long term, should replace the fragmented production system comprised of the most divergent generations of technology.

Use of wayside monitoring systems

Wayside monitoring takes advantage of digitalization by enabling predictive maintenance. The goal is to improve rail system quality while lowering maintenance costs by recognizing potential irregularities at an early stage so that malfunctions can be avoided. To that end, wayside moni­­tor­­­ing checks the condition of rolling stock in day-to-day operations. For acoustic diagnostics, microphones on the tracks record train noises. If the results deviate from the norm, vehicle maintenance is activated before any defect in the train can arise. In the year under review, a video-based sys­tem was intro­­­duced for the online analysis of cars for maintenance pur­poses. In the first half of 2018, a laser-based measuring sys­­­­­tem for the measurement of wheel sets is to be tested operationally.

Automated shunting locomotive at DB Cargo

Automatic and digital processes in rail freight transport are of great importance for competitiveness. For this reason, DB Cargo is investing in, among other things, the digitalization of its production centers – the marshaling yards. A first important milestone is the shunting locomotive, which has been converted into a fully automatic version that uses modern sensors and control technology to detect obstacles and people and automatically approaches the freight cars for shunting. Its processes are embedded into the entire control process of a marshaling yard. A pilot project is currently underway at the Munich North shunting station.

New Asset&Maintenance Digital Lab

One of the future topics in rail freight transport is the in­­creasing digitalization of vehicles and maintenance. Intelligent freight cars and locomotives and the digitalization of workshop processes are just a few of the topics being worked on at the Asset&Maintenance Digital Lab amspire, at the House of Logistics and Mobility in Frankfurt.

3-D printing for predictive maintenance

3-D printing in DB Group began at the end of 2015 with the printing of a simple coat hook. Since then, more than 3,000 spare parts of all kinds have been printed, and the trend is growing. The spectrum ranges from the ventilation grilles to headrests and transverse damper consoles. Whereas the first spare parts were exclusively made of plastic, metal components are now also produced in a powder printing process and used in high-speed transport. One example is the terminal box, which protects sensitive cables on a motor in the ICE. To maintain vehicles we need spare parts to be available immediately. Printing is faster and more flexible than conventional manufacturing processes and the vehicles are back in operation in no time at all.