Digital Twin

To raise the efficiency, the Bonn-based company RailWatch is developing a digital twin for freight trains together with Metrans Rail (Germany). The aim is to significantly speed up technical checks on trains.

Processes must become faster, simpler and more efficient as the resources in rail traffic become more scarce. Rail is considered the most sustainable mode of transport and the aim is to increase its share of traffic in comparison with road significantly, that is the transported volumes, by 2030. Not only the journeys and the amount of goods on the rails have to increase to achieve this transition in the mode of transport, the associated processes also have to be optimised.

Industry 4.0 for the railways

At the moment, freight trains have to be checked for damage to carriages, loads and engine before every departure – whether from ports, terminals or industrial operations. In rain or shine, day and night, the responsible wagon technicians have to go out. This is a huge undertaking, but there is another way.

In the new test project “DigiTwin” the state of the carriage is recorded during transition using wayside monitoring, sensors in the tracks and artificial intelligence. The data is transferred to the wagon technicians per app. It’s hard to think of a more convenient and safer way of doing it. “It’s important that we give our wagon technicians the best support that we can and create digital aids that aren’t available on the market,” says Metrans Head of Railway Operations, Holger Westphal, about his company’s interest in the project.


Data empowers the Digital Twin

Everything that a wagon technician currently has to record is supposed to be shown in the DigiTwin project. The project is supported by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) “Future rail freight transport” funding programme.

The project is based on the catalogue of damages from the General Contract of Use for Wagons (AVV [Allgemeiner Vertrag für die Verwendung von Güterwagen]). The catalogue contains all items that must be checked to ensure the train is safe. This adds up to more than 100 different states and damages that the DigiTwin must recognise independently.

Perspectives and possibilities of the Digital Twin

The measuring system developed for the project is designed for use in terminals, ports and industrial settings. Before every train dispatch, the train’s digital twin can be checked in full which will significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to perform the train’s technical check. The wagon technician and the maintenance officer will already be aware of any problems with a carriage upon arrival.

“Digital process optimisation can be very simple and yet also save time and money,” explains Tobias Frede, CTO of RailWatch and Head of the DigiTwin Project. “This data allows us to advance safe, competitive and future-oriented rail freight traffic,” adds Frede.

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