According to this report, within the next 6 years, 52% of all working hours will be done by robots. Despite the predictions, little of this revolution can be detected in the railway sector. Compared to the automotive industry, where robots have been in use for many years, to handle, drill, weld, cut and fasten, in the processes of construction, the railway sector has considerable catching up to do.
In track construction and infrastructure maintenance, virtually no robots are used. There are also larger track construction systems that are mechanised and digitised, although they still require a high level of manual set up, intervention and control. But in regards to spot track maintenance, work processes are still almost entirely undertaken with hand guided machines.
The industry faces two major challenges in the next decade. Firstly, a demographic change, especially in Europe and Japan, is starting to lead to a significant workforce shortage. Network operators predict that up to 50 per cent of track maintenance staff will retire over the next eight years. Recruitment is proving increasingly difficult: Fewer and fewer people want to work on the railway infrastructure, in potentially dangerous conditions, all hours of the day and night, in all weathers and at unsocial times over a weekend and at public holidays. The second factor is one of diminishing track access time to do maintenance work. With greater demand to run more passenger and freight services the inevitable result is shorter possession times.
The Robel Solution: Robotics in track maintenance
Already well established as a specialist in the design and construction of railway maintenance equipment, Robel is ready to take the next step: In a new Robotics Technology Centre at the Freilassing site, a team of young engineers is researching the possibilities of automating a host of manual maintenance activities. Building on their experience on delivering in the field of hand guided machinery, systems and vehicles Robel will develop customer oriented robotic solutions for the next generation of track maintenance. A demonstration of the first laboratory applications for robotics in railway track maintenance are to be presented at Robel‘s in-house exhibition, 17th to 19th September 2019, at the technical centre in Freilassing, Germany.
Innovation Partners Wanted
Do you want to be involved in the creation of new solutions at Robel’s Robotics Technology Centre and help to deliver customer orientated solutions for the next generation of track construction machines?
Robel wishes to cooperate with innovative partners from the scientific community and the railway sector to develop new working procedures and realise the value 4.0 technology can add to track maintenance.
Dipl.-Ing.(FH) Gregor Schmid
Director of Business Unit Systems & Vehicles