Deutsche Bahn is investing 55 million EUR in new artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics technologies to support the maintenance of its growing ICE fleet.
On average, DB puts three new ICE trains into operation every month, resulting in a need to efficiently manage its maintenance procedures. The company is thus leveraging AI and robotics to help service its trains and return them to passenger operations more quickly.
Its new E-Check technology uses a camera and mobile underfloor device to thoroughly inspect ICE vehicles. AI is then used to evaluate the recordings and report any deviations from the target condition.
This technology can detect small inconsistencies such as a loose screw, as well as more significant issues such as an area in need of repair. In addition, it will identify blemishes such as damaged pictograms on the outside of the train.
The use of E-Check therefore relieves workers of standard tasks, enabling them to concentrate on more demanding tasks such as repairs.
In addition, this technology increases efficiency, as a 374-metre XXL ICE with 13 cars can be inspected by the camera system in just 5 minutes.
Cologne-Nippes has become the first ICE plant to be equipped with the new E-Check technologies, with Berlin, Dortmund, Hamburg and Munich set to follow by 2025.
“By using digital technology, we are revolutionising the maintenance of ICE trains. Thanks to E-Check, we can virtually create the capacity of an entire ICE factory. This means that the trains will be back in service for our passengers more quickly. With E-Check we are also facing the challenges of a growing fleet and the increasing shortage of skilled workers.”
Furthermore, DB has invested in ‘cobots’ to pump wastewater out of the vehicles and supply them with fresh water.
These fully automated robots can recognise the position of the connections on different types of trains. They can thus move along the ICE, open the flap and attach the appropriate connection. Once the supply or disposal is finished, the cobot removes the nozzles, closes the flap and moves to the next carriage.
With this system, the water supply and disposal on an XXL ICE takes one and a half hours, which is half as long as the time taken for humans to complete the task.
“This project shows the power that lies in the combination of digital technology and human expertise: employees are relieved and at the same time the maintenance capacity of the site increases by 25 percent. In view of our rapidly growing ICE fleet, this is absolutely necessary. I am convinced that we as a society can only achieve our ambitious goals if we use innovative technologies on a large scale instead of thinking up reasons not to.”
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