Partnerships with an (Eco)System: ZF Group Strategically Expands connect@rail Cooperation

Partnerships with an (Eco)System: ZF Group Strategically Expands connect@rail Cooperation

  • Condition monitoring system increases efficiency, reliability and safety in rail traffic
  • Adaptive and modular: connect@rail can be extended precisely by customer-specific features
  • Successful partnerships with Schaeffler and DB Systemtechnik

With connect@rail, the condition monitoring system for driveline components and track infrastructure, ZF supports smooth operation in the rail network. In order to tailor the digital platform to customer requirements, ZF systematically and strategically expands partnerships with manufacturers, transport associations and other technology companies – for safe and reliable rail mobility.

ZF Group connect@rail

Mobility connects people. Rail transport is an important part of this connection. Many factors work together to ensure that everything runs like a well-oiled machine. One of them is predictive maintenance planning, so that operation is impaired as little as possible, even in peak times. An optimal predictive maintenance approach is possible with connect@rail by ZF – a digital condition monitoring system that monitors the condition of both the driveline components of the vehicles and the rail infrastructure.

Thanks to comprehensive hardware expertise and software know-how, ZF offers manufacturers and transport authorities many opportunities to identify potential sources of interference early on with connect@rail. The basis for this is provided by Bluetooth-based, wireless sensors (Heavy Duty TAGs), on-board telematics gateways, secure cloud connection, and a customer-specific dashboard for visualizing the evaluated data.

Markus Gross, Head of Product Line Rail Drive Systems at ZF, said:

“Many things work out better with teamwork. This also applies to rail and vehicle condition monitoring. With connect@rail, we already offer a turnkey solution for our customers, but the entire industry is united in the desire to become even better, more efficient and safer. To this end, we gladly extend our hand to other companies.”

ZF, therefore, relies on a comprehensive eco system based on its advanced technology and strong partnerships. The aim of this joint approach is to expand connect@rail to include precisely those features that can be used to monitor all of the important components within a single system. Two examples of successful cooperation are the collaborations with Schaeffler and DB Systemtechnik.

ZF and Schaeffler: Combined for Condition Monitoring of Rail Bearings

At InnoTrans 2018, ZF and Schaeffler announced a collaboration for the condition monitoring of wheelset bearings. As part of this collaboration, ZF took care of the sensors with the Heavy Duty TAGs and also provided the VCU Pro Onboard Unit gateways including cloud and dashboard connections, while Schaeffler programmed the appropriate analysis software. The partnership project has been continuously developing ever since. The system is currently undergoing extensive field tests at several operators. Meanwhile, several thousands of data records are automatically evaluated every month. In the future, ZF and Schaeffler want the monitoring to encompass not only axlebox bearings, but also drivetrain bearings.

Markus Gross, noted:

“The cooperation with Schaeffler shows that strong partnerships are a cornerstone for making the rail sector safer and more efficient with the help of digital solutions. We have found such a strong partner in Schaeffler – and are looking forward to further cooperation.”

Dr. Michael Holzapfel, commented:

“With our combined technical know-how and our common understanding of the entire rail system, this extraordinary cooperation enables us to tap the full potential of digital condition monitoring.”

Senior Vice President of the Rail Business Unit at Schaeffler, added:

“By continuously further developing our systems through mutual exchanges, we can sustainably improve rail transport in terms of economic efficiency and reliability. We are looking forward to our continued cooperation!”

ZF and DB Systemtechnik: From Testing to Ready for Volume Production

The collaboration between ZF and DB Systemtechnik, which was agreed last year, is also gaining pace. With the Continuous Track and Vehicle Monitoring (CTVM) project, the companies have their eye on rail infrastructure monitoring. For this purpose, ZF’s wheelset-mounted Heavy Duty TAGs continuously record information on acceleration and vibrations. The Continuous Track Monitoring (CTM) analysis tool from DB Systemtechnik detects the condition of the track position from the data collected. By means of enriched GPS data through the ZF gateway, the location can be precisely determined.

The cooperation started with the DB advanced TrainLab. Deutsche Bahn uses this lab on rails, actually two retrofitted ICE-TD trains, to test the latest technologies for rail transport. After initial tests with ZF sensors were promising, the connect@rail system was further developed together with DB Systemtechnik and supplemented with track monitoring as an additional feature. In fall 2021, the partners conducted a more extensive field test on a free route. Conclusion: CTVM is fully functional – and ready for the first customer application for the monitoring of tracks and vehicle components.

InnoTrans 2022: Speeches within the Innovation Forum at the ZF Booth

One of the main topics of the first ZF Innovation Forum at InnoTrans 2022 is the strategic importance of cooperation, especially regarding digital functions for the rail industry. The event at the company’s trade fair booth (Hall 20, Booth 580) starts on Thursday, September 22, 2022, at 4 p.m. In addition to ZF experts Alan Dittrich, Head of Digital Solutions Rail Drive Systems, and Carsten Münch, Sales Digital Solutions Rail Drive Systems, representatives of partner companies and customers will weigh in as well. Speakers include Dr. Jörg Heland, Head of Onboard Infrastructure Monitoring at DB Systemtechnik, and Dr. Michael Holzapfel, Senior Vice President of the Rail Business Unit (Industrial Europe) at Schaeffler.

This article was originally published by ZF Group.

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