Interview Spotlight: Riccardo Pasinetti, Commercial Director, Lucchini RS
Riccardo Pasinetti, Commercial Director of Lucchini RS, explains how their Smartset innovative solution for condition-based maintenance of axles helps to significantly optimise maintenance costs and is a key solution in rail’s digital transformation.
Rail’s digital transformation is ongoing; how will Lucchini RS have to adapt to keep pace with change?
The emerging technological scenario is supporting a new generation of services, based on the performance reading of real-time data. This feature is now the must‑have across all industries, and the rail transportation industry is clearly included. This is, however, just a first step towards predictive strategies.
Trains are frequently brought out from service, limiting their availability, to verify critical components, including wheelset axles, which drives inefficiency and boosts maintenance times and costs even further.
Today, inspection intervals on wheelsets are not directly related to real service conditions, nor are they based on a crack propagation approach. The entire rail industry lacks a scientific tool that defines the correct maintenance periods, calculated with respect to the specific conditions of use.
Condition-based maintenance (CBM), that relies on real life problems, helps significantly to optimise the maintenance costs.
This is the approach Lucchini RS took with Smartset®, which has become the new standard for CBM of wheelset axles. By measuring rolling stock in operation and analysing the state of stresses of the wheelsets, it helps to optimise maintenance periods on the base of the real usage level with remarkable accuracy. This results in significantly reduced time and maintenance costs, while keeping or improving the safety level of inspections.
To what extent do you think a cross-sector approach to delivering innovation in rail is needed?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the future. There’s no doubt about that. But, as with any innovation, it should be supported by science and thoroughly tested. With Smartset®, we have brought these two components together. The Smartset® intelligent sensor is an electronic solution that measures and processes the bending and torsion loads on the wheelset axle and extrapolates the representative load spectra acting on the wheelsets during operations.
The other component is the Starcrack algorithm, which is a derivation of the famous Nasgro algorithm created by NASA. It calculates the crack propagation curve and, for a given inspection interval (km), it provides the probability of failure for different NDT methods.
By bringing together AI and smart sensors, Smartset® becomes a powerful tool that helps to reduce maintenance costs by optimising the maintenance plan of the train fleet in relation to its service line and increases vehicle service availability. Lucchini RS has studied and applied this algorithm for 20 years to guarantee maximum scientificity and accuracy. Our tests show that the Smartset® technology could reduce maintenance costs of wheelset NDT inspections by even more than 50 per cent, depending on the type of vehicle and track routes.
Fewer inspections and a much more efficient maintenance system eliminates huge profit drains due to unnecessary ‘train stops’ and leads to a higher return on investment (ROI).
Trains are becoming smarter, but do you think they are considerably safer as a result?
The final purpose of the Lucchini RS Smartset® solution is designed for the improvement of railway safety.
It is highly probable that the present maintenance periods are very conservative, as sufficient information is not available for their definition – not only creating huge money drains due to unnecessary ‘train stops’, but also lacking the ‘scientific’ and ‘contextualised’ data of the wheelset axle’s current state and safety.
Smartset® provides insights about the conditions of railway lines and allows managers to identify spots where higher loads are generated. When abnormal operating conditions of the vehicle or the line are detected, the system sends a warning in real-time to the operator.
Over time, the Smartset® algorithm can reduce the lifecycle cost of a railway system, monitoring and calculating the safest train/site/railway-specific axle inspection timeframe. It increases service competitiveness by creating ‘value in safety’.
Riccardo Pasinetti is responsible for coordinating the commercial policies of the Group. He is a supporter of the strategy, the only one in the world among wheel and axle manufacturers, to be globally at customers’ service bringing locally a unique product and service quality, according to the highest standards, suitable for all railway business applications, from high-speed to freight. He is a member of the ‘Impact Innovation’ Steering Committee and has promoted the introduction by Lucchini RS of predictive techniques based on big data and the Smartset® solution to spread in the railway sector the Condition Based Maintenance of the wheelset.