Expert View: Staying competitive is key in the wheelset market

Posted: 7 May 2024 | | No comments yet

As technologies and awareness around wheelset maintenance have advanced in recent years, how has SZ-VIT adapted to make the most of this? Rok Čeh, dipl. inž. str., SŽ – VIT, Center Ptuj (wheelset maintenance) explains all.

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Staying competitive on the international market means we have to continually improve on our existing skills and keep abreast of the trends in wheelset processing technology. Our line of work requires us to keep adjusting to the guidelines, standards and needs of our customers. In order to hold certificates such as VPI and ECM, one has to stay on top of trends in wheelset maintenance. To this end, we are modernising our production processes with new CNC lathes and upgrading our existing machines and equipment. The latter, which have been in service for many years, have often proved extremely useful in meeting the specific needs of our customers. Our case-by-case approach and ability to accommodate each maintenance request is something our company is known for. Our team of technicians is equipped with the right tools to take on complex repairs, which are both time- and skill-intensive.

Next year, the railway celebrates it’s 200th anniversary as an industry and SZ-VIT has had a market presence of over 170 of those years, what do you expect the next 100 years to bring?

While it is difficult to say what will happen in a 100 years’ time, it is likely that things will continue heading towards digitalisation and optimisation, which will speed up the machining process and further slash rolling stock downtime for maintenance.

Based on the current trends, efficiency is likely to see even more improvement. Preserving the natural environment will be playing an ever more important role in where progress is headed to, so the scope of electrification and hydrogen-powered traction is expected to continue rising, with a chance of new, carbon-neutral fuels to be discovered along the way. Magnetic bullet trains, or maglevs will most likely be the go-to choice for long-distance passenger transport, albeit this will be largely dependent on sizeable investment in rolling stock and infrastructure.

Maintenance suppliers will have to adjust to new technologies, much like we have been doing the past 170 years. From the early days of steam traction to the present-day diesel and electrical vehicles, our growth has been driven by current demand. And we continue to build on that knowledge with every new vehicles added to our customer’s fleet.

Does SZ-VIT collect data with each maintenance check/ repair of bogies and wheelsets? If so, how is this data then used for further understanding the maintenance cycle?

Maintenance data is recorded throughout the maintenance process, stored and later sent to the keeper or the ECM for processing. The keeper can use this data for analytic purposes in maintenance and procurement scheduling.

The rail industry is facing a challenge in attracting the next generation of engineers and experts. Does SZ-VIT offer an apprenticeship scheme to their maintenance department?

We have a scholarship and apprenticeship scheme in place to attract new people into this line of business, and we work together with schools and colleges to provide practical, hands-on experience of how to maintain and repair rolling stock, be it during semesters or summer break. This gives the students the chance to meet their potential co-workers early on and to learn about the tech and work processes at our company. On completing their studies, the students can be recruited to do the work they studied for.


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