On November 17th the IRSE’s –International Technical Committee (ITC) was invited by Metro Madrid to visit their COMMIT remote diagnostics and tele-maintenance centre. (Centro de Operaciones de Mantenimiento y Monitorización de Instalaciones y Telecomunicociones” or Operation Centre for Maintenance and Monitoring of Facilities and Telecommunications). It is an impressive centre with a most bewildering array of interfaces to all sorts of technical systems on the Metro Madrid network. The aim is to implement remote diagnosis and “tele-maintenance” in a centre aimed at first level incident analysis and response for Metro Madrid’s technical systems in a centralised “incident response room.
A second goal is to implement a knowledge management system based on analysis of failure data and statistical data on the occurrence of these incidents,
Clearly Metro Madrid invests heavily in these systems as it improves their ability to deal rapidly with incidents, especially those that can be dealt with through switching to a backup unit, or rebooting it where possible remotely. Another benefit of course is that with more precise data on the nature and location of a malfunctioning unit, component or even printed circuit board, chances of dealing with it effectively, a technician bringing the correct spare etc, rise dramatically.
A third less evident option as mentioned is the ability to gather information on just how well their network is meeting its service level agreements and in doing so gather the data needed for future tenders, improvement contracts etc. The promotional video we were shown, made by Accenture (!) actually is full of all the right management buzz words and catch phrases about such matters. It just goes to show that engineering is not the only force driving such developments.
If those expectations can be met remains to be seen, the system has not been in operation for very long yet and if the staggering amount of widely differing interfaces to remote monitoring and diagnostics is anything to go by, the data that can be gathered will be just as diverse. It will take some doing to make sense of it and present it in easily digestible management reports. My old friend and professor Pieter Rookmaker, the ergonomist who helped us develop the ERTMS/ETCS DMI (driver machine interface) would have been appalled at what we saw I expect. And as it was, our hosts who admittedly were development engineers, not day to day users of the systems, also had some difficulty in locating the source and nature of some aggregated alarms. So whilst there is room for improvement, it is a very impressive effort and certainly worth the visit. Next years international IRSE convention in Madrid might just be a very good opportunity to go back and see the system for yourself. Provided you are an IRSE member of course.
There is a paper describing the system available called “Industrial Tele-Maintenance : “Extrapolation of the Experience in Railways to Industrial
Environments” by Mr. Carlos Rodríguez Sánchez, Mr. Francisco Javier Gonzëiez Fernández and Miss Laura Carmen Simón Vena that you might try get your hands on.
PS: Would you believe that apparently all maintenance personnel is despatched from that centre except for signalling? There someone else first needs to assess the skills required to deal with an incident and whom to dispatch.