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Charlotte Stonestreet

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Let's not wait 50 years 31/08/2017

Recently I read with interest an article by Tim Harford exploring “Why didn’t electricity immediately change manufacturing?”. In it, Harford recalls economists in the 1980s having widely held scepticism about the adoption of computerisation resulting in a positive impact on productivity levels; he likens it to the situation 100 years earlier when the then remarkable new developments involving electricity did not result in the surge in productivity that might have been expected.

In 1881, Thomas Edison, who had already invented reusable light bulbs in the late 1870s, built electricity generating stations in Manhattan and London; within a year, he was selling electricity as a commodity, and a year later, the first electric motors were driving manufacturing machinery. Yet by 1900, as Harford reports, less than 5% of mechanical drive power in American factories was coming from electric motors.

Despite the many, by then obvious, disadvantages of steam engines, very few factory owners chose to replace them with electric motors and draw clean and modern power from a nearby generating station. Looking at the reasons behind this, Harford points to the fact that unless factory owners started to think in a different way, the huge investment associated with replacing steam engines with electric motors actually produced pretty disappointing returns.

Yes, a motor could be made to slot into the old system, but it could also do so much more, delivering power exactly when and where needed. As Harford points out, steam-powered factories had to be arranged on the logic of the driveshaft; electricity meant you could organise factories on the logic of a production line.

However, it wasn’t until the 1920s that productivity levels in the US really took off, and although there were undoubtedly a great many contributing factors, economic historian Paul David gives much of the credit to the fact that manufacturers had finally figured out how to use technology that was nearly 50 years old.

Harford’s article got me thinking about today’s disruptive technologies, and whether it is possible to draw comparisons with the challenges faced by manufacturers at the end of the 19th century. Then, in order to take advantage of the electric motor, factory owners would have to completely change the production process. In contrast, today it is possible to implement the latest Industry 4.0 technologies in just a small part of the production process – effectively enabling potential users to begin with a small step. And often, just one small step can reap big benefits. That’s not to say a complete overhaul and adoption of smart technologies doesn’t have its place, it’s just that total process change is not always necessary in order to reap the benefits.

While any new, or indeed evolving, technology is always going to need adopters to start thinking in different ways, I am hopeful that we won’t have to wait nearly half a century before today’s amazing developments are fully embraced!

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Cyber security wake-up call 03/07/2017

With cases like the WannaCry ransom wear being targeted at high profile organisations including the NHS, and more recently the latest version of Petya causing permanent and irreversible damage to disks in organisations stretching from law firms in the USA to construction companies in France hitting the headlines it seems as if the proliferation of cyber attacks is on a sharp upward trajectory.

While WannaCry wasn’t specifically designed to target industrial control systems, many manufacturers were among the 230,000+ computers it infected across 150 countries, including production operations of Nissan, PetroChina and Renault. Add to this, the latest version of Petya (dubbed NotPetya  because it differed from an earlier iteration) taking out Ukraine’s power grid, railways and communications, and infecting pharma company Merck and food giant Mondelez International in the US, and the industrial sector really should be getting something of a wake-up call.

It stands to reason that, as Industry 4.0, IIoT and smart factories drive the convergence between the IT and OT parts of companies in the industrial sector, their vulnerability to cyber attack by malware intended primarily to target the business or infrastructure sectors will increase.

Plus, it’s not just ‘general’ malware that poses a risk: Perhaps an even more frightening prospect, Industroyer is the second known case of a virus built and released specifically to disrupt industrial control systems, the first being first was Stuxnet. Industroyer attacks electricity substations and circuit breakers using industrial communication protocols which are standardised across different types – from power, water and gas supply to transportation control.

A timely report from Crest, the not-for-profit accreditation body representing the technical information security industry, highlights a pressing need to improve cyber security in Industrial Control System (ICS) environments to avoid future breaches that could impact critical national infrastructure.

Its latest position paper, ‘Industrial Control Systems: Technical Security Assurance’ identifies a number of challenges and suggests that more technical security testing has a significant role to play in ensuring higher levels of security assurance are met.
Drawing on the diverse views of the Industrial Control Systems and technical security communities and the paper proposes a model for gaining greater assurance in ICS environments. It was based on the findings of a research project - which looked to set out the main challenges and possible solutions for protecting Industrial Control Systems, many of which are based on legacy technologies.

One of the key findings in the report is the absence of periodic standards-based technical security testing that is commonplace in many other industries. Because of this, asserts CREST, ICS environment owners and operators have no objective way of knowing whether cyber risk is being adequately managed and at present there is no definitive standard for testing ICS environments that is mandated by regulatory bodies. The fact that ICS environments are rapidly changing also leads to a higher degree of exposure.
“ICS environment owners require assurances that risk is being identified, assessed and evaluated. Above all else they need to know that there are appropriate measures in place to manage and mitigate risk,” says Ian Glover, president of CREST.

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Back to the future 22/05/2017

While some may argue that industry, manufacturing and technology – as covered in CDA – are not political issues (indeed, the CDA editorial team has had feedback from some readers indicating this view in no uncertain terms!), I am of the opinion that these subjects are of utmost political importance.

Indeed, in the light of the UK’s vote to leave the EU, and the current Government’s intention to also break away from the European single market, the strength of these sectors is absolutely vital if the UK is to hold its own in the global market.

Therefore, as the various political parties gave detail of their manifestos this week, I was keen to see how how these issues featured and whether there were any firm promises to be welcomed. To be honest, I think maybe I was being a bit naive in hoping for moves to strengthen the industrial sector to be at the heart of any political party’s manifesto - but I can’t help feeling a bit disappointed that there seems to be very little of substance to welcome.

Of course, one of the Labour Party’s main commitments is to renationalise mail, rail and energy firms. Perhaps depending on where you consume the majority of your news from, this could be a good or a bad thing. While much of the right wing press is bleating about a “return to the seventies”, it is worth considering that many of our European counterparts retain a strong element of public ownership in these areas and still provide a level of service that Southern Rail commuters can old dream of.

While we’re talking about rail, it should be noted tthat Britain’s rail franchises are already owned and operated by state-owned companies; it's just that they are not the home state! For example, Arriva, which runs the Welsh railways, is part of Deutche Bahn, ScotRail is in the hands of the Dutch state rail operator, Abellio, Southeastern line is 35% owned by Kelios, the French state rail operator’s international subsidiary and the Essex-operator C2c is part of Trenitalia, the Italian state rail company.

And, on a bit of tangent, let’s not forget that EDF, which supplies many a domestic property with energy, actually stands for Électricité de France, which is largely owned by the the French state.

I’m by no means saying that renationalisation is a no brainer. There’s always the danger that state owned and run industries will be less than disciplined when it comes to budgetary issues. It might even be the case that such organisations will be run in the interests of the employees rather than the consumers (although in this day and age, that does seem to be somewhat unlikely). However, the UK really should look to its European neighbours and the way in which they successfully run state-owned industries before writing off reationalisation as a purely backwards step.

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A game of catch up? 31/03/2017

I was recently privileged to attend the launch of the new All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Founded and currently chaired by Conservative MP for Havant, Alan Mak, the APPG aims to support and promote the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) in Parliament, and encourage Government, Parliamentarians, academia, the private sector, and other stakeholders, to engage with 4IR-related issues.

With the Chancellor Philip Hammond as Guest of Honour, the event certainly conveyed the gravitas with which this hugely important development should be approached. And indeed, the positive and forward thinking attitude of all who spoke, along with the aims and objectives of the APPG must be praised.

There were, however, a few issues that I felt were rather conveniently avoided by all. The general message conveyed was that the UK is in a prime position to be at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution - and indeed, as one of the richest economies in the in the world, it is. However, when it comes to automation in the industrial sector (with some notable exceptions, for example automotive), the UK lags behind much of the developed world when it comes to investing in and implementing the latest technologies. If the UK is to lead Industry 4.0, this will have to change.

And then there’s the issue of whether the UK is already in a position of having to play catch up when it comes to I4.0. While there is undoubtedly a huge range of talented people in the UK working on/towards I4.0 associated technologies, it cannot be denied that many of the real trail blazers are already well-established, and that many of these companies and individuals are not in the UK! Indeed, I’ve had conversations with some in the industrial sector, who feel the UK has already missed the boat in terms of being at the fore of Industry 4.0.

In contrast, Germany is undoubtedly top of the pile when it comes to all things I4.0; indeed the German government was actually instrumental in coming up with the concept in the first place. Therefore, I was a little surprised when reading Alan Mak’s “Masters of the Revolution: Why the Fourth Industrial Revolution should be at the heart of Britain’s new Industrial Strategy” to note that both he and George Freeman, MP, were extolling the virtues of the UK no longer having to abide by “precautionary principle” post Brexit. While I appreciate this is all part of a bigger picture, Germany’s having to work in accordance with precautionary principle has by no means held the country back when it comes to I4.0. Therefore, I imagine that removing precautionary principle in the UK will make little or no difference to UK industry’s adoption and development of such enabled technology.

Of course, the launch of the APPG may not have been an appropriate time or place to consider these points. However, the fact does remain that such issues really do need to be addressed if the UK is to be competitive in an increasingly global economy.

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Trump versus automation 01/03/2017

Love him or hate him, there is no doubt that Donald Trump tapped into the hopes and fears of a large proportion of the US electorate throughout his highly divisive electoral campaign. And while so far it has been his measures to deliver on anti-immigration policies that have grabbed the headlines, it is important not to forget about the President’s promise that, despite an increasingly global economy, he is going to bring back jobs to America.

On the face of it, Trump does seem to have done just that. Ford and General Motors announced they will add or keep 700 and 7000 US jobs, respectively, thanks to new investment within the US. Amazon has plans to take on 100,000 new employees over the next 18 months and even Pizza Hut has announced plans to hire up to 11,000 workers in the near future.

There is however, a view that while Trump’s staunchly nationalistic stance on job creation and pledges of high tariffs on products sold in the U.S. but manufactured overseas have had an influence on this tranche of US investment, he cannot take all the credit. Companies don’t simply create jobs because someone tells them they should; capital allocation has to be approved and there has to be a great deal of product development before new plants can be planned, and this takes time, suggesting that these moves were in the pipeline way back when the idea that Trump would become President was little more than a dystopian episode of The Simpsons.

Then there’s the matter of automation; something that Trump seems to steadfastly ignore in his plans to “make America great again”. In his farewell speech Obama acknowledged the impact that increased automation is likely to have on traditional American blue-collar careers, asserting, “the next wave of economic dislocation won’t come from overseas. It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes many good, middle-class jobs obsolete”. In contrast, Trump doesn’t seem to have shown any inclination to address the issue at all, despite evidence that it has already undermined the decision by United Technologies not to move some 800 jobs in its Carrier arm from Indianapolis to Mexico - one of the few instances where it really did seem to be criticism from Trump that was the deciding factor in sticking to investment the US.

Rather than invest in Mexico, the company stuck with its US production facility, but decided to implement more automation as a way to cut costs. "We're going to make up the $16 million investment in that factory in Indianapolis to automate, to drive the cost down so that we can continue to be competitive," chief executive Greg Hayes is reported to have said. "What that ultimately means is there will be fewer jobs."

And therein lies a problem, not just for Trump’s America, but for economies worldwide; in order for companies to remain competitive they need to improve productivity, and the simplest way to improve productivity is to increase automation, and this is only ever going have detrimental effect on the blue-collar job sector.

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Wake up & smell the connectivity 11/01/2017

Industry 4.0, IIoT, Smart manufacturing, call it what you will, but it would seem that the age of the 4th Industrial revolution is well and truly upon us, at least in theory, if not practise, and as CDA enters its fifth year of publishing I can say that it is the overarching development to have dominated the market place since the magazine’s launch.

Industry 4.0, IIoT, Smart manufacturing, call it what you will, but it would seem that the age of the 4th Industrial revolution is well and truly upon us, at least in theory, if not practice, and as CDA enters its fifth year of publishing I can say that it is the overarching development to have dominated the market place since the magazine’s launch.

In same way that many different terms are used for 4IR, if you ask five people what they think is meant by the term, the chances are that you will get five different answers, which in many cases will reflect the vested business interests of the person giving the description. Understandably, this has lead to a degree of confusion  amongst some UK companies that could in fact benefit from implementing 4IR. Rather than embracing the developments, people are frustrated at what they perceive as a lack of clarity around what the concept actually is and some are naturally reticent to invest in something they don’t fully understand.

While my own personal idea of what 4IR means is probably as subjective, and indeed ambiguous, as the next person’s, one thing that I can be clear on is that if the UK industrial sector fails to uptake the latest developments, large swaths of it are in danger of being left behind in the global market. And as the UK will undoubtedly need to compete to an even great extent on the global market once it exits the EU, this is of vital importance.

In its recent report, The 4th Industrial Revolution: a primer for manufacturers, EEF The Manufacturer’s Association points to research showing that just 42% of companies surveyed felt that they are “familiar with the concept of the 4th industrial revolution” and a only a worrying 11% think the UK manufacturing sector is geared up to take advantage of 4IR.

Elsewhere analysis carried out by The Boston Consulting Group indicates that in Germany Industry 4.0 will be embraced, boosting productivity across all German manufacturing sectors by €90 billion to €150 billion. Productivity improvements on conversion costs, which exclude the cost of materials, will range from 15 to 25 percent. When the materials costs are factored in, productivity gains of 5 to 8 percent are expected. And let’s face it, who couldn’t do with that kind of increased productivity.

While CDA has always regularly covered 4IR and its associated technologies, from now on the magazine will feature a regular section dedicated to IIoT and Smart Technology, reflecting the increasing importance of the development. So if you are keen to find out more, make sure you check it out.

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On-site hero 11/10/2016

One of the many facets of Industry 4.0 and the ever-increasing levels of connectivity possible is that today’s technology can be used give engineers remote access to the sites and equipment they are responsible for.

We see nifty promotional videos of experienced engineers who are otherwise engaged (fishing seems to be a favoured pastime amongst the demographic), being swiftly and easily contacted, casting their eye over the available data or even a video of the process in question – all of which conveniently pops up on their ever present tablet – and solving the problem from anywhere in the world.

For any company with multiple or remote sites, this is an attractive proposition; experienced engineers do not have to spend time travelling to various sites and in theory, less people could cover more sites. The model could also help ease the shortfall of engineers being widely experienced, as well as saving money through increased efficiencies.

However, listening to the news this week about how Russian hackers allegedly carried out a powerful cyber attack against French television network, TV5Monde, got me thinking about whether operating remote engineers is such a great way of doing things after all.

Although this cyber attack did not take place in the industrial sector, it could easily have, with highly targeted malicious software being used to destroy TV5’s network systems.

Yves Bigot, director-general of TV5Monde, told the BBC: "We were a couple of hours from having the whole station gone for good."

What ensued was effectively a race against time, as more systems were infected with each passing minute. According to the BBC any substantial delay would have led satellite distribution channels to cancel their contracts, placing the entire company in jeopardy.

So what, or who, was the hero of the hour? It was the engineers, or course. And not remote engineers, but engineers who were on site. The cyber attack took place on the same day the network had launched its latest channel, which meant the technicians were on site.

"We were saved from total destruction by the fact we had launched the channel that day and the technicians were there," said Bigot.

"One of them was able to locate the very machine where the attack was taking place and he was able to cut out this machine from the internet and it stopped the attack.

"We owe a lot to the engineer who unplugged that particular machine. He is a hero here.”

What would have happened if the engineer hadn’t been on site? Who knows? As it was, TV5 had to wait months before being reconnected to the internet, forcing staff to resort to using fax machines as they couldn’t email.

So while the idea of remote engineering sounds good in principle, when it comes down to real life situations, in many cases you really can’t beat an engineer being there on-site.

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Brexit shows its face 29/09/2016

Love them or hate them, there is nothing quite like a trade exhibition to gauge the general mood of the market. Nowhere else is the opportunity presented to canvas a large number of businesses serving a similar sector in one place, and while it might have been Industry 4.0 that featured on many of the stands at this week’s Total PPMA event, it was definitely Brexit that dominated the conversation.

As the dust settles since the UK’s vote to leave the EU, for the average household in this nation of shoppers, things seem to have carried on pretty much as usual, with consumer spending showing little change. However, the picture is not so clear in the industrial world, as indicated by many of the conversations I had with both exhibitors at, and visitors to, the PPMA show.

One thing that most people I spoke to seemed to agree on was that for a good few months leading up the referendum, things were pretty tough, reinforcing the view that there’s nothing worse for commerce than uncertainty. However, since the vote to leave, things have been looking positive for some UK manufacturers, and while the weakened Pound may not be so great for your holiday spending money, it does mean that British exports are a more attractive option for buyers abroad. This was particularly the case for one company I spoke to, which exports around 80% of its output.

However, a representative of another company, also a net exporter, said that while the low Pound has had a positive impact on its order book, it has also meant that it is facing increased costs for raw materials that are imported into the UK. In this particular case, the company in question runs a very lean supply chain, and although this in itself does bring economic benefits, it has meant that it is also susceptible to the rising costs of imports resulting from the fall in Sterling. For the moment, the company is going to absorb these costs, rather than pass them on to the customer, however, this cannot continue indefinitely and indicates that purchase costs will have to rise.

For some UK businesses with parent companies abroad, both in the EU and further afield, there is a definite feeling of ‘we’ll have to wait and see’, although no one I spoke to seemed to think that there would be much investment in the UK market for the foreseeable future! And there are, of course, justifiable anxieties about what kind of trade agreement can be reached with the EU going forward.

Whatever people’s opinions, this is a huge issue for UK businesses across the board, and as quite a few people I spoke to were keen to point out, the UK hasn’t even triggered Article 50 yet, let alone actually left the EU, so what we are seeing today is definitely not a true indication of the reality of Brexit.

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Track side story 21/10/2015

Whether it is the Labour Party’s recent vote in favour of renationalisation, new compensation arrangements for disgruntled passengers, or the strategic case for HS2, the railways are never far from the headlines.

And little wonder because, not only does the sector provide a vital part of the infrastructure, but according to a report by economists Oxera for the Rail Delivery Group it also  contributes up to £10.1billion in added value to the national economy every year.

Key findings include sector benefits passengers and freight users by £14.3b a year; pp to 7.7m tonnes of CO2 emissions are saved per year by using the railway rather than other types of transport - valued at up to £460m annually; and up to 865 accidents prevented each year by the use of rail transport, leading to savings of up to £308m from the economic, medical and social costs that would be incurred by these accidents. Additionally,  the Rail Delivery Group asserts that  rail and its supply chain also supports 216,000 jobs and pays up to £4b in tax to the public purse.

Behind all these figures, the task of keeping the railways running reliably and safely, within budget is a colossal task, but one that results in fertile ground for technological development across a huge range of products and services.

Breakthrough technology

At Loughborough University engineers have come up with a failsafe track switch designed to eradicate a 200-year-old problem on the railway. The breakthrough technology known as Repoint is a robust and reliable points mechanism, which is is claimed will improve safety, reduce maintenance costs and boost capacity on the railways.

Supported by the UK Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), Repoint is the result of work carried out with industry experts into improved switches to override track switch failures which can lead to train derailment.

Using safety concepts derived from aerospace and the nuclear industry, Repoint corrects a failed switch through a patented arrangement of interlocking rail ends which incorporate a sliding arrangement similar to a breather switch. A lift and drop mechanism allows for expansion and provides an additional locking mechanism with virtually no friction losses.

The mechanism can also move the switch in fractions of a second compared to the current four seconds for conventional designs.

Professor Roger Dixon, head of the Control Systems Research Group, said the next step was to build a prototype switch to be trialled in a non-passenger environment either on a test track or a siding.

"Repoint is a robust alternative to conventional switches that breaks with 200 years of tradition to offer a change in design that is inherently failsafe and fit for a 21st century rail network,” he said.

"A standard switch takes around four seconds to move, during which time a train may have travelled a distance of 200 metres. Repoint’s ability to reduce this time to under a second improves rail capacity without the need to build new infrastructure. It also has the potential to deliver huge cost savings, and will result in a significant increase in reliability and safety to the rail industry worldwide.

The group is currently seeking development partners from around the world to help roll out the technology across international rail networks.

Track inspection

Combining high-speed high-resolution cameras and cutting-edge pattern recognition software to automate the detection of track defects, Omnicom Engineering’s OmniVision system has been installed on several specifically designed Measurement & Inspection trains. The system improves both the quality and safety of the process whilst saving huge amounts of time and money. Omnicom chose Multipix Imaging and its extensive vision component knowledge to assist in achieving the solution.

A Plain Line Pattern Recognition (PLPR) system, OmniVision consists of an image acquisition system called OmniInspector linked to a track geometry measurement system. The system includes linescan cameras, profile cameras, a high grade lighting system, positioning system, thermal cameras and image recording hardware. The system is designed to capture raw, uncompressed images to maintain maximum image quality whilst travelling at 125 mph and the cameras capturing at up to 76kHz. To accommodate the immense amount of data collected, a substantial amount of storage and image processing equipment is required.



All images are synchronised and positioned using the Real Time Positioning System (OmniRTPS). In addition, geometry data is synchronised with the imagery. The data is logged onto a high density, robust storage network on the vehicle. At the end of the shift, image processing algorithms are run on the images and candidate assets and defects are presented to the On Train Inspector for validation and reporting.

Multipix Imaging worked closely with Omnicom recommending and specifying the vision components; combining different aspects of machine vision technology, ranging from 3D to thermal, with the visual imagery being captured by a series of Basler Sprint Linescan cameras, with the scene being illuminated using ProPhotonix Cobra LED line lights. The high speed data is recorded uncompressed direct to hard disk using IOI Industries DVR CORE which is a Solid State Drive based storage device. The image data is then processed by MVTec’s HALCON and results are combined with the extensive set of data also being processed and stored, from other non-vision devices, which makes Omnicom’s OmniVision such a powerful solution.

Derailment protection

High performance sensors are helping rail operators to increase train maintenance intervals by using curve detection and derailment protection with on-bogie vibration measurement.

Micro-Sensor recently supplied curve detection systems for use on high speed trains on the Haramain High Speed Rail Project in Saudi Arabia. These high speed electric passenger trains travel at speeds of up to 300km/h across a 453km network between Medina and Mecca.

High vibrations resulting from the interactions between the train and the track can potentially cause a carriage to derail

For high speed trains that travel at speeds in excess of 160km/h, European rail industry regulations stipulate that these trains must be fitted with suitable derailment safety protection systems. High vibrations resulting from the interactions between the train and the track can potentially cause a carriage to derail.

For the Haramain High Speed Rail Project, Micro-Sensor supplied bogie-mounted vibration sensors for improved derailment protection and curve detection systems to monitor carriage/wagon tilt in curves for better control of lubrication of the wheels during curves in the track.

Vibration sensors for bogies often need to be customised to suit different train types. The environment on a bogie is also harsh, with risk of damage to the sensors if they are not adequately protected from dirt, dust, rainwater and flying debris (e.g. stones and gravel) underneath the train. In order to survive in this type of environment, Micro-Sensor vibration sensors are housed in stainless steel or high thickness aluminium and certified to IP68 and EN50155.

Unlike other curve detection devices used on trains, which measure centrifugal forces, the Micro-Sensor curve detector operates using a gyroscope. This innovative technology is not influenced by inclination of the track in the curves. Made from silicon, the gyroscope measures the angular velocity of the train on a continuous basis. The curve detector provides a current and voltage output to the train’s central electronic control system or onboard telemetry system. This reduces wear of the wheels and lubricant costs. In addition, the sensor can be used for collecting data for predictive maintenance of the wheels, which increases maintenance intervals and train availability. Furthermore, the measurement system can be retrofitted to existing trains.

Qualified to supply

Like any industry, the railway sector has a certain set of standards and assessments that must be met by suppliers. Stadium IGT, one of the UK’s longest established specialist Human Machine Interface (HMI) technology providers, has achieved qualification to the requirements of RISQS, the supplier management community for the GB transport industry. This achievement will allow Stadium IGT to rapidly grow their business in the the railway sector.

RISQS is managed by the Achilles Group, which creates and manages a global network of collaborative industry communities, allowing trading partners to share high quality, structured, real-time data enabling buyers across an industry sector to identify and manage risk and suppliers to increase market reach while increasing compliance and minimising costs for the network as a whole.

Achilles RISQS provides a service for the qualification of suppliers for all products and services that are procured by the UK railway industry. RISQS supports Network Rail, LUL/Transport for London, passenger, light rail and freight train operators, rolling stock organisations, main infrastructure contractors and other rail products and services providers in the management of supply chain risk. RISQS is an independent, third party qualification assessment of a supplier’s capability to supply products and services.

Stadium IGT touch screen control panels offer very rugged construction and patented LED backlighting for clear, ergonomic and reliable HMI applications. Products already manufactured by Stadium IGT for railway applications include platform emergency help points for underground train passengers and communications control panels for railway train communication systems.

Customer comfort

Switzerland’s national railway company, SBB CFF FFS, is operating high speed trains on conventional track improving customer service and comfort thanks to hydraulics solutions from Eaton.

Train operators have three goals when getting passengers from one destination to another – safety, comfort and speed. Running high speed train at speeds up to 250kph helps meet these needs, but the cost of installing dedicated high speed track, with gentle curves and gradients, is prohibitive for all but the most profitable routes.

The cost of installing dedicated high speed track is prohibitive for all but the most profitable routes

In the case of Switzerland, with its numerous mountains and lakes that crisscross the major routes, building a dedicated high-speed rail infrastructure is impractical. The alternate solution of running the high speed trains on conventional track would compromise passenger safety and comfort.

SBB has found a solution in the form of nineteen ETR 610 trains manufactured by Alstom. Each ETR 610 train comprises seven carriages, which can accommodate up to 430 passengers, and travels at speeds up to 250kph on regular rail routes.

Anyone travelling within a vehicle will experience the effects of inertia when rounding a bend – the centripetal force will press the passenger into the seat causing discomfort, while those standing can lose their balance. Tilting trains are designed to counteract the effects of inertia by compensating this g-force. Early ‘passive tilt’ trains relied on the inertial force to produce the tilt motion. More recently, however, a computer-controlled power mechanism is used to perform an ‘active tilt’ motion.

In reactive mode, bends in the track are detected by gyroscopes, which determine their precise angle, and by accelerometers situated on the first bogie of the lead car. The on-board computer ascertains the tilt angle required and transmits an order to each carriage’s bogie cylinders, timed according to their position and the speed of the train.

From its factory in Pessano, Italy, Eaton provided the powerful Hydraulic Power Units for each of the bogies. Each power unit contains Eaton’s PVM piston pumps, slip-in cartridge valves, servo vales and filtration products.


By reducing unsprung and simple suspended masses, the train’s dynamic behaviour has been optimised

This hydraulic tilting bogie activates the body shell’s tilting. To improve the train’s dynamic performance and passenger comfort, an active lateral air suspension system keeps the body shell centred. By reducing unsprung and simple suspended masses, the train’s dynamic behaviour has been optimised, and its wheel forces minimised.

The tilting pantograph is mounted on a sliding carriage that is fixed firmly to the roof of the train and also features Eaton hydraulic components. When the train tilts, an active counter-translation hydraulic system slides the carriage sideways to compensate for the tilt, allowing the pantograph to remain in its central position.

In anticipative mode, the system relies on a database of the line’s parameters. By comparing this data to information received by on-board sensors, the system can pinpoint the train’s exact position on the line at any moment and order the corresponding tilt for the route as it is reached. By reacting quicker at approaching bends, it is less sensitive to track irregularities and so can offer a smoother transition.

Connectivity solutions

Harting has wide range of connectivity solutions targeted at rail industry infrastructure applications, as well as RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) systems for asset management. One of the latest developments form the company for the sector is a design of pluggable inter-car jumper cable which carries electrical power, data and control signals. The jumpers use Han HPR rectangular connectors to ensure a robust connection to the vehicles, with the addition of industrial-grade Ha-VIS RFID transponders built into the connectors to improve the management and maintenance regime.

The RFID transponder tags give each jumper cable a unique identification, allowing full traceability from the tag attached to the connector. In conjunction with an antenna, lineside readers and purpose-designed software, the transponders allow the operator to monitor the performance of each jumper cable throughout its life. This includes the precise evaluation of wear, facilitating a switch to a condition-based rather than a periodic maintenance regime, reducing both downtime and cost.

RFID transponder tags give each jumper cable a unique identification

Harting’s RFID system also allows data recording from fast-moving trains. Successful tests have been carried out on complete Harting RFID systems involving robust, metal-housed transponders and communications software to allow the recording of data from trains travelling at over 120 km/h. Here, the transponders are mounted on the train and the RFID reader is typically housed in a switching cabinet mounted near the track in conformity with railway standards.

Key Points

  • Loughborough University engineers come up with a failsafe track switch designed to eradicate a 200-year-old problem on the railway
  • High performance sensors help rail operators to increase train maintenance intervals using curve detection and derailment protection
  • RFID systems with robust, metal-housed transponders and communications software allow recording of data from trains travelling over 120km/h



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SCADA looks to the future 20/10/2015

Inductive Automation has released Ignition v7.8, the latest version of its modular, web-based HMI, SCADA, and MES software platform. Ignition v7.8 boasts new features that can change how SCADA is used across the enterprise. Andy Pye looks at some of the new features

"Future-proofing” is rare in the world of technology, where the latest tech devices seem to become obsolete not long after they hit the market.

Used to create custom HMI, SCADA, and MES applications in process industries, the Ignition software platform extends the reach of conventional SCADA. The modular, web-based, and scalable software architecture performs true real-time analytics and is platform-independent. Inductive Automation was the first company to implement a native Java OPC-UA stack in January 2010, making its products 100% cross platform, which is rare for commercial SCADA vendors.

Anyone can download the full version of Ignition and use it for free in trial mode for an unlimited time. This allows users to have unlimited clients, tags, and connections and makes for a system that is fully scalable while being practical and affordable. A plant can expand its SCADA system into MES, or just use it for MES. Users have the freedom to add or remove modules without sending their licensing costs soaring, or adversely affecting the underlying system.

Added modules

The new Version 7.8 has added modules and features designed to ease connecting, managing, and analysing industrial data. Ignition v7.8's new Reporting Module allows users to build a variety of reports easily, and features automatic scheduling and delivery, query tools, and backwards-compatibility with reports made with the previous version. The new SQL Bridge Module, provides connectivity between OPC data and SQL databases. And the tag history capabilities in the previous version of the SQL Bridge Module are now available in the separate Tag Historian Module.

Ignition v7.8's scalability is expanded with the enterprise administration module (EAM), which enables enterprises to manage multiple-server architectures, including those that geographically dispersed. It is easier to control and monitor multiple Ignition gateways from one machine, as well as schedule, automate, and track maintenance tasks from one central location. The DNP3 Driver Module enables the Ignition OPC-UA server to work with the Distributed Network Protocol (DNP3).

The Omron NJ Driver (still in beta release) enables Ignition to communicate with the Omron NJ series of controllers. MES Modules are separately licensed Ignition plug-in modules that generally provide higher level functionality with less user development.

Perhaps the most powerful yet perhaps most overlooked new feature in Inductive Automation's release of Ignition v7.8 is the new web-based documentation, which includes user commenting on each section, examples, a new interface, and new graphics.

Mobility for supervisory systems

Independent provider of HMI/SCADA software, ARC Informatique, and specialist in the design and development of products and solutions for the positioning and tracking of people and assets, Ubiquicom, have collaborated to offer a mobility solution.

The two companies are collaborating to instil mobility at the heart of supervisory systems by interfacing with established networks such as LoRa, Sigfox, etc. Based on real-time monitoring of biometric and environmental parameters, Ubiquicom adds an upper layer application to the PcVue Geo Map Control with its Locator Suite.

Easy to configure and performed via web services, these new features allow detection and tracking of people and assets directly displayed as PcVue markers (which can be symbols) in a geographical map. This detection and tracking is efficient, whether indoors and outdoors, regardless of the network´s type and available communications (GSM, WiFi, Bluetooth, BLE).


Key Points

  • Modular, web-based, and scalable software architecture performs true real-time analytics and is platform-independent
  • Scalability is expanded with the enterprise administration module (EAM), which enables enterprises to manage multiple-server architectures
  • New web-based documentation includes user commenting on each section, examples, a new interface, and new graphics

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Charlotte Stonestreet is an experienced b2b editor and has worked across a range of industrial titles including Handling & Storage Solutions, Factory Equipment and Materials Handling News.

She has also contributed to the 'Energy Procurement essential guide to excellence'.

Having gained a degree in English with Media Studies, Charlotte started out her publishing career on a voluntary basis, producing a newsletter for Mencap.