Revolutionizing Railway Maintenance: Alstom’s Digital Innovations and Sustainable Initiatives 

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Metro Rail News conducted an in-person interview with Mr. Anil Kumar Saini, Managing Director of Rolling Stock at Alstom, India, at Saharanpur Depot, where the WAG12 Locomotives ( Wide gauge, Alternating Current, Goods traffic locomotive-12) are undergoing maintenance. 

He talks about Alstom’s innovative approach to predictive maintenance in the rapidly advancing digital landscape of railway applications. He sheds light on the strategic placement of depot maintenance facilities, emphasising job creation and diversity. Addressing the skill gap in the workforce, he discusses internship trends and ongoing skill-building programs. The conversation concludes with Alstom’s commitment to sustainability, local MSME support, and openness to future opportunities in India.

Wide gauge, Alternating Current, Goods traffic locomotive-12– One of the world’s most powerful (12,000 HP) locomotives for freight carriage developed by Alstom in technological collaboration with Indian railways.

Here are the Edited excerpts: 

01. How are you leveraging digital technology for predictive maintenance over here? Both aspects are pertinent.

Your inquiry addresses a vital issue as digitalisation advances quickly in railway applications. Generally, railway vehicles have numerous components, e.g. power, electrical, pneumatic and mechanical parts. High-quality sensors are now available to connect to various equipment to collect data/parameters related to the health of a particular piece of equipment. These sensors and geotagging methods enable us to gather all data/parameters in real-time while the rail vehicle operates in the field. This data is then fed into a digital asset management system that we refer to as Health Hub. With the help of Health Hub, we assist the train driver/loco pilot in the event of any troubleshooting requirements in the field. We can optimise our maintenance schedule by leveraging this data and moving towards predictive maintenance. This also helps us optimise the maintenance effort and improve the availability & reliability of the fleet.

Training facility at Alstom, Saharanpur

02. Could you explain the strategy behind placing the depot maintenance in Saharanpur? You’ve also mentioned opening a depot maintenance in Nagpur. Will it provide the same facility, or are there any improvements in maintaining the locomotives?

The determination of Saharanpur’s depot maintenance location is made by Indian Railways, based on their comprehensive planning for locating goods locomotive sheds. Regarding Nagpur, the facility will be almost identical to Saharanpur except for staffing. At Nagpur, all operational staff will be provided by Indian Railways, while Alstom retains managerial control and spare management. Thus, the maintenance in Nagpur is performed by Indian railways staff under the supervision of Alstom staff. This pioneers a very innovative model as planned by Indian Railways.

03. So, with the depot coming in Saharanpur and Nagpur, there will be some job creation on the local level. As per our understanding, you also include women in the workforce. What is the future of jobs in Alstom for our people?

Establishing new facilities, such as the Saharanpur depot or the Nagpur depot, has resulted in significant job creation, directly and indirectly. The direct job creation numbers around 500 individuals, while the indirect job creation may be almost twice that of direct job creation. This has contributed to the area’s development as we predominantly employ local individuals and provide them with the necessary skills for the job. Additionally, these individuals are trained to take up any new assignments that may arise from other projects. Diversity has always been a top priority for us across all the functions. Traditionally, the rail sector has had low levels of diversity regarding women in the workforce. However, we have employed 15% of women in working-level positions in Saharanpur. Our objective is to take this even further and reach 25% shortly.

Loco Maintenance facility at Alstom, Saharanpur

04. Out of curiosity, with our youngest population worldwide, more than our engineering colleges were needed to provide a workforce ready for use in the plant. Do you find any technical skill gap between what we have learned in college and what we use in the factories or any industry? How do you see it can be overcome?

In the present day, with engineering colleges producing a plethora of young graduates, it is essential to ponder over how they are being equipped with the necessary skills. Encouragingly, a notable shift occurs with students engaging in internships during their second, third, and fourth years, providing them with a firsthand understanding of industry dynamics. At Alstom, we’ve initiated several skill-building programs through our CSR initiatives. On completion of skill-building sessions, these individuals are recruited by various companies. Recently, a batch of about 30 people who underwent a skill-building programme in Madhepura has been recruited by a port company in Gujarat.

Mr Anil Kumar Saini with Managing editor of Metro rail News

05. During our conversation, you mentioned that Indian Railways are floating tenders for the overall lifetime of the product. Previously, they used to buy the locomotives, use them, and do maintenance work. Now, they call the vendors to give the product, buy the locomotive, supply it, and maintain it further. So, Alstom is a giant in locomotives, be it RRTs, Indian Railways, DFC, or Metro projects. We cannot imagine the Metro project without Alstom in the past 20 years. These are the recent changes by the government. But the locomotives and metro coaches need to be refurbished or overhauled. Are you planning to be part of that service for overhauling?

To provide a summary of the current approach adopted by the metro authorities and Indian Railway, it can be observed that a bundled contract is being offered, which includes supply and services for either 15 or 35 years, depending on the contract terms. This trend has become quite common in India today. As a company, Alstom has become fully integrated into this scheme and has a large stake in the service sector. For example, we maintain a high-power locomotive in Saharanpur & Nagpur and RRTS Trains in Duhai Depot. We are eager to partner with the metro authorities and Indian Railways in such initiatives.

06. What sustainability measures have Alstom undertaken to mitigate carbon emissions? You posed an exceptionally crucial inquiry today.

At Alstom, sustainability holds primary importance, encompassing various dimensions. We prioritise sustainability throughout our product lifecycle, from manufacturing to the product’s service life. Our focus revolves around employing high-grade, lightweight & recyclable materials, implementing modern manufacturing techniques, and curbing carbon emissions in the production stage.

Another pivotal aspect lies in enhancing our product’s operational efficiency. This involves maintaining top-tier equipment functionality and optimising the product’s energy efficiency. Extensive research and development initiatives actively explore improvements across the entire value chain.

Sustainability remains a central focus driving our efforts and initiatives, underscoring our commitment to sustainable practices at every stage of our operations.

07. How does Alstom support local MSMEs and contribute to developing a supplier ecosystem in India?

Let’s take the example of the WAG 12 Locomotive Project. It is worth noting that nearly 30 primary suppliers are involved, most of which are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that have been established in India through the transfer of technology by Alstom. We have achieved 90% localisation on this project and have thus trained these MSMEs ourselves. We have provided them a long-term order, depending on the contract period and supply duration. Only a few components are being exported from abroad. Similarly, localisation efforts are increasing for metro/regional trains as well. Therefore, we are effectively establishing a supplier eco-system that will cater to the country’s needs as we move forward in the rail sector.

Equipment facility at Alstom, Saharanpur

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