Capturing every detail
Track IQ’s customised wayside systems provide invaluable data to infrastructure and rolling stock operators and maintainers, helping them to optimise their processes and ensure their safe and reliable performance
While operating as a consultancy within the heavy haul and mining railway sectors, VIPAC discovered that using acoustics could give significant predictive maintenance alarms of specifically axle journal bearings of rolling stock. The ensuing productisation of the concept gave birth to the company Trackside Intelligence (now Track IQ) and the product called RailBAM (Rail Bearing Acoustic Monitor) – one of the most prolific and well-known solutions developed by the wayside systems designer and manufacturer.
It was at the close of the 20th century that the events described above took place. Since that time, Track IQ has not only made a couple of key acquisitions, but was itself acquired by Wabtec Corporation in 2015. “This was a massive step forward for the company, which gave us access to Wabtec’s infrastructure and capital,” comments Track IQ’s Operations Director, Europe, Nicholas Kay. “We have seen huge investment in our technology and its marketing, and the standardisation of policies and processes within the group has allowed us to tap into new global markets. Owing to the integration with a host of other parties, we are able to communicate internally with our sales colleagues based all over the world who can then identify what opportunities are available for our technology.”
The acquisition of WIM and WILD (weight in motion and wheel impact load detection) capabilities in 2002 and the more recent purchase of imaging technologies in 2017, have enabled the company to significantly expand its capabilities and geographic footprint. Today, the business has five offices on four continents, employing 55 people who design and manufacture Track IQ’s entire product range in-house, which is then delivered, installed, commissioned and supported by the team.
“In entirety, we have installed over 190 systems in over 120 locations across 16 countries on six continents, which is a testament to the robustness and longevity of our technology,” Nicholas notes. “It is key to establish that Track IQ provide solutions, not simply products. We stay in tune with what the customers are seeking and we are very much focused on supporting their long-term maintenance strategy, whilst addressing particular short-term safety issues. Many of our clients are rolling stock operators and maintainers, they are not experts in wayside diagnostics or signal analytics, so they rely on us to provide them with a stream of data, which they can use to make value-added decisions.”
As a company providing end-to-end solutions, Track IQ has aimed to achieve consistency in its work and by doing this, the company has succeeded in differentiating itself from other providers. “For more than 20 years, we have generated leading technology, with regards to accuracy and repeatability. By accuracy, I do not necessarily mean dimensional tolerance, but rather through continuous calibration we deliver value-added solutions, which create tangible economic benefits for our customers,” Nicholas explains.
“For example, the RailBAM system is exceptionally reliable in identifying defects within axle journal bearings 100,000-150,000 kilometres before a defect would become discernible to a maintenance team or an on-train engineer. This means that we can predict a service affecting failure, or even a catastrophic failure, long before it happens and, effectively, prevent it,” he continues.
“Similarly, the imaging systems we provide, such as the Wheel Profile Monitor (WPM) and the Brake Inspection Monitor (BIM) capture high-resolution calibrated images of trains at mainline speeds. The software tools then process the images to measure key wheel parameters, including flange height and width, hollowing, back-to-back dimension, inner and outer rim thickness, wheel diameter and differential, and wheel profile trace. By making use of the technology, our clients can minimise maintenance down-time, reduce operation cost, and ensure reliability of the system.”
Another distinct feature of Track IQ’s inventions is their flexibility. Every year, the company manufactures between 30 and 40 systems, each and every one of which being tailored to specific customer requirements. Nicholas comments: “Everything we do is very modular and adapted to the customers site and/or challenging environmental conditions. Every time we deliver a solution, we have to make sure that it will operate reliably and provide added value to the customers, no matter whether it will be deployed in Australia at more than 40°C, in the Middle East, where the temperatures reach over 50°C, or in North America at -30°C.”
Having got off to a strong start to 2019, Track IQ is looking to grow considerably in Europe not just this year, but in the long-term. Nicholas offers his view on the company’s prospects and the state of the industry, particularly in the UK. “To me, the future belongs to wayside systems, as they personify efficiency. Having a single monitoring system that can capture hundreds of trains every day and making the data available on the cloud for our customers, is a solution the market is turning to. The UK was the first country in Europe to trial acoustic monitoring in 2007, but since then, we have somewhat been lagging behind other countries like Ireland, Norway, France, and Belgium, who all make extensive use of our technology. The challenge for us is to educate the market and explain that wayside systems, used correctly in conjunction with infrastructure and rolling stock operators and maintainers, is the best and most efficient solution.
“In the meantime, I am convinced that we should be lobbying for certain legislation changes that will facilitate the adoption of more innovative technologies by organisations like Network Rail,” Nicholas proposes. “The rulebooks limits innovation. Legislation changes, along with privatisation, would be a welcome development, given we are already seeing that some private operators and maintainers are more willing to embrace creative thinking and try different things.”
He concludes: “The solutions we provide, perform exceptionally well. We stand behind our technology and are more than keen on promoting it far and wide. Instead of offering tools simply to protect the infrastructure, we have something that genuinely optimises maintenance whilst improving safety, which is a rarity in the industry. Therefore, we will continue developing our proposition and, hopefully, contribute to the improved performance of UK’s railway industry.”