In the hyper-connected world of industry digitalization, speed and agility are critical competitive differentiators. To support that goal, DANOBAT, the manufacturer of machining tools and production systems, has supplied a fully automatic digital solution, which repairs one freight wagon every 28 minutes.
The plant where the solution was developed is located in the deserts of the Pilbara region in northwestern Australia. This inhospitable corner of the planet features not only extreme climatic conditions, but also abundant mineral resources. DANOBAT took on the technological challenge to develop a fully automatic digital workshop for the maintenance of the freight wagons that transport valuable mineral ore.
The project, which is already operational, is located in a remote area 1,700 kilometres from the nearest town. The site of the workshop was chosen because of its proximity to the railway line. In addition to normal wear, the railway cars are exposed to extreme climatic conditions.
The solution was designed to repair trains for the transport of minerals from mining areas to port terminals, without any human intervention other than programming, maintenance and inspection. One of the main challenges the DANOBAT engineers faced was the need to develop a fully automated solution for the entry, disassembly, repair and reassembly of wagons in a time of 28 minutes.
“The DANOBAT solution for the Australian mine is the world’s most advanced railway maintenance workshop of its kind to repair wagons and, even though it was not our first railway project with intelligent control systems, it was a definite transition to the new digital manufacturing scenario. A spin-off of this project has been the creation of highly qualified professional profiles and the generation of a network with very skilled suppliers,” said Xabier Alzaga, managing director of DANOBAT.
Implementing Solution 4.0
The workshop is divided into four different areas, each equipped with its own facilities and automatic handling systems for maintenance work of the wagons, bogies and wheel-sets. The assembly is a comprehensive manufacturing solution composed of a main line for inspection and disassembly; a bogie repair shop; a wheel maintenance area and a body-repair workshop. The facility also carries out the final inspection of all parts and reports information on the manufacturing process of each component.
To complete every task successfully, the workshop is equipped with smart digital solutions, such as the DANOBAT Control System, developed to monitor, supervise, control and fully manage the whole maintenance process and all operations carried out within the workshop.
The entire process of automatic disassembly, repair and assembly of parts requires precise coordination of all equipment. The flow of wagons, bogies or wheelsets can vary depending on the results detected during the inspection and measurement stages. For this reason, the comprehensive central control unit is extremely important. It coordinates all the operations to ensure complete and correct overhaul of wagons every 28 minutes, including the complete repair of the body, two bogies and four wheelsets for each wagon.
In addition, the equipment used in the workshop is fitted with a Smart HMI, an intelligent interface. This guides the operator during machine operation to optimise all processes and enhance availability and reliability of the equipment.
Likewise, the equipment in this workshop is provided with an Intelligent Data System, a solution that allows smart machine control and improves the decision-making process. The machines in the workshop are equipped with sensors that pick up data relative to operation and condition of the parts. All this information is stored to allow analysis of usage patterns and to perform smart programming of future work. The Intelligent Data System allows automatic notification of maintenance work and self-diagnosis.
“This workshop stands out for its high productivity and a complete automation of operations to the most stringent quality and safety standards. It is also provided with online equipment following the paradigm of smart factories and complies with the requirements of zero-defect manufacturing,” adds Alzaga.
Major preliminary work and great challenges
The workshop design required a preliminary engineering work, studies of the machining process, analysis of production flows, definition of the facility requirements, technical specifications of the equipment and the integration of all systems. The location of the facility, in a remote desert area with extreme conditions, has required strict compliance with safety protocols. Added to these requirements was the need to meet the demanding quality and safety standards of the customer.
Advanced simulation programs simulate the production processes to dimension correctly and optimize the machining and inspection operations. That achieved an effective automation of all interacting equipment in the workshop, as well as realistic 3D simulation of all machines; the production flow requirements; human resources and control of logistics had to be developed to enable full optimisation of the operation.
The project required high-added value engineering work that could only be performed by highly skilled technical staff. For this purpose, an average of 12 experts from DANOBAT have been permanently on-site in Australia since the beginning of the project.
For manufacturers of the machining tools and production systems, this solution has been a greater challenge especially because the entire installation was done at the final destination, without any initial assembly, monitoring or pre-adjustment in the headquarters.
DANOBAT is an official Partner at Manufacturing Leadership Forum EU 2018.
DANOBAT focuses on the design, development and manufacture of the machining tools, high value-added production systems. It has production plants and service centres in Spain, Germany, UK, USA and Italy, as well as a sales and service network which cover 40 countries. Innovation is one of DANOBAT’s hallmarks since it started its activity 65 years ago, and is part of the DANOBATGROUP, the machining tools division of the Mondragon Corporation.