Asociación de fabricantes de maquina herramienta.
Asociación de fabricantes de maquina herramienta.

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23 November, 2022

Digitalisation is one of the most valuable tools for further technological and economic development of railway transport. Compiling manufacturing, operational and maintenance data creates the groundwork for extending maintenance intervals and improving safety and reliability. Schaeffler and ZF, two of the leading suppliers in the automotive and industry sectors, announced their collaboration on condition monitoring of bearings for axleboxes at InnoTrans back in 2018. The initial satisfactory results of this collaboration will be presented at this year’s edition of InnoTrans, which will be held in Berlin from 20 to 23 September.

Combined expertise accelerates digitalisation in railway transport

Four years ago, Schaeffler and ZF announced that they would work together to improve the condition monitoring of bearings for axleboxes. Since then, the jointly developed system has been undergoing testing in the field with several operators and has been continually perfected. Schaeffler is responsible for the programming of the bearings analysis software that is needed to assess the gathered data. ZF provides the connect@rail platform with Heavy Duty TAG sensors and on-board VCU Pro Gateway units, as well as a the cloud environment and panel connection. Meanwhile, several thousand data sets are analysed each month, on a completely automatic basis. In the future, ZF and Schaeffler would like to integrate transmission bearings into the monitoring system, together with the bearings for axleboxes.

“By combining our technical expertise with the shared understanding of the railway system overall, we have managed to harness the full potential of digital condition monitoring in this extraordinary collaboration,” said Dr. Michael Holzapfel, Senior Vice President of the Schaeffler Business Unit, adding: “Thanks to the continual development of our systems based on reciprocal exchange, we can permanently improve railway transport in terms of economic efficiency and reliability. We are delighted that this collaboration will continue in the future!”

“The cooperation with Schaeffler shows that solid collaborations are the key to making the railway sector more reliable and efficient through digital solutions. We have found a solid partner in Schaeffler and we are very much looking forward to continuing with this collaboration,” said Markus Gross, who is in charge of Product Line Rail Drive Systems at ZF.

Extending maintenance intervals and reducing unscheduled stoppages

The combined expertise of both companies enables a 4.0 solution to be created for railway application with considerable added value: The mechanical drive, which is maintained as an independent unit, can be digitally monitored on a separate basis, even reaching its subsystems and components, using a single condition monitoring system. The aim consists of carrying out maintenance measures based on status with the help of the analysis of operating data, thereby extending maintenance intervals while also reducing unscheduled stoppages.

The open platform concept facilitates joining forces with more partners

Both partners were early adopters of the opportunities presented by Industry 4.0. ZF supplies drive systems for railway vehicles, equipped with sensors and capable of doing status analyses, and Schaeffler improves the system with its analysis of axlebox bearings data.

With this collaboration, the potential of Schaeffler's solutions is far from over: ZF's connect@rail condition monitoring system has been designed as an open platform concept that can be expanded on to include additional partners, which will mean other components can be monitored, too, and even entire bogies. This means that railway operators will no longer have to re-equip themselves with new and expensive systems, instead they will be able to integrate bearing status diagnostics into their existing solutions. Thus, Schaeffler and ZF make it possible for operators to avoid having to install a separate condition monitoring system for each component, which means considerable added economic value with minimal investment.




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