The UK rail industry needs to continually drive down costs while increasing efficiency, availability and – most importantly – safety. By taking a closer look at fluid analysis, the industry could save money and improve reliability, explains Gavin Donoghue, fluid analysis manager at Finning UK



assenger journeys on the rail network have more than doubled since rail

privatisation, from 735 million in 1994/95, to 1.65 billion journeys in 2014/15. Meanwhile, the amount of freight moved by rail was recently reported as 22 billion net tonne kilometres. Whether it’s transporting busy commuters or delivering vital goods, the pressure on rail services to run on time is significant. As a result, it is important that fleets are operating correctly at all times, which means keeping them in excellent condition. However, for many trains this is easier said than done. Research shows that despite the number of journeys taken each year more than doubling since 1995, the majority of the UK’s rolling stock is more than 20 years old. As these machines begin to age, it becomes more and more important for operators to pay close attention to the vital fluids, such as oil, fuel and coolants, that keep them running.

A POUND OF PREVENTION… The rail industry has strict penalties for delays, so many operators implement a scheduled maintenance programme to try and head off any issues before they cause real concerns. Under this kind of regime, components are replaced on a periodic basis. However, this rigid approach to maintenance fails to consider application and operational differences, resulting in increased costs for the operator. A predictive approach enables any potential issues to be proactively addressed and maintenance schedules to be safely optimised. While implementing a condition

monitoring strategy is not a new solution, the benefits are really beginning to be understood industry-wide.


Businesses are waking up to the fact that, by working closely with an experienced and knowledgeable partner, critical cost-savings can be realised by merely taking a change in approach to maintenance. In short, there is a change in attitude, moving away from periodic asset maintenance reviews to optimised, evidence-based monitoring.

INVESTING IN FLUID ANALYSIS The benefits to fluid analysis are extensive and multi-faceted. These include reducing maintenance costs, ensuring equipment is serviced when required, and optimising fluids to reduce the total cost of ownership of a business’ assets. Minimising the risk of serious accidents

is another key benefit. Fluid analysis ensures potential faults can be identified early, dramatically reducing the risk of vital components failing unexpectedly. The American Society of Lubrication Engineers, states: “In hydraulic and lubricating systems, 20 per cent of replacements result from corrosion and 50 per cent result from mechanical wear.” Fluid analysis enables asset life to be optimised. A comprehensive fluid analysis and condition monitoring programme should help identify common trends, such as comparing component life and wear patterns by analysing oil, and forecasting long-term asset requirements. From this, either a dynamic or optimised strategy can be implemented. The former means oil and component replacement can be proactively managed based on fluid analysis monitoring, while the latter ensures oil and component life is optimised with schedules based on results. Therefore, repairs and maintenance can be arranged for when is

convenient. As a result, unscheduled and costly downtime can be avoided.

A LASTING LEGACY As businesses move from planned maintenance schedules to evidence- based, proactive strategies, fluid analysis is transforming how the rail industry manages fleet maintenance. Research has found that an operator with a fleet of 40 electric multiple units could save as much as 50 per cent on processing time and 30 per cent on oil costs by moving to condition-based monitoring. One example is when a freight operating company asked Finning to consider how it might reduce the amount of oil and filters it had been advised to use by the OEM. By analysing the oil and monitoring pressure across the main engine filter, Finning established that - under normal working conditions - the regular oil top-up was sufficient. Furthermore, based on information obtained from the engine’s telemetry system, Finning could recommend the filter was only replaced when a significant change in pressure occurred. The outcome of this was that the oil and filter were only changed once a year, instead of three times, saving 2,000 litres of oil and two large engine filters. On a fleet of 20 locomotives, this is a considerably large cost saving. With a comprehensive fluid analysis and condition monitoring programme, six-figure savings are not uncommon. And given the cost and potential financial penalties that can arise from vital component failure, it could be argued that the risk of not implementing a predictive strategy is the real cost here.

Finning UK


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