re-engineering the process

NS subsidiary NS Train Modernisation is responsible for maintenance and repairs of train wheel sets for their own trains as well as those of Arriva, Synthus and Veolia. Until recently, this was primarily a manual process and any decisions made were based on human assumptions. “When NS moved to a new workshop in Haarlem in 2017, they not only installed new machines, but also decided to automate the re-engineering process. NS selected us as a partner on the strength of our experience in configuring MES software applications,” says Marco Kerstens, who was involved in the project as a customer manager on behalf of ICT Group.

MES stands for Manufacturing Execution System and forms the link between customer demand from the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system and the machines supplying the product. In simple terms, MES controls the machines in the re-engineering process digitally, makes sure they start and stop in time, and collects all the required measurement and processing data,” Marco explains. Train wheel sets are renovated an average of once every five years. Wheel sets are inspected on arrival in the workshop to determine which parts need replacement or repair. The next step is to create a workflow for the parts included in the re-engineering process. “MES controls the production machines and registers every movement. Barcode labels are used to track every single part during the re-engineering process, enabling MES to process, register and store the 100+ measurements performed on each wheel set.”


During the re-engineering process, MES monitors the process parameters, such as pressures and buffer times, and issues an alert if intervention is required. MES also keeps track of the parts used per wheel set (‘consumption traceability’) so that new parts can be ordered in time. MES communicates with the ERP system to set aside the required parts. Marco: “The workshop operators have a mobile device they can use to communicate with MES. They use the mobile scanner to record measured values, scan and check objects, start and stop tasks, and confirm operations.” The app installed on the mobile device was developed by OrangeNXT, an ICT Group company. ICT Group’s technical specialists and consultants provided training to staff across several departments of NS Train Modernisation to help them find their way around the new systems.


Alexander Spaans, who is leading the MES project at NS, is very pleased with the MES system. “NS had a few concerns at the start, because IT projects tend to overrun their schedules and underdeliver on their promise,” says Alexander. “But ICT completed this project successfully, with the right quality and within the agreed timeframe.”

“MES manages the process based on precise standards, allowing for greater control over and assurance of the final quality.”

Marco Kerstens, Customer Manager at ICT Group


A major advantage of MES is that the system collects all the measurement and processing data in one central location, enabling smart data analyses for further optimisation of the re-engineering process. “Take downtime registration, for instance - the status and availability of all machines are recorded and in the event of an interruption, the machine automatically sends details on the cause to MES. MES can also use the data analysis to identify useful trends in order processing times.

NS Train Modernisation can also use MES to improve compliance with the Railways Act, which stipulates a 50-year retention period for wheel set maintenance data. “MES now ensures that the relevant data is automatically transferred to the Maximo maintenance system. All measurement and revision data are kept up to date and stored, as well as any actions performed by human operators and the implementation time and outcome of these actions.”

On January 29 ICT Group attended the Production Process Automation (PPA) event in Nijkerk, in the middle of the Netherlands, where Alexander Spaans (NS Train Modernisation) and Ruud van Drielen (ICT Group) held an inspiring presentation on ‘The role of MES in the digital transformation of NS Train Modernisation’.

The presentation was received with great enthusiasm and was one of the most visited presentations during the event. Watch the aftermovie and be sure to meet us next year!