Establishing the digital railway

Published on: August 26, 2019

Kapernikov supports Infrabel’s migration to SAP

When Infrabel decided to migrate to a new ERP system, this had a huge impact on its railway asset data management. Kapernikov helped Infrabel to make the switch to the new ERP system and to make its railway asset data ready for a digital future.

Level crossing equipment, signalling, track circuits, switches, incident reporting and much more. All this information is needed to efficiently manage maintenance processes and to monitor the condition of Belgium’s railway network.

An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is typically used in organizations to manage a variety of business processes, including finance, HR, procurement and asset management. For Infrabel, Belgium’s railway network operator, an ERP is also used to manage railway asset data.

Kapernikov’s experience with asset data management and its long working history with Infrabel made us the perfect fit for the job

Future-proof data

In order to make its ERP system future-proof, Infrabel recently had to make the switch from its legacy ERP system (in Oracle Forms) to SAP, a more modern and functional ERP. However, the data in the old ERP was not always in good condition.

Digitizing the asset management with SAP EAM requires another level of asset intimacy than was required ten years ago. To be able to optimize maintenance, we needed to upgrade the asset data significantly. Migrating the data as-is was not an option.

So, before shutting down the old system, the data needed to be cleaned, updated and corrected to reflect the reality on the field. Kapernikov was in a good position to do this job, not only because of the company’s experience with asset management and data management processes for utilities, but also because of its working history with Infrabel.

Migrating the data as-is into a new system was not an option.

Updating Infrabel’s asset data

Part of the data enhancement we have done is adding precise geographical locations to certain types of assets. Therefore, we first needed to have an easy way to update geographical data of assets on the field.

To this end, Kapernikov developed a digital tool that allowed users to easily work with QGIS, an open source platform for viewing and analyzing geographic information. Using this tool, we could easily update the location data of railway equipment on a GIS map.

Another important step in the data migration process was the analysis of the current database by comparing the data to an existing and continuously updated photo inventory of the railway equipment. The Kapernikov team checked whether the equipment pictures matched with the information in the database and updated accordingly.

After the synchronization of all these updates, two different lists could be generated:

  • A high-confidence equipment list with matches between the database and photo inventory
  • A low-confidence equipment list where there was no direct match between the database information and the photo inventory. This list needed further authorization and investigation through field visits.

People business

Although updating a database of this size (hundreds of thousands of pieces of railway equipment) could easily be conceived as an intense and tedious desk job, the actual work was far from it, according to Matthew Fisher.

“Updating asset data heavily relies on field work. More than the actual database work, the added value of Kapernikov in the whole project was working especially with the people in the business who are behind the entire asset data management process. Sometimes, when you need information, all you have to do is pick up the phone and ask. But before you can do that, you need to build a relationship with people in the organization and gain their confidence. In this case, we went all over Belgium to do that, across all regional divisions of Infrabel.”

Working together with the people behind the business processes: that was the true added value of Kapernikov.

Efficiency improvement

The asset data update has reached its final stage in July 2019. So far, Kapernikov has been instrumental in speeding up the correction of Infrabel’s asset data and in lowering the cost of intervention time.

Thanks to the digital tools that Kapernikov developed, Infrabel will be able to update its asset data more efficiently. Ultimately, the organization will be able to use the data to anticipate, plan and process its maintenance work more systematically.