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Turning the Tables: Harnessing Obsolescence as a Catalyst for Innovation

The rise of innovation and digital transformation in the rail industry successfully addresses several existing problems, but it is also a catalyst for obsolescence. Technological advancements can cause equipment to become rapidly outdated. Many projects that involve installing equipment to several fleets can take years to complete, reducing component lifecycle time before the system is even in service. In order to lower costs, systems such as Passenger Information Displays, CCTV, Driver Only Operated CCTV and PA systems etc. need to be aligned with locomotive lifecycles.

Obsolescence in the rail industry occurs for 3 reasons, the first being that spare parts or technical support of the equipment cannot be guaranteed long-term, the second being that most electronic component and equipment manufacturers are focused on their next-generation products and emerging technologies and the third being that new equipment is not interoperable with old. Obsolescence hinders the industry’s ability to adapt to the unprecedented changes in the environment, which can lead to deteriorating performance and viability, slowly making the industry lose the dynamic capabilities it’s worked so hard to put in place through digital transformation strategies.

This in turn could lead to trains and other vital equipment being unavailable or significant impacts on system availability and reliability. Replacement of the whole system is an option, but this can be timely, disruptive, and costly but a ‘do nothing’ approach isn’t an option as it exposes the equipment to unplanned breakdowns, more disruption in the day–to-day running of the railway, potential fines, and poor passenger experience. For decision makers in charge of Obsolescence Management, it has become a fine balancing act between cost, environmental impact, and end-user requirements, and many find themselves stuck in the never-ending cycle of buy, benefit, obsolete, replace.

KeTech can stop the cycle of frequent unnecessary system replacements through extending the lifecycle of systems and significantly reducing in-life cost through repairs/spare part supply or modular redesign and proactive and strategic management plans utilising tools such as Remote Condition Monitoring (RCM). From an Operator perspective, not only does this make financial sense and good sustainability practice, but with KeTech it also increases efficiency through reduced repair lead times, shipment costs and even Brexit paperwork as it is a UK-based SME. Delving into the world of electronics requires an expert with experience in manufacturing, installing, and maintaining electronics systems in the rail environment. KeTech has a team of these experts based in both Nottingham and Preston with a combined expertise of over 100 years in the field of legacy systems with in-depth knowledge all the way from component sourcing to rigorous testing.
There are several ways to extend the life of a system, KeTech offers a full assessment of the system, identifies the best solution, and provides customers with full transparency on cost along with a detailed obsolescence management plan, helping to better manage life-cycle costs (LCC’s) through providing a deeper insight into the short- and medium-term future in terms of obsolescence risk, avoiding costly and unnecessary complete system replacements. This not only free’s up funding available for obsolescence issues arising in other systems but it also reduces system downtime and disruption.

As standard, KeTech will maintain and fully support the system it has provided a solution for, along with strategic forward planning and targeted measures to reduce overall lifecycle costs. In addition, KeTech combines its expertise in software and obsolescence management through providing RCM to identify and resolve potential issues before they cause failures. KeTech designs futureproof innovative software solutions, and its approach is the same with hardware. Dependent on the request, our team of experts can also offer options that integrate multiple legacy systems into one user interface, centralising systems to increase efficiency and support the industry’s journey on the route to true digital transformation.

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