Safe material handling thanks to two connected HUBTEX platform transporters
Punctual and reliable: The Deutsche Bahn rarely hears such praise. In contrast, the Swiss Federal Railways enjoy an excellent image, which is partly due to the careful maintenance of their infrastructure. Around 600 of the 13,000 switches in the more than 3,000 kilometers of rail network are replaced every year. The production of these switches and other preventive and maintenance measures are part of the range of tasks of the SBB Rail Technology Center Hägendorf (BTC).
Challenging material flow
A large part of the spare parts required comes from their own production. Hägendorf has also been producing the "half tongue devices" (HZV) since August 2017. Depending on their size, they can have a total length of up to 32 meters and consist of a pole and a tongue The tongue device allows the train to change direction either to enter the main or the branch line.
For the in-house production of the HZVs, the BTC invested in a new production plant, while placing high demands on the material flow. The loading and unloading of the machines required a transport solution that could easily and efficiently convey the long switch parts.
Platform transporters for heavy loads: Two makes one
"As a railway company, we initially wanted to solve this problem with a rail-bound vehicle," recalls Project Manager Rolf Kissling. However, in the interests of maximum flexibility, the decision was finally made to have a platform that can be moved freely, which can also be used for other logistics tasks. With this conviction, the BTC, together with the internal department "Vehicle and Fleet Management", drafted a specification and launched a tendering process among three potential suppliers in autumn 2016. "Of the offers, however, we were not so excited," said Kissling. Only in the second round did Hubtex and its Swiss general importer Rohrer-Marti join in, which immediately presented a convincing solution. "We received an appropriate answer for every requirement of our specifications, and the costs were also within reasonable limits," emphasizes Kissling.
In February 2017, the BTC ordered two Hubtex SFB electric platform trucks with a lifting capacity of 20 tonnes, multi-directional steering, remote control and folding arms for the extension of the loading area. With opened folding arms, each platform has a length of 12.35 meters. One of the special features of the solution is that both vehicles can be coupled to a 24.75 meter long unit if required.
The two operating parts of the platforms are each equipped with two joysticks, which enable forward and backward motion as well as the steering to the right and left. A switch can be used to determine the various driving programs, such as longitudinal, lateral or circular drive. In addition, all-wheel, diagonal, front and rear axle steering are available. In addition, only an emergency stop button and a button to operate the horn are attached to the control panel. "Using the remote control, the platforms are very easy and intuitive to use, so that the approximately one-hour training was enough for us," says Özcan Caprak, who regularly drives the vehicles.
At the beginning of the morning shift, the removal of finished parts from production is on the program. The loading is done with a hall crane, which stacks the half tongue devices up to the maximum load capacity of 20 tons on the respective platform. From there, an employee directs the device via radio control out of the hall to the reloading point, which is about 120 meters away, where the switches are loaded onto the freight wagons. After that, the platforms are used to load raw material to the machine, where additional HZV are produced in two-shift operation.
About ten times a year, the two platforms must be connected in one unit. "The full length of the transport area of around 25 meters is only needed for the construction of the largest HZVs, which are 31.5 meters long," confirms Kissling. While connected both folding arms have to be extended, which is always the case with the BTC anyway. Subsequently, the platforms are positioned immediately one behind the other and mechanically connected by means of a plug pin. Then only one connection cable has to be connected and the controller has to be switched to the "coupling mode". This process takes only a few minutes. Now the vehicle can be moved in all directions with just a single remote control.
With the described work, the two platforms are busy for only about one hour per day. Nevertheless, the vehicles must be reliably available at all times, because there is no alternative solution for daily transport. "Without the devices, our production would be shut down within a few hours," emphasizes Kissling, who has already tested the high service quality of Rohrer-Marti AG: "As part of a precautionary appointment, the Rohrer-Marti technician was on site within only 60 minutes to carry out a routine check on both platforms ".
For the general importer, the maintenance of the electric platform wagons poses no great challenge, which is mainly due to the Hubtex modular system. The manufacturer based in Fulda limits the variety of components to the technologically necessary minimum so that a service technician will not experience any surprises during maintenance and repair work. "This is even more important, because many Hubtex-built forklifts, system and special vehicles are individual pieces", explains Nicolas Adam, who works as a sales consultant at Rohrer-Marti and is the local contact for the BTC.
Conclusion: The SBB Rail Technology Center Hägendorf has set the course for the future and the material flow on a secure foundation. Good conditions for guaranteeing a reliable infrastructure even if the number of passengers continues to rise.