A state-of-the-art traincare depot planning tool, which looks set to revolutionise operational efficiency and mark the end of the handwritten whiteboard, has been launched by Zonegreen.

The UK-based company – a world leader in the provision of bespoke rail safety solutions – has developed the operator planning suite (OPS) to address the numerous problems associated with traditional whiteboards used in control rooms and supervisors’ offices. It allows depot management and supervisors to know precisely what is planned and what is happening to rolling stock within a given depot at any time.

Zonegreen’s research and development manager Dr Szer Ming Lee explained: “Traditional whiteboards are open to potentially serious error. Information is often ambiguous, unauthorised changes can be made, data may be accidentally or deliberately erased and communication between supervisors – particularly at shift changeovers – can become confused.

The Zonegreen OPS eliminates these pitfalls completely. Any piece of information entered onto an OPS whiteboard is instantly transmitted to all other whiteboards in the same depot. And, because the OPS is internet-based, information can be relayed, in a standardized format, to any other department within the maintenance organisation or train operating company.”

The user-friendly system is designed to improve operational efficiency, communication and collaboration, and facilitate the instant exchange of accurate information across the organisation. It allows for planning arrivals, berthing and maintenance activities, and the recording of maintenance data and departure of every vehicle.

When a vehicle is due for maintenance, its fleet number is listed along with work to be done, its location in the depot, the estimated time of arrival, the time of departure and any other information required. As this information is entered it is immediately displayed across all OPS screens around the depot, ensuring absolute accuracy and up-to-date information at all times.

Data can be used by shunters, shop floor technicians, shop planners and management as required, and can be displayed using a graphical layout of the depot to identify and position trains, or a tabular layout to list maintenance tasks.

Because the Zonegreen OPS uses internet server technology, no hardware or software installation is necessary at the depot in order to create an OPS account – a subscription is all that is required. Authorised depot staff can then simply log-on in order to plan maintenance activities from wherever they happen to be. Training for anyone with basic computer literacy takes less than half a day, and Zonegreen’s engineers are available 24/7 to address any server issues that may arise.

“Given the significant efficiency savings that will accrue,” says Zonegreen’s managing director Tony Hague, “the use of OPS represents an important investment for train operators.” Based on a client with five authorised OPS users – either fixed or in hand-held devices – the subscription works out at approximately £5/day, per user. Should a client require more outlets, the cost per user would reduce.