high-tech class 321

A technology partnership between Irish company Nexala and Australia’s OEM Technology Solutions has helped Nexala further develop as an end-to-end provider of remote monitoring systems for older rolling stock.

The OEM-manufactured Nexala Control Unit represents a UK rail industry first, with the retrofitting of a comprehensive, real-time data transmission and analysis system to 150 20-year-old trains on a flagship service into London.

Working in partnership with Australia’s OEM Technology Solutions (OEM), Nexala has grown from being a provider of backend technology and software for train depots and control rooms to an end-to-end provider of turnkey diagnostic systems.

Nexala is a go-to supplier for rail operators with mixed fleets of older rolling stock from a multitude of manufacturers, thanks to its ability to provide system diagnostics across the entire fleet.

The Nexala-OEM product partnership came about in 2013, with the start of a project to further enhance an R2M comprehensive real-time data transmission and analysis system already implemented on a UK fleet.

As part of the solution the OEM manufactured Nexala Control Unit (NCU) was retrofitted on 150 older trains on the company’s Class 321 and 317 fleet.

The roll out of the Nexala R2M software on the class 90 intercity fleet yielded outstanding results; miles per casualty rates increased by almost 60%, and delay minutes were reduced by 40%.

The project also introduced wider benefits in areas such as fleet safety, driver performance, timetable data, and infrastructure and energy analysis.

With the addition of the OEM-produced NCU to the Nexala portfolio, the company can now provide complete solutions for rail operators with mixed fleets of older rolling stock that want to access system diagnostics across the entire fleet.

"When Nexala previously looked for on-train electronic systems, we examined the offerings of a number of companies, but only OEM asked what we wanted and then presented us with exactly that: a modular box that we can provide in different flavours for multiple manufacturers’ rolling stock," said Paul Lowry, Nexala’s co-founder and vice-president of sales and marketing.

The UK rail contract that launched the Nexala Control Unit involved fitting one OEM-designed box per vehicle in 150 four-vehicle trains (600 Nexala Control Units), and connecting 150 to 200 sensors per vehicle for end-to-end diagnostics.

Nexala provided everything; design, hardware, software and approvals.

The system delivered real-time information to the operator’s Integrated Control Centre (Operations Control) and to the rest of the fleet maintenance and operations team.

Nexala’s solution, devised for the project, is now regarded as industry best practice in the UK, where Nexala already provides software solutions for the majority of franchised rail operators.

Following on from the success of this project, Nexala has grown its customer base with customers in the UK, Ireland, Switzerland, Finland and France, and with strong focus and activity in North America and Australia.

For a business that was already growing on the basis of software expertise alone, the ability to now offer complete end-to-end solutions that include both hardware and software is significant.

Paul acknowledges the expertise of OEM and the part they played in adding to Nexala’s offering.

"The OEM guys are smart and we like working with progressive, able and agile companies," he said.

Trimble company Nexala provides an integrated suite of on-premise and Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions for large transport operators, and global train and component manufacturers.

Their enterprise solutions manage the lifecycle of rail transport vehicles, from operation through maintenance and repair.