Westfälische Lokomotiv-Fabrik Reuschling (Westphalian Locomotive Factory Reuschling), headquartered in Hattingen, specializes in the modernization of rail vehicles. In the area of safety technology for locomotives, Technical Director Udo Pinders and CEO Walter Schreiber see clear advantages offered by the modular controllers of the HIMatrix family.
We spoke with both partners of Reuschling.
Mr. Pinders, Mr. Schreiber, please briefly introduce the Reuschling company to our readers.
Schreiber: Westfälische Lokomotiv-Fabrik Reuschling is a family-run business in the fourth generation, with approximately 120 employees. In 2014 we celebrated the 100-year anniversary here at our Hattingen location. The focus of our business is manufacturer-independent repair of all types of rail vehicles, mostly locomotives used in the cargo area. Our services extend from simple maintenance to complete modernization of vehicles, and also include engineering, after-sales services and documentation. In addition, we are also commissioned with bringing existing machines up to the latest safety technology.
Pinders: We are a single source for everything for the customer. Our customers include all industries that are moving on tracks: heavy industry, the chemical industry and transport companies. We even work with museums. The main markets are Germany, the Danube countries and the Northern Europe region.
What is the core competence that characterizes Reuschling?
Pinders: Our firm has extreme depth and breadth that cannot be found anywhere else in the market for railway technology in a privately held company. Our vertical integration is 95%. No other repair shop has such extensive know-how in the area of refurbishing components, or has its own engineering organization for all areas. The technical implementation of our concepts must be accepted by the supervisory authorities. Because we support all projects with our own specialists, we have a clear, unique selling point in the market.
Schreiber: Unlike other companies we process all categories of vehicles. Moreover, we have extensive knowledge of individual components for which there is either no documentation or incomplete documentation. Also, Reuschling started early on with radio remote control systems. Today our radio remote control concept is widely used in Germany.
"HIMatrix controllers offer significantly more flexibility"
Where is safety technology required?
Pinders: In the core for locomotive control. If we consider the locomotive a machine, it quickly becomes clear that specific functions within the machine account for the safety, such as the brakes, transmission control, engine control, etc. In turn, these functions are intermeshed. There are appropriate risk assessments in this regard. Then it must be verified and documented that the determined level of safety can be maintained. For the core area of the safety-relevant functions, we always specify the safety integrity level SIL 3.
There are many manufacturers of safety technology. What makes the HIMA technology so interesting to you?
Schreiber: We work together with HIMA, because at HIMA we get the products that we need, and these products make the levels of safety available that the legislative authorities demand. Many controllers on locomotives do not satisfy the stipulated safety requirements. We are of the opinion that HIMA controllers are the only ones that fully satisfy the requirements. HIMatrix controllers offer significantly more flexibility than other devices, and they are a mature system. Working with the HIMatrix controllers is a pleasure for us.
Pinders: Above all, at HIMA we have contact persons with whom we can work. For our custom concepts we must develop solutions together, and that can only happen in a partnership-based dialogue. For us it is important that we talk with each other and work together on equal footing. We have experienced this in working with HIMA on specific projects. The personal contact, which is lacking with many large companies, exists with HIMA.
"Above all, at HIMA we have contact persons"
Walter Schreiber, CEO, and Udo Pinders, Technical Director, Westfälische Lokomotiv-Fabrik Reuschling
What projects have you implemented using a HIMA safety solution, and what was your experience?
Pinders: In Neuss Port, a converted locomotive has been running for more than a year with a type F60 HIMatrix controller. Another one is in operation in Bremen. An important area of implementation will be a new development from Reuschling, the modular concept locomotive R500C. This involves a rebuilt locomotive for which the basic components, such as frame and axle drive, are identical. Everything else will be redesigned and set up in the form of individual modules, such as drive module, compressor module, transmission module, brake module and hydraulics module. Here, HIMatrix F35 and the associated I/O modules will be used.
Schreiber: Customers can select the modules to meet their requirements. What they do not need will not be allocated. Each module has a controller component that is responsible for it. Without the distributed solutions from HIMA we would not have been able to implement the concept in this manner. They are an optimal match for the concept. Moreover, through the modular structure of the control system and the network links of the individual components, we have an extremely low cabling effort as we do not need to lay the cable throughout the entire locomotive.
What profitability potential can you see in modern safety technology?
Pinders: The solutions that can be worked out with such open systems open up innovative possibilities for additional business and help us in the implementation of our ideas. The economic aspect in the after-sales business is also quite important in this regard. The modules can be quickly retrofitted or replaced. For example, the compressor can simply be pulled out on a drawer and serviced. This means that the machine is ready for use and available within a short time. For other machines, half of the entire hood must be removed to do this. Then the oil change on the compressor alone—not even the main machine—may take three days!
"Without the distributed solutions from HIMA we would not have been able to implement the concept in this manner"
How do you evaluate the increasing tendency to use COTS safety controllers in the rail sector?
Pinders: One hundred percent of our solutions are COTS solutions. Currently the awareness is maturing in the market that such systems offer advantages over proprietary controller solutions due to the widespread use in other areas and the mature, safe technology. Nothing is better and more profitable than using a traditional, developed and finished solution. Behind COTS there is a stable industry standard. The spare parts are always available. And for the user there are fewer reservations about such a system, because it is a widespread solution, not a stand-alone solution.
Do you have conceptual ideas for which there is still no specific solution/product on the market?
Pinders: Conceptually, each project is a custom task for us. Due to the clear advantages we will increasingly use the modular concept.
In your opinion what will the railway safety concepts of the future look like?
Schreiber: In 10 years the locomotives will perhaps look different than they do today, but in terms of content I do not see major change potential, since a long-standing and well-thought-out concept is involved. Safety has always been a high priority for railway technology. There will certainly be refinements, perhaps new types of redundancy in the control systems. Also, there is talk of adaptive controllers.
Pinders: Safety-related rail concepts arise through the given legal situation. This sphere of activity is not particularly extensive. In this area cleverness and the technology used are important. We will certainly work with the ETCS train safety system in the coming years for retrofits. Interoperability must be ensured in this regard.
Mr. Pinders, Mr. Schreiber, thank you for talking with us.