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Indian Railways aims big transformation with automation

Indian Railways last year has already set key milestones towards growth in manufacturing and producing record number coaches

Indian Railways, Passenger experience, Freight logistics, Manufacturing, Innotrans 2020, Rajesh Agrawal, Railway Board, Skylo, Parthasarathi Trivedi, Stanford, Indian Railway coaches, Industrial Automation in a connected world, Confederation of Indian Industry, Nationally Determined Contributions, Paris Agreement, Prof Ashutosh Sharma, Department of Science & Technology, Society 5.0, Industry 4.0, Parthsarathi Trivedi, Inderjeet Singh, Modern Coach Factory, Anil Vij, RITES, Rajaji Meshram, Ernst & Young LLP

‘The year 2019 brought defining change in five areas of the Indian Railways, including passenger experience, bringing in various trend-sets, freight logistics, manufacturing and in maintaining environment. However, technology is going to be the growth driver in 2020 and the country looks forward to international technology platforms like Innotrans 2020’, said Shri Rajesh Agrawal, member rolling stock, Railway Board. The growth is expected not in exponential terms but in terms of transformation of technology trends, he said.

Agrawal emphasised, "Technology and innovation will be the mission for the Railways this year. For example, Skylo, led by Parthasarathi Trivedi from Stanford has successfully built and deployed a new technology to directly connect our Indian Railway coaches and their sensors over satellite. Most importantly, they are deploying this technology in India first with the Indian Railways.'

Agrawal was speaking at the Seminar on Indian Railways, “Industrial Automation in a connected world- Technology in Transformation of Trains”, organised by Confederation of Indian Industry in association with Railway Board, Government of India.

Indian Railways last year has already set key milestones towards growth, achieving significant growth in manufacturing and producing record number coaches to meet the domestic requirements as well as to make the industry export-ready. It has also achieved the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that are set under Paris Agreement for making long-term environmental impact.

Prof Ashutosh Sharma, secretary, Department of Science & Technology, said, "There is no better example of science in action for society than Indian Railways, making a direct interface with innovation and society. The secretary also talked about the ‘Five Ms’ of mechanics, materials, machine, manufacturing and men, which make the ‘Society 5.0’ in lines of Industry 4.0. Although machines have been the elements of growth in manufacturing, the interconnected aspects of machine, man and new insights becomes important while working with technology. Thus, cyber-physical missions hold greater promise in the current time, he added.

Parthsarathi Trivedi, member, CII National Committee on Space and CEO and co-founder, Skylo Technologies, said that several industries, from agriculture to railways are being transformed with data and need connectivity in geographies which are yet unconnected. Skylo has created a new satellite-based network to connect more than a billion global IoT devices which are yet unconnected, at 95% lower cost than any existing solution. Skylo started at Stanford, and was inspired by the Prime Minister's vision of Digital India. Trivedi said, "When I first met the Prime Minister, he encouraged me to launch this disruptive technology first from India, where the transformational impact of digitization and connectivity can rapidly transform entire industries which are yet unconnected."

Inderjeet Singh, chief mechanical engineer of Modern Coach Factory (Raebereilly),  spoke about the smart coach initiative and importance of sensory data for operational efficiency, passenger safety, and on-time performance. In this regard, the Indian Railways has successfully tested Skylo connectivity on the Rajdhani and Shatabdi coaches for the past six months alerts and sensor data. This new technology is being implemented on new coaches manufactured at Modern Coach Factory.

Anil Vij, director (technical), RITES said that automation in rolling stock is being conducted by Indian Railways and asset management practices are increasingly becoming automated.

Rajaji Meshram, partner, transaction advisory services, Ernst & Young LLP stated that the focus of rolling stock needs to be shifted from mechanical engineering to adopt transformational technologies today, making Smart Yard, Smart Coaches, and Industry 4.0 the buzz word in Railways.

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