We sit down for a quick conversation with Henk Samson, the Senior Programme Manager at Strukton Rail. He will be speaking at EAM NXT 2020, so we thought we would catch up with him!

Author Rohit Agarwall | Copperberg

Reading time: 4 minutes

The landscape of asset management is changing. As digital transformation is taking over the manufacturing industry, enhancing efficiency and monitoring the performance of assets becomes crucial. Increasingly organizations are investing in innovative technologies such as IoT, AI and ML to ensure live and continuous visibility for their physical assets. All this change leads to one major question: Is your EAM strategy competent enough to provide a competitive edge for your organization? 

At EAM NXT 2020, our new business platform dedicated to B2B enterprise asset management, we brought the experts from various fields to tackle this question from several angles, digital transformation, strategic asset management and competence development. We interviewed Henk Samson, the Senior Programme Manager at Strukton Rail. Henk shared his work of innovating in asset management to future-proof the rail sector. Enjoy. 

As the Senior Programme Manager at Strukton Rail, can you briefly describe what your role entails? What is your number one priority with this role? 

My role is related to our participation in Shift2Rail. I coordinate our participation in the European Program related to rail innovation activities and facilitate a smooth collaboration with project partners. I’m also responsible for keeping in touch with various committees. 

My priority is to ensure that our participation is as effective as possible. 

What are the challenges you face in your role? And how do you tackle them? Do you think they apply to all manufacturing industries or are there specific issues related to the rail sector? 

In innovation projects, we work on innovations related to asset management. The biggest challenge in rail sector asset management is the fact that assets are distributed all over the country. This means that if you want to maintain them, you are outside rather than a factory environment where various elements are under control. 

Basically, when you are maintaining the rail infrastructure, you are outside, working in non-operating hours. Therefore, your access to assets are limited and it will get even more limited since society asks for more reliable infrastructure.

My role in this regard is to provide innovations that offer solutions to these issues. 

The manufacturing sector is going through a lot of change with servitization/ digital transformation. How would you define the state of the rail industry?

Digitalization is, no doubt, highly on the agenda. It is happening now and will be relevant for years to come. 

Servitization, however, is a bit more complicated. The rail industry can be quite conservative in the sense that they like to buy technologies and be in charge, themselves. For instance, the infrastructure managers want to monitor and interpret the infrastructure themselves, so you see a lot of duplication in Europe. This makes it more difficult to accelerate as a sector and to build upon a shared knowledge. 

Another thing that can be said about the rail sector is that it has tremendous potential for society. Especially when it comes to the concept of mobility as a service, rail can be the backbone because there is already an infrastructure in place. Furthermore, rail can help us reduce the carbon footprint. Better asset management practices can also lower the cost to make rail even more reliable. 

Can you briefly elaborate on how asset management can lower costs?

The rail infrastructure has a lifespan of 30-40 years and following the behaviors of assets can help greatly in seeing the total lifecycle cost. In the rail sector, a lot of improvements are done intuitively. They usually work fine but there is no way of measuring the consequences. A consistent approach to how to deal with these assets would enable us to improve the reliability, the costs invested into it with less effort. 

You are highly involved with the new technologies in your industry. Can you explain how new technology can transform the rail sector? 

As I mentioned earlier, our challenge is to maintain the assets outside. Not only the tasks are labour intensive but it’s also a hostile environment for humans to work in. The quality of the work done depends on the performance of humans and weather. 

Collaborative robots can be a game-changer in that sense. Independent or human-controlled robots that can find the spots themselves and make the job easier for humans. They can handle multiple tasks and better record their performances than humans which helps make improvements. However, the challenge is to bring these robots outdoors. Normally, for instance, in the automobile industry, robots work in an optimized factory environment. This is not the case for the rail sector, as our assets are outside. Therefore, we need to learn from other industries and find a way to make these robots mobile and bring them outside.

What are the biggest trends in Enterprise Asset Management now? 

Further digitalization and IoT, for sure. Technologies such as IoT, sensors and data analytics will provide a lot of new opportunities. Therefore, we need to look at our priorities and find good solutions for them. The cost is important as well if you want to monitor every asset. So, there has to be a business case. 

Thank you for sharing your insights, any message you want to share the participants of EAM NXT 2020? 

I look forward to meeting you and learning from your experiences.