The value of information

BluEpyc BLE Asset Tracking and Indoor RTLS!

How to ensure real-time and reliable info about location, movement and maintenance status of the assets?
In particular, the global company leader in integrated transport systems needs following information to be collected:

  • quick knowledge of the current position for an asset/equipment,
  • permanence time for an asset/equipment in any department,
  • maintenance status of the equipment,
  • detect forbidden transit from one department to another for some particular tools and assets.

At a Glance

FINAL USER / COUNTRY

Alstom Transport Spa / Italy

CHALLENGE

Automatic asset tracking & localization

ANSWER

BLE Asset tracking: Industrial Gateways, EchoBeacons & standard Beacons

BENEFITS

Real-time info about location, movement and maintenance status of assets

Introduction

Alstom is a global company promoting sustainable mobility that develops and sells special equipments and services in the railway sector. It’s a world leader in integrated transport systems, headquartered in France and present in more than 60 countries with 32,800 employees.
Alstom offers a complete range of solutions: from high-speed trains to subways, trams and electric buses to passenger solutions, personalised services (maintenance, modernisation) and infrastructure, and also signalling and digital mobility solutions.

BLE Asset Tracking & Localization in Alstom Factory

Photo: Roberto Zecchillo ©Alstom

The challenge: Alstom’s needs

The Alstom’s site in Sesto San Giovanni, closed to Milan, is a specialized centre in services activities, maintenance and production, engineering and validation for traction systems of regional and high-speed trains, subways and trams; in the last few years the site has developed strong experience in services area, offering customers assistance and maintenance with long-term contracts, thanks to the use of the most advanced technologies in the sector.

BLE Asset Solution - indoor automatically detecting item

Photo: Roberto Zecchillo ©Alstom

In the framework of an organizational and technological renewal, inspired by the lean concept, this Alstom factory needed to automate the tracking & tracing of the assets, as for example the equipment used for the production and maintenance of trains, which are continuously moved in the various departments of the site, which extend over a total area of more than 20,000 square meters divided into 6 bays, 5 of which are destined for production and testing departments. Today the area monitored by Bluetooth Low Energy is approximately 3,000 square meters and the project to extend to the entire shopfloor is in definition.
The aim of this project is to identify a technology that is not invasive, able to automatically identify the equipment (today there are 500 assets monitored by BLE), without forcing the employee to make any explicit (voluntary) identification action.

In summary, the needs expressed by Alstom are the automatic traceability and location of assets, monitoring the passage from one department to another.

BLE solution: from challenges to answers

The feasibility study, carried out in August 2016, identified the ideal BLE Asset Tracking configuration and related data-flow, according to Alstom’s needs listed above.

In particular, the factory in Sesto San Giovanni is composed by 13 areas, each one assigned to a specific task on the basis of the operational logic of the production or maintenance of the train, and with different formats (closed area, delimited by a metal grid or open space): among these, we mention as an example the mechanical and pneumatic assembly area, the workshop area, the climatic area, the accelerometric and sandblasting areas.

On the assets, including torque wrenches, simulators, measuring instruments, test stations subject to maintenance and/or verification programs, are fixed tags/Beacons, which transmit data to the EchoBeacons fixed to the ceiling or wall close to the entrance/exit openings, each logically assigned to the monitored environment (area).

Indoor BLE Asset Tracking

These devices are BLE mini-gateways conceived, designed and produced by BluEpyc, able to control and monitor the presence of Tag/Beacons in circumscribed areas and then to detect on time (hand-free) the equipment with Beacons, retransmitting this information to the BLE reader/gateway up to a distance of 100 m (and beyond).

The EchoBeacons are also the ideal BLE Asset Tracking components for monitoring gates (inputs/outputs) in a very simple way, with economical infrastructure and low installation costs -> Our Concept of Localization

Continuation of this project has been extended, and in March and April 2019 the BLE solution has been implemented in other plant areas: these additional areas have been outfitted with 29 wall-mounted EchoBeacons and more than 20 Industrial Gateways.

Benefits

This solution allows Alstom to save approximately 160 hours/month, previously used in the process of managing company assets for the only departments in which the solution is now implemented: operators can now focus on productive and more business-related aspects; this result can be improved by extending the solution to the entire shopfloor.

Among the most appreciated BLE features, the standard that supports this wireless technology stands out, breaking down limits in the future configuration of the Bluetooth system.

Alstom Factory - indoor BLE asset tracking with BLE

Technology details: hardware & services

  • BluEpyc Bluetooth Low Energy Gateways Industrial Wall Mount Ethernet: these are BLE Observers able of dialogue with Beacons and iBeacons; operating as active RFID readers they can be installed on the wall, ceiling or pole, protected by IP67 box;
  • BluEpyc Bluetooth Low Energy EchoBeacons: devices conceived, designed and manufactured by BluEpyc’s R&D department for micro-location and detection of the change of position of the person or object with Tag Beacon; in Alstom the EchoBeacons work to identify the asset within a precise area, and to trace its movement from one area to another;
  • BluEpyc Bluetooth Low Energy Tag Beacons EMBC02: produced by EM, these Proximity Tag/Beacons guarantee an unique identification and are equipped with LEDs, ideal for Indoor Positionig System (IPS) applications with the Zone Method; the peculiar feature of these Beacon Tags is the presence of the accelerometer sensor: The Beacon activates its communication only when the accelerometer perceives a movement, otherwise it is “sleeping”.

The solution began with some tests, in order to verify the transmission coverages between Beacon, Echobeacon and Gateway, to find the most suitable Beacon Tag type and its application method, as well as the ideal location of BLE components (EchoBeacon placed on the ceiling or in the centre of the corridor).

BluEpyc Bluetooth Low Energy EchoBeacon
Logo Alstom

“This system of automatic tracking and location of equipment will allow us to reduce the time spent in managing company assets, guaranteeing a reduction in the “non value added” on industrial processes and improving the efficiency of production departments.
In addition, it will make the management of everything that is subject to cyclical controls such as equipment, instruments and test stations even more systematic and rigorous”

Donato Carlo Loguercio, Process & Manufacturing Engineering Manager at Alstom (Sesto San Giovanni site, Milan), Alstom Transport SpA
Alstom’s corporate website

Project Gallery

Alstom Factory - indoor BLE asset tracking with BLE

Photo credit: Copyright NTV

Alstom Factory - indoor BLE asset tracking with BLE
BLE Asset Tracking with BluEpyc Bluetooth Low Energy EchoBeacon

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