Management of more than seven million components

DB Netz AG operates a rail network of around 36,000 kilometers – almost the distance once around the globe. In addition to the tracks themselves, many other elements must be maintained. These include around 85,000 points, about 800 tunnels and 31,000 bridges, as well as overhead lines, grade crossings, and telecommunication plants. In addition, there are numerous kinds of control and safety plants – such as signals, electronic signal boxes, and smaller components such as the devices for speed checks, for example. All these components work together and have a complex interrelationship, enabling the German Railways to operate a very large number of trains on the railway network.

Complex management of plant maintenance

It is clear to see that the requirements relating to the railway plants can only be met if every single object is inspected, maintained, and replaced on time, reliably, and correctly. The IT solution used for plant maintenance at DB Netz AG is SAP R/3 Network. “The solution contains all the necessary master data and provides detailed information about maintenance intervals or inspection procedures,” explains Günther Halbleib, project manager at DB Netz. At the moment, the IT solution is used to manage around seven million DB Netz AG plants and components as “functional locations.”
The solution makes it possible to process inspection orders, correction orders, and maintenance orders effectively and offers a number of tools for monitoring maintenance work. The maintenance planning feature automatically generates orders, which are forwarded to planning staff, who process the orders, adding information where necessary, and send them on to the maintenance engineers. For this task, planning staff can use standardized catalogs, such as those for types of damage. The applications in SAP R/3 Network are used to plan the deployment of more than 10,000 maintenance employees. With its reports and the project system (PS) in SAP, the solution also provides a solid foundation for detailed cost planning and controlling.

DB Netz AG intends to further standardize and streamline its maintenance processes. For this reason, the enhancement options in SAP R/3 Enterprise are an extremely important factor for the company. Günter Schwaninger, head of IT Management Operations at DB Netz AG states, “Like most companies, we have acquired a huge variety of systems over the years. The new release gives us the opportunity to “clean up” and further consolidate our applications.” Accordingly, a number of follow-on projects are planned. The common goal of all these projects is the integration of data that was previously managed in its own application – for example, information on the mobile communication devices along the tracks.

Integration of further data sources

A release upgrade was carried out for “SAP R/3 Network” in August 2003, and the system was migrated from SAP R/3 Release 4.0B to SAP R/3 Enterprise. The migration was necessary because SAP was ceasing to provide support for the previous release. In addition, the architecture implemented with SAP R/3 Enterprise made it much easier for the company to integrate further data sources and applications. “SAP R/3 Enterprise enables us to include subject-specific additions and enhancements much more easily. The new technical structure makes it possible to include areas such as mobile connections, intranet communication, and intranet, extranet and internet portals much more easily,” explains Armin Hertrich, project manager at DB Systems. The consultants and system experts at Deutsche Bahn AG implemented SAP R/3 Enterprise in a five-month project in close collaboration with DB Netz AG.

Extensive test phase

During the long life of the old release of SAP R/3, DB Netz AG made numerous modifications to adapt the solution to its specific requirements. The technical challenge during migration therefore related less to the upgrade itself, and much more to the extensive modifications and enhancements, the functional reliability of which needed to be ensured in the new release. The success of the project was therefore dependent on an intensive test phase: “We prepared the upgrade over a two-month period, and afterwards, alongside the ongoing work for running the existing application, we tested intensively for three months and continued to modify the system until everything worked correctly,” recounts Armin Hertrich. In parallel, user training was being prepared. Around 500 users who work intensively with the SAP solution were given personal training, and a separate, computer-based training program was developed and provided for the other users. According to Schwaninger, “Both measures were very well received; our users have accepted the new interface without the usual teething problems.”

On target

The team of 25 was able to successfully conclude the project on target. The upgrade was completed without significant problems, and everything was carried out on schedule and within budget. For Günter Schwaninger, the decisive factor for success was the good partnership between DB Netz and DB Systems: “The team members have known each other for a long time, and trust each other. This has a lot to do with the close proximity of the teams – the atmosphere is good, and minor problems can be cleared up quickly.”

Heinz Uphoff
Heinz Uphoff