Swiss Federal Railways Speeds Ahead with SAP Business Network Asset Collaboration


Crisscrossing the alpine paradise of Switzerland is an extensive railway system that links more than 800 destinations spanning 3,265 kilometers of track carrying 1.16 million passengers and 180,000 tons of freight aboard 11,338 trains daily.

To achieve consistently superior levels of service, efficiency, and maintenance, SBB, also known as Swiss Federal Railways, bolsters its sprawling network of spurs, stations, and switches with an even larger one in the cloud, where vast repositories of operational data converge to propel the organization forward with resilience, visibility, and sustainable growth.

SAP Business Network: Connect, transact, and partner on shared processes and information

Integrated digital networks enable enterprises to carry out core operational processes with unrivaled efficiency at unlimited scale. Not only do they facilitate procurement, supply chain, logistics, and financing between businesses and their trading partners, but they increasingly connect remote assets through the Internet of Things (IoT) as well.

Cloud-based applications are revolutionizing the maintenance and service of dispersed equipment such as that at SBB. For routine maintenance and repairs, SBB professional staff work alongside skilled contractors to support the highest levels of safety and reliability.

But how can SBB collaborate with its vendors on work orders for maintenance and service while minimizing downtime for its substantial infrastructure? To do so, SBB has chosen SAP Business Network Asset Collaboration to gain maximum transparency across its energy operations and those of its service partners.

“As a part of our SAP S/4HANA transformation, SBB’s energy operations are set to go live with SAP Business Network Asset Collaboration in early 2024,” says Urs Gehrig, the railway’s principal consultant for business development for enterprise asset management. “Our energy operations are responsible for the production and transmission of power within SBB to run trains and to deliver to third parties. The use case is about service providers who are executing maintenance in the field, such as inspections on high-voltage transmission lines. Based on what we learn from the use case, we can apply this knowledge to other areas of our operations set to occur on a three-year road map.”

“It’s best to understand SBB’s needs through how we’re organized,” Gehrig explains. “Our rail infrastructure division provides all our networks: telecommunications, water, and energy production and distribution. Then we have our passenger transport division, covering marketing as well the end-to-end life cycle from acquisition to decommission of rolling stock assets. SBB also owns a freight transport organization. Meanwhile, there’s our real estate division, which includes our train stations, with facilities that we manage. In addition, our traditional corporate department bears responsibility for supply chain, which presents another use case. All these departments use third-party providers to provide services when it comes to asset management. They all hold the potential to derive benefit from SAP Business Network Asset Collaboration.”

Depending on the department, SBB currently processes work orders in different ways.

“Sometimes it’s on paper; other times there’s a more systematized exchange of information, particularly if a service involves something regulated,” Gehrig points out. “But our work orders today are not integrated across the business, let alone across the providers of services for the assets we manage. What we’re looking for is an integrated solution, a standardized process by which we can plan and execute a comprehensive asset management strategy.”

“Through SAP Business Network Asset Collaboration, we are handing over that information to our third-party service providers to ensure transparency, accountability, and a seamless coordination not only of the energy-related work orders and assets managed but of the underlying master data as well,” Gehrig shares. “If we buy a new pump or valve or sensor, the network exchanges all the associated data instantaneously with our service providers, thereby removing barriers to visibility, productivity, and efficiency. So for SBB, it’s full speed ahead with our digital transformation.”

At SAP, meanwhile, we couldn’t be happier to ride along on SBB’s journey.

Joern Keller is executive vice president and chief product officer for SAP Business Network.

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