One of the biggest challenges ProRail face is quickly resolving malfunctions on the track. ProRail cooperates with various process contractors in different regions. To quicken and increase efficiency regarding the detection and handling of process faults, ProRail has decided to accelerate this process by switching to SAP and the function tailored screens built in UI5. The standard SAP screens are in fact complex and not very user-friendly. Paul Koppenberg, SAP program manager at ProRail explains.
Paul Koppenberg, SAP program manager at ProRail
ProRail’s dense, heavily used railway network connects people, cities and businesses. ProRail provides safe, reliable, punctual, comfortable and sustainable railway networks and stations, in conjunction with transport services and partners. Daily 1.1 million passengers and 100,000 tons of goods are transported across 7000 kilometres of track. The construction, management, maintenance and security of those many kilometres of track are also very important. More than 4000 ProRail employees ensure this.
Paul Koppenberg is program manager at SAP ProRail. Koppenberg coordinates all on-going SAP projects. Koppenberg states: “At any one time there are roughly 10 projects running, including HRM, Finance and Asset Management projects. My job is to make sure that we make better use of our SAP systems and that the various projects are not in each other's way. On the one hand we are coordinating on-going activities, whilst on the other hand, we are orientating ourselves towards the future.”
The track maintenance process in The Netherlands
Whether trains drive (on time) in The Netherlands is dependent on whether problems can be solved rapidly. One of the most important KPIs that ProRail has is the percentage availability of the track. ProRail has contractors, which have a contract for a specific geographical area. These contractors solve malfunctions when they happen in their area. The contracts state that problems have to be resolved as soon as possible.
Quickly and precisely identifying problems and making the information regarding these problems accessible is essential. At present, the process is partially supported by SAP with customized screens for ProRail employees. ProRail wants to change the entire process surrounding the identifying and dealing with faults to a simple and user-friendly process by using SAP. The core concept here is chain integration. One image of the problem solving will be produced, which can be easily used by all concerned. The process is more effective and efficient when solving the problem and keeping the arrangements with the contractor.
The maintenance process has 5 steps:
- The traffic controller reports a fault in the infrastructure to the Asset Management department.
- The Asset Management department documents the fault in SAP, after which the fault is sent to the fault coordinator.
- The fault coordinator is an external contractor that processes the message in his or her own system and assigns a mechanic.
- The mechanic does his/her job and sends the results back.
- The inspector at ProRail checks the results using SAP.
The Netherlands is divided into 22 geographical areas. There is a process contractor that should take care of the daily maintenance of the rails in each geographic area. Right now they are still using their own systems. With the support of one of the contractors, Asset Rail, a trial to make the process fully supported by ProRail ‘s SAP started last year in the contract territory Gelre (Achterhoek and Maas & Waal region). The mechanics of Asset Rail are working with a tablet which has an app that communicates with ProRail’s SAP. The trial started with the dismantling of old (difficult to maintain) customized screens to change them back to standard SAP with a new user interface.
The Solution: User-friendly UI5 screens and a mechanic app
Koppenberg explains: “To make this transition as easy as possible, we wanted to provide a user-friendly interface. In addition, the processing of reports is now faster. The Next View has designed user-friendly screens in SAPUI5, a technology based on HTML5. Every roll in the process has screens designed for it. UI5 is a means of providing a more intuitive and user-friendly introduction to SAP, especially for employees who do not frequently use SAP.”
“Besides this we are also working on an app for failure mechanics. They will receive a fault message through an app. After repair they report back the results and any possible finances are processed in the contract circle. This app is linked to ProRail’s SAP system. The engineers are at the site faster, you quickly know what is going on and the time that the problem is solved can be told to train passengers.” Said Koppenberg.
“Previously we used SAP Screen Personas, now we use SAP IU5.”
“We started by creating user-friendly SAP screens in Screen Personas. We were the first company in the Netherlands that made use of this technology. In the summer of 2013 we entered a competition for use cases for SAP Screen Personas, and we won. We were very excited about the product and decided to start a test. Unfortunately, it did not meet our needs. The product did work, but contained quite a few start-up problems and had a particularly bad performance. Screen Personas is an excellent product for easy screen finishes. Our actions in SAP are too complex which meant we experienced different problems. SAP is working on improving Screen Personas, so we will certainly be keeping an eye on the product!” Said Koppenberg.
First experiences after taking the SAP UI5 Screens live
“On the 28th of November, we took the SAPUI5 screens live in Gelre. This is one region and that encompasses approximately 40 users. If we succeed in managing Gelre properly, we will expand it to the Eemland region. Asset Rail namely works here too. Despite having come across many issues, they are eager to take this on with us.” After this we have a product that we can offer to other contractors.
“It's a small project, but the many parties and links make the project quite complex, creating the chance that much can go wrong. Fortunately, the experience, 1½ month after going live, is that it works very well. It is stable, without any technical problems. The users are very satisfied with the performance , which is really much better. We are confident that we can offer the product in the short term in other regions. The UI5 part is finished, and we are only waiting works until the mechanic app also completely works.” Says Koppenberg.
Ronald Kleijn, project manager of The Next View, “The user response has been very positive, especially regarding the performance. They transferred, on their own initiative, from Screen Personas screens to the faster SAPUI5 application. We are very happy with it.”
The difference between SAP UI5 and SAP Screen Personas
Koppenberg explains how SAPUI5 work very differently from Screen Personas “Screen Personas is a screen around SAP. SAPUI5 is a standalone application with SAP functionalities. Screen Personas was much easier than the SAPUI5 screens in integration with our existing SAP landscape. To allow the new UI5 screens to communicate with SAP, we needed to customise a lot. We set it up so that we can reuse this custom UI5 for other applications. That did take more time, but now we have a good foundation for the future.”
The next UI5 project is near
“Now that the UI5 screens are in use it proves how much time it can save. We at ProRail are under pressure to improve the troubleshooting process. Intuitive and user-friendly SAPUI5 screens can help us with this. This is the reason why we have decided to use it as a part of our reference architecture. We are now starting the project “Inspector of the Future”. We also have our own inspectors randomly check the track. Right now they process their analysis via the desktop. We want to make this process available on mobiles using SAPUI5. In this project, we will follow the same architecture choice -see picture- putting the SAPUI5 screens on the SAP Business Suite using NetWeaver Gateway. Fortunately, we can largely reuse the customization, which saves time and cost.” Said Koppenberg.
The image on the right shows how ProRail has paced SAPUI5 in its architecture.
Curious about how the employees of ProRail enter error messages into SAPUI5 screens?
If so, download the pdf, with screenshots of ProRail app, below.