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By Michael PopkeInnoTrans 2016 — the world’s largest biennial international showcase for transport technology — set a new record by attracting nearly 3,000 exhibitors from 60 countries to Germany’s Berlin Exhibition Grounds in late September. What’s more, 144,470 visitors from more than 140 countries walked the 1.2 million square feet of floor space at the biennial event, and an outdoor display featured 127 vehicles. “You hear about how big it is, but until you actually go, it’s hard to have perspective,” said Tim Francis, vice president of marketing for Herzog Railroad Services Inc., who experienced InnoTrans for the first time. “I still don’t think I saw the whole thing, because it’s just so big.” It’s easy to feel overwhelmed at InnoTrans, which is why the Railway Engineering-Maintenance Suppliers Association (REMSA), Railway Supply Institute and Railway Systems Suppliers Inc. (RSSI) sponsored the USA Pavilion. The three industry associations also sponsored it in 2014 and 2012. “The exclusive USA Pavilion allows U.S.-based railway supply companies and organizations a unique opportunity to highlight their goods and services at InnoTrans," said REMSA Executive Director David Tennent. This year, 12 organizations took advantage of that opportunity: AIC Rail, Emerson Process Management-TopWorx, Herzog, IEM Corp., Loram Maintenance of Way Inc., Railway Interchange, Rocla Concrete Tie Inc., ROV Railway Industry, ThermOmegaTech Inc., TransCore, Transportation Technology Center Inc. and Williams-Hayward Protective Coatings Inc.For example, Herzog showcased its array of maintenance-of-way equipment, including the Automated Conveyer Train (A.C.T.). The A.C.T.'s entire consist (15 cars minimum) can unload in a curve of up to 13 degrees with a super elevation of up to five inches. Each car within the consist can carry 97 tons of material up to five inches in diameter and as small as a particle of sand.“The international market holds great promise for North American railroad suppliers, and the USA Pavilion showcases companies interested in marketing their products globally,” said RSSI Executive Director Mike Drudy.
There was plenty of showcasing outside the USA Pavilion, as well. GE Transportation, in collaboration with Intel Corp., introduced a “superbrain” platform solution for locomotives that transforms them into mobile data headquarters and interacts with GE’s existing GoLINC platform.
The company also announced a partnership with Amsted Rail that combines technologies for rail-car monitoring; debuted the first-ever European digital pilot with DB Cargo, Europe’s largest rail operator; and showcased a series of locomotive modernization products designed for aging fleets. “Today, even with incredibly intelligent and reliable locomotives, railroads still experience hundreds of thousands of unexpected operational delays each year, costing the industry billions of dollars," said Peter Thomas, chief commercial officer for GE Transportation — Digital Solutions. "[At InnoTrans,] we had customers visit from all over the world, and they were incredibly interested in learning more about digital solutions. Our goal is to enable a train, through the use of sensors, to continuously gather data about itself and its environment, making the train ‘aware’ so a railroad can make better decisions.” Siemens also shone the spotlight on digital technology "that will enable our customers to compete more effectively and to strengthen their position in the market: automated driving for an increased and more flexible throughput, digital services to provide maximum availability and IT-based systems for outstanding passenger comfort,” said Jochen Eickholt, chief executive officer of division mobility for Siemens AG. Accordingly, Siemens Digital Services — powered by a single technological base of intelligent products and services called Sinalytics — was a primary company focus at InnoTrans. With Sinalytics, the company helps engineers use data supplied by hardware to anticipate malfunctions before problems occur and target maintenance accordingly. The goal is 100 percent operational availability, which can be achieved through prescriptive maintenance, remote diagnostics, data analytics and optimized spare parts logistics. Siemens also introduced several new rail vehicle concepts for mass transit, commuter and mainline services, including the new Mireo lightweight, energy-efficient train. “The extraordinary level of interest from so many of our customers confirms the importance of digitalization for our industry,” Eickholt said.Meanwhile, Progress Rail offered attendees two exhibits: one for rolling stock and one for infrastructure. The rolling stock stand showcased EMD Uptime, the company’s new predictive analytics and condition-based platform. Uptime monitors locomotive fleets to increase reliability, optimize maintenance activities and improve mission success, officials say. Rail operators can track the status of a single locomotive or an entire fleet from their tablet or smartphone.Progress Rail's infrastructure stand featured trackwork, fasteners, signaling, rail welding and maintenance-of-way equipment with drone inspection, infrastructure asset protection and data analytics for the wayside sector. “It is always a great opportunity to attend InnoTrans for a global view of the world's best rail customers and suppliers," said Paul Denton, senior vice president, marketing and analytics. "We were very excited to showcase our latest technology and appreciate the response by our customers and the media in attendance at the show.”All told, 149 products were introduced at InnoTrans, according to event officials. Since U.S. companies first started exhibiting at the second InnoTrans event in 1998, their numbers have increased tenfold and they occupy 30 times more display space. InnoTrans has evolved in other ways, too. Witness the digital movement. “What we saw during this year’s InnoTrans is the importance of going from data to information,” said Henrik Björkenstam, head of sales at HaslerRail AG, an onboard train monitoring and recording systems provider based in Switzerland with a U.S. presence in Wexford, Pa. “The business has been strongly hardware-driven in the past, and now the focus is turning to adding value to the train operators based on existing equipment.”Michael Popke is a Madison, Wis.-based freelance writer. Email comments or questions to email@example.com.