Article originally published in Railway Strategies
NICK SLATER of itmsoil regularly consults with clients to offer advice on automated monitoring systems to help define their conceptual designs and specification. Here he discusses how automated monitoring can not only improve performance but also offer a cost-effective solution to any asset manager
The technology used in remote condition monitoring systems has improved significantly in the past few years. We now have access to an ever-increasing range of accurate, reliable, low-cost sensors. Data processing and presentation is web-based and accessible from any internet-enabled PC, and alarms can be set up to deliver SMS and emails if measurement trigger levels are exceeded. This can give regular data updates of accurate, reliable and timely information from site and at user-defined download intervals from minutes to days. We believe these technological improvements, coupled with increased costs for manual monitoring and a heightened awareness of health and safety issues associated with visual inspections, mean remote monitoring is a more viable choice than ever. As well as reducing cost, it can also be a very flexible solution: we have recently developed a small-scale automated monitoring system, which can be rapidly deployed at high-risk or remote sites where routine monitoring can be time-consuming and expensive.
The most suitable instrumentation specification is not always obvious however. Through the consultation process we can advise on methods of monitoring that are likely to be more effective for smaller projects than those traditionally used on some of our larger projects. In 2008 we consulted for Network Rail at Hooley Cutting where numerous slope failures had resulted in the need for a monitoring system. Following detailed discussions about the issues Network Rail faced on this section, we were able to suggest a near real-time monitoring system of a rain gauge and a draw wire system with cameras. Reflecting on the project, Graham Birch, Network Rail’s managerearthworks engineer for Southern Routes, told us: “The key to the success of this project was in using the best available technology while constantly sense-checking against the locational and operational constraints associated with working alongside a live railway. Its triumph has been borne out by the provision of three years of reliable data with no unexplained alarms; this has built up a high level of confidence. Building on this success Network Rail can now move forward with the application of similar systems elsewhere around the network, where real-time information on slope mobilisation is crucial to line safety.”
The knowledge we have accumulated working on large and mega projects, such as Crossrail C701, has enabled us to develop an R&D department with a very high level of skill and expertise. Developing new technology to ensure our clients systems are up to date and working as effectively as possible is supremely important to us and we are always keen to discuss specific issues or challenges from the field to support our efforts.
itmsoil is a specialist in the design, manufacture, installation and monitoring of geotechnical and structural instrumentation.