Better management of assets thanks to IoT: the story of Bombardier

Traffic in Belgium is in a mess and the car is increasingly under fire. Does public transport offer a way out? In 2015, the Belgian railways ordered 445 brand-new M7 double-decker trains in order to be able to transport more passengers. The trainsets are being assembled at Bombardier Transportation in Bruges. An extraordinarily complex process, which was recently optimised thanks to an IoT solution from Ordina.

The Canadian aircraft and train manufacturer Bombardier employs 69,500 people worldwide. Bombardier Transportation in Bruges employs 400 people. They assemble among others Eurostar and Thalys trains, shuttles for the Channel Tunnel, trams for the STIB-MIVB and the double-decker trains ordered by the SNCB-NMBS. “Bombardier is actually a system integrator: we combine all the different components,” explains Tom Balanck, Head of Procurement and Supply Chain. Some 30 main suppliers, spread across Europe, supply the components.

Returnable packaging: a complex management process

They package their train components – from ceilings, door systems and sofas to inverters and air conditioning systems – in returnable racks owned by Bombardier. “We have some 2,000 racks, from small to very large, that we transport to our suppliers when we’re expecting an order from them,” says Tom Balanck. “That sounds simpler than it is. Until recently, we didn’t always know where the racks were located. If we needed a specific rack, we often had to call around to find one. That cost us a lot of time and money. After all, a rack costs between 1,500 and 2,000 euros. We always have a number of samples in stock for emergencies.”

No PowerPoints but proofpoints

Bombardier spent a long time looking for a solution to trace the racks. As early as 2006, they carried out a first test with passive RFIDs. However, the investment was considerable and the solution was difficult to integrate with the SAP system. In 2018, Tom Balanck read a customer testimonial from Proximus on the Ordina website. Proximus’s challenge was similar to that of Bombardier: they wanted a way to trace their coils (reels). He got in touch: “The IoT solution that Ordina had developed for Proximus seemed simple and yet very effective. Nevertheless, I was critical. You read a lot of great stories about IoT solutions and successful projects with big data, but the reality is often disappointing. I don’t want PowerPoints, I want proofpoints. Ordina promised to give me those in five days.”

Design sprint: result in 5 days

When customers are looking for an innovative digital solution to a specific challenge, Ordina always puts Clockwork’s colleagues to work first. Together with the customer, they map out the needs and requirements. A trendy concept for this is the design sprint, in which Clockwork experts work out a prototype in an intensive five-day workshop. “It sounded incredible,” admits Tom Balanck, “but the workshop was not binding so we decided to take a chance.” Together with a number of colleagues, he sat down with Clockwork to list the challenges and needs of Bombardier and to discuss possible solutions. On day 5 of the design sprint, Clockwork presented an IoT solution to manage the racks. Bombardier was immediately convinced.

They promised to work out a prototype in a five-day workshop. It sounded incredible, but after five days there was a proposal that worked.

Save time and money

Bombardier’s 800 racks will soon be equipped with a sensor connected to the Proximus IoT network. Through a web portal that Ordina developed on the SAP Cloud platform, Bombardier follows the location of the racks in real time. If a rack is in the same place for too long, Bombardier receives a notification. “The solution is currently running at a number of suppliers and everyone is enthusiastic,” says Tom Balanck. “We are now working much faster because we always know where the racks are located. Because we also manage the stock more efficiently, we save money: in the long run, we will need far fewer racks. The whole process helps to streamline the logistics chain. And our suppliers and customers will certainly also benefit from this: just-in-time deliveries will become a lot easier again.”

The racks are equipped with a sensor connected to the Proximus IoT network. In a web portal, developed on the SAP Cloud platform, Bombardier sees the location of the racks in real time.

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