Saad Khan’s innovative software helped one rail engineering company drastically improve its approach to rolling stock management.
When Saad Khan’s data analytics platform TrainDNA went live earlier this year, it became clear it would change the way assets — and people — operate across Downer forever.
TrainDNA is software designed to anticipate the need for maintenance on trains before a failure occurs that affects service.
It was developed by Khan and his team over two years and went live in March.
Khan, who was named among create’s Most Innovative Engineers for 2019, said the team trained some people to use TrainDNA with existing facilities.
“But we also recognised that this actually warrants a bigger change to the business,” he said.
“Not just some nice new dashboards.”
To that end, the company’s rollingstock services unit built an integrated operating centre, which launched in April. It’s a central hub that seats long-term and short-term planners, managing multiple assets, over multiple sites, from the one location.
TrainDNA is one of the core tools being used within the centre.
The launch of the integrated operating centre sent a powerful message, Khan said.
“That, in itself, has actually signalled to the rest of the business that this is pretty serious and it’s going to change the way we see the roles within our business,” he said.
“There’s an aura, I guess, associated with this digitalisation journey that we’re on. You can almost feel as though people are recognising that ‘I need to have new skillsets and I need to have an understanding of how to leverage this digital world’.”
Khan said TrainDNA is already changing jobs within Downer.
One example is the company’s fleet operations support officers.
“That person’s role is to basically be the first point of contact for any crew who operate the train to say, ‘hey look, there’s something that looks like it’s wrong with the train’,” Khan said.
“Essentially that role used to be predominantly waiting for something to go wrong and then raising corrective maintenance work orders. This person is now actually going to get a whole heap of information that’s going to come from the train. And instead of raising corrective maintenance work orders they’re going to be to be raising preventative maintenance work orders.”
Khan plans to track the number of preventative and corrective work orders raised.
“That gives an indication of how on top of the condition of my assets I am as a business,” he said.
“And that’s a big change for a slow-moving industry like rail.”
With the success of TrainDNA, Khan now runs a technology, innovation and data focus group across Downer, and sits on several working groups of the Australian Railway Association.
He said the rollingstock services unit building TrainDNA has inspired other Downer Group businesses to look at what they can do in analytics.
“We’ve got a RoadDNA and a TrackDNA and a whole bunch of these different ones in the works now,” Khan said.
Downer has also expressed interest in Khan’s team exploring the field of robotics.
“Is there a world where trains can do stuff by themselves and we don’t have to do all those mundane tasks?,” Khan said.
“All those questions are being asked of us in the team to explore and innovate, which is super exciting.”
Saad Khan was named as one of create’s Most Innovative Engineers in 2019. Are you an innovative engineer or know someone who is? create will call for nominations in January 2020.