St. Louis tackles bus maintenance

Accenture and St. Louis mass transit officials aim to improve fleet maintenance in a pilot project now under way.

The project, launched in January for Metro St. Louis, focuses on the development of the Predictive Monitoring system. The system's objective is to analyze real-time data from sensors located on city buses to predict equipment failures before they occur. The forecasting capability is expected to cut maintenance costs for Metro St. Louis, which runs the city’s public transportation system.

Baiju Shah, who directs Accenture Technology Lab's Predictive Insight practice, said the system will keep Metro St. Louis ahead of equipment failure as opposed to having a bus break down on its route. "We can eliminate that scenario for common types of breakdowns," he added.

Shah said city buses had previously been equipped with sensors that monitor engine and transmission information. The pilot project adds Quake Global data collection boxes, which are installed on the buses. The sensor data is captured and transmitted via satellite to Accenture's Chicago lab. Orbcomm provides the satellite service, and the lab uses SmartSignal’s asset health monitoring software to analyze the sensor data.

The software compares a bus' operational data with an analytic model representing normal operating behavior, according to Accenture officials. Metro St. Louis receives notification via e-mail, pages or Web alerts when the software flags a potential issue.

Shah said Accenture's predictive monitoring approach personalizes a predictive model for every piece of equipment. In the past, predictive maintenance systems used a more generalized model for a given equipment category.

Accenture plans to replicate the Metro St. Louis project for other customers. "That was largely our intent by conducting this pilot," Shah explained. "We are going to start offering this capability to some of the other transit authorities."

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