Success Story

Condition-based maintenance of rolling stock is possible

A railway company serviced its trains at fixed intervals including safety margins. Zühlke systematically analyzed the savings potential of condition-based maintenance and how the company could implement it.


SBB Rail serviced its rolling stock at fixed time intervals. A diagnosis of the actual wear and tear of the trains would permit them to run longer and reduce operating costs. Zühlke was given the task of conducting a study to help assess the cost-effectiveness of a targeted use of diagnostic data for conditionbased maintenance.

The goals were, specifically, a greater availability of trains, quicker analysis of fault causes, and cost reductions through preventive maintenance of the rolling stock. Zühlke was to develop approaches for optimization and identify a gradual transition to condition-based maintenance.


Zühlke selected a representative section of the fleet to analyse the status quo. In joint workshops involving Zühlke, staff from different service centres and other areas at SBB, the key cost drivers of current maintenance activities were identified.

As a next step, Zühlke’s engineers suggested possible improvements and evaluated them together with the customer.
The grouping of measures with potentially high benefits determined several priority areas for action.

The combination of joint development and the open communication of decisions led to a high acceptance of the improvement approaches among the project team and SBB employees involved.

The study revealed potential savings of between 10-20 percent of the preventive and curative maintenance costs examined. A number of these improvements can also be applied to other areas of the passenger train fleet. The study was structured in such a way that SBB was able to implement the results themselves.

Customer benefits

  • The customer benefited from Zühlke‘s systematic planning and approach as well as from their wide experience gained in other projects.
  • Direct and proactive communication increased buy-in from the specialists at different locations and improved identification with the project.
  • The involvement of a neutral advisor provided an impetus for thinking outside the box which led to creative approaches for optimization.