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Maintenance goes cableway
Article taken from "Automazione e Strumentazione", issue 1 - January 2003

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Automa, a company on the forefront of industrial automation, proposes MainteX, the maintenance software designed to efficiently and effectively manage an increasingly important activity not only in traditional industry, but also in the service sector, public works and territory. This innovative maintenance system manages faults and malfunctions as they arise, as well as guaranteeing continuous plant operation. ASIRobicon S.p.A. used this system in the electric and electronic automation of Malcesine's new cableway.

By Claudio Brocca ed Elena Bertillo

This cableway consists of two sections and was built for the Funicular Transport Company Malcesine-Monte Baldo S.p.A. (owned by Verona's district council, Malcesine town council and the Chamber of Commerce I.A.A. of Verona). It links Malcesine to San Michele and finally Monte Baldo and is a total reconstruction of a earlier line dating back to 1962.
This plant is used mostly in the summer, as it offers the quickest route to the slopes where you can admire a spectacular view of Lake Garda and the surroundings. In fact Monte Baldo is famous for its many tree varieties and varied scenery: within a climb of only a few metres, you can see both Mediterranean and Alpine vegetation. The point where the cableway arrives is the start of a series of paths over the mountain ridge that reach up to 2,200 m in altitude.
Opened to the public in July 2002, the new plant is so innovative that it is considered a landmark in advanced engineering, due to its mechanics (engineered by Hölzl Costruzioni Funivie S.r.l., now Doppelmayr Italia), architectural design (designed by Studio Progetti from Genoa), and automation and control (installed by ASIRobicon).
The most noticeable feature consists of the two rotating cars on the second stretch (from San Michele to the top of Monte Baldo), where tourists can have a panoramic view during ascent and descent without having to move. This is the world's fourth plant of this type, but the first to have two entirely rotating cars. The rotation around the fixed central structure includes the whole outer part of the car (floor, walls, doors and ceiling) and not just the rotating floor as in other models. Another innovative aspect is the architectural structure, which is designed to blend into the landscape with its elliptic design and many windows that lighten the whole structure, guaranteeing low environmental impact. The three stations are also equipped with all the necessary facilities (bar, information desks, ticket office and wheelchair passageways, etc.) to satisfy all the various needs of the passengers. Finally, the many high-tech instruments allow operators to follow in detail the status of the electric and mechanical systems. Operators can identify any significant changes in the plant's operation effectively and in good time, so that the plant is always running (operating continuity), and as a result, ensuring overall safety.
The heart of the cableway is the intermediary station of San Michele, which acts as the engine for both the first stretch (engine upstream with haulage cable tension downstream) and the second stretch (engine upstream with haulage cable tension upstream): this is where you can find the hoists, electric engines, drive system rooms, control rooms, the haulage cable counterweights for the second stretch and generators. This area is particularly unusual on a functional level, as one station is actually built inside another. A wide straight corridor provides the passageway from the first to the second stretch. Travellers descending, however, change line by passing through lateral corridors.

Technological innovations
Specialists from ASIRobicon BMB-ISE Automation Systems had to develop highly advanced automation technology for building and managing this cableway.
This is the first cableway to be equipped with a switched LAN interconnection network (Ethernet TCP/IP and TCP/UDP) which links and controls the plant. The two stretches were built in sections that are separate from this network, but connected to each other in the "ticket room", where a specially configured and programmed PC supervises both lines at the same time. PLCs, route programmers, control devices and supervision PCs converge in the network on a single "switched hub", which connects the networks of the two stretches and the central PC in the "ticket room".

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The plant's supervision IPCs are equipped with a SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) system for managing the screen pages on the plant control. The control system and other devices in the communication network were integrated using drivers based on OPC (Ole for Process Control).
The HMI system consists of a series of simple and efficient modules that fully satisfy the supervisor's needs. Some of the most important functions of the system are: the route indicator with graphic animation (containing the most important information for the driver, the position of the vehicles and the plant profile); safety operations with first-out; control unit status and configuration; mimic diagrams with pop-ups on the efficiency of the controls; online help and user manual (in two languages); braking layout and tool display with a real-time indication of field quantities (currents, torques, voltages and speed, etc.) and wind-gauge, with an indication of the wind speed and direction.
Furthermore, the supervision and control system is upgraded to allow:
  • maintenance management using Automa's MainteX package, which enables you to configure the requirements of each electromechanical plant component based on separate analyses
  • coordination of all activities, as set forth in the work regulations; SCADA guides operations through screen pages and enables daily check and test sequences before allowing the plant to operate
  • reports with personalized and printable daily and periodical tables containing all the information shown on the screen
  • interactive calculation of theoretical speed curves

In addition to the HMI system, the event recording form (or the so-called Black Box) has been upgraded for automatic recording of requests via burning on a CD-R/RW, so expanding on the range of recorded information and on the temporary "window" inside a single storage device.
Finally, the new diagnosis device allows you to control the entire system (PLCs and PCs) using the local mode plant PCs, via remote mode telephone line and modem.

Predictive maintenance
Maintenance plays a fundamental role in keeping the plant in peak condition. It should not only be corrective (repairing faults and malfunctions as they arise) but also preventive, to ensure continuous plant operation and significantly reduce operating costs.
Prevention is crucial for a plant of such dimensions and complexity, as it has to consider cyclic maintenance (or periodical maintenance, based on predefined usage cycles), condition-based maintenance (depending on the threshold limit set previously) and predictive maintenance (carried out after identifying and measuring one or more parameters and extrapolating them following appropriate models for calculating residual time before a fault).
Specifically, efficient plant maintenance is strictly linked to operating management. The maintenance deadlines for various plant components are scheduled in:
  • daily inspections
  • weekly inspections or after 500 travels
  • monthly inspections or after 2,000 travels
  • six-monthly inspections or after 5,000 travels
  • annual inspections or after 10,000 travels
  • five-year inspections

These deadlines are managed and controlled by MainteX, which ASIRobicon has effectively integrated in the system, and depend on: absolute time (operations are required within a certain period of time even if the part is not used); time relating to the power supply (parts under pressure on the hydraulic circuit or live on the electric circuit); operating time (mechanical or electrical wear); and events not linked to time (such as turnstile counts, number of travels, ecc.)

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MainteX screen

Depending on the environmental conditions and the condition of each part, special inspections and operations may also be necessary. Data collection is completely automatic: signals taken from the field via an direct interface with the automation control PLCs are sent to the maintenance database, where they are processed in order to manage the different system parts, depending the various requirements. However, the operator can also service parts by hand. If there are malfunctions outside the preset deadlines, after taking the necessary precautions regardless of the indicated deadlines, you can perfect the MainteX tables which can then be updated and corrected.
The classification of parts to be maintained is made with a top-down approach: it starts by defining the main parts followed by gradual subdivision until it finally identifies each individual part.
The main equipment to be maintained in the Malcesine plant is divided into the following categories: Cables, Engine Station, Transmission Station, Vehicles, Line Machinery.

Closing comments
Maintenance requires technical as well as managerial and organizational efficiency in order to keep the plant in peak condition, to improve the performance of the cableway and facilities connected to it, to reduce the possibility of stops and as a result, cut costs.
To deal with these requirements, ASIRobicon decided that MainteX was the maintenance software that satisfies all the requirements of efficiency and effectiveness and best integrates with other technologies used in cableways.

MainteX is the maintenance system designed to effectively and efficiently manage corrective maintenance and especially preventive maintenance. Designed for servicemen, this software is based on a standard database that is freely accessible for the development of integration modules.
Data is accessed via Microsoft's ADO technology, guaranteeing compatibility with all supporting databases.
MainteX is able to manage maintenance of the entire plant in a simple but extremely effective way. The serviceman can program his specific job, process a theoretical maintenance plan (planning), write up a final document on programmed and extraordinary operations, keep costs under control and produce a historical record of the information regarding operations carried out.
It is organized into user-friendly sheets which can be managed separately, while meeting all the various operating requirements: reduction in machine stops; reduction in maintenance stops; better work organization; monitoring of all equipment; stock optimization; better financial control; guarantee for staff safety and a historical record of maintenance activities to prevent past budget overshoots from recurring. The software is also extremely user-friendly and quick to use. MainteX is supplied with a licence for one PC and includes Dolphin, a software product designed by Automa to help developers of EPS (Enterprise Production System) Windows applications.

Founded by merging Ansaldo Sistemi Industriali S.p.A. and Robicon, ASIRobicon is an important world leader in industrial power control.
Through BMB-ISE Automation Systems, which is located in Montebello near Vicenza, ASIRobicon has been leader in electric systems for cable plants for over 30 years. The Impianti a Fune Group, under the direction of Mr. Chierici, is able to supply a "turnkey" service for electric power and control systems, which can be adapted to any type of freight or passenger cableway. Its extensive experience ranges from lift facilities for mountain regions to urban transport, which is why the company supplies equipment for traditional funiculars as well as innovative systems.
The Group's Research and Development division is a team of engineers run by Mr. Brocca which works on developing new products like the Malcesine plant. This team is able to supply the necessary support in hardware and software design for the development of state-of-the-art.
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