The impressive Bascoup site of Belgian railway infrastructure company Infrabel is being modernised step by step to further improve safety, increase productivity and optimise logistics. Last year, a series of new overhead travelling cranes was installed, an operation requiring particular care as production continued during installation.
Modernising the railway switch factory
Bascoup, located between Charleroi and Mons, is one of the largest Infrabel production sites and the only one producing railway switches. With a staff of 240, including engineers, metalworkers, material specialists and mechanics, the Bascoup site produces around 230 railway switches per year, which involves processing 7,000 tonnes of steel (the weight of the Eiffel Tower), including 4,000 tonnes of special rail steel. A few years ago, on the occasion of the site centennial, Infrabel launched a 52 million euro investment programme at Bascoup focusing on safety improvements, and productivity and capacity increases.
Six workshops, fifteen cranes
The production of railway switches is anything but routine. It is a multi-step process involving high-precision manufacturing of parts (metalwork with tolerance of around 1/10 of a millimetre), complex assembly work and the carrying out of various quality test procedures. As each step in the manufacturing process requires the use of special machinery, the activities are spread over six different workshops. As a result, products have to be transported frequently from one place to another, including intermediate storage locations. Since the 1970s, no less than fifteen overhead travelling cranes have been in place for this purpose.
A long-term solution
However, the old cranes have increasingly showed signs of wear and tear. “We had an increasing number of crane outages for a variety of reasons,” says Bascoup Maintenance Manager Christian Buyst. “Some of the wheel flanges were clearly worn out and some of the crane drives became more and more unreliable. It had already caused a number of production downtimes, so we needed to do something. We quickly came to the conclusion that in the long term it was better to replace all the cranes instead of revamping the old ones. On top of that we decided to renovate all our crane rails.”
They had clear scenarios for the installation and commissioning of the cranes in order to minimise disruption to production
The commission for the replacement and rail renovation was won by TCS. “Their proposal correctly addressed all our requirements and was also favourable in financial terms,” says Buyst. “But the thing that convinced us the most was probably their project approach. They proposed a phased delivery for each workshop so that we could make temporary arrangements for production to continue, for example by using hired mobile cranes. They also had meticulously written out scenarios for the installation and commissioning of the cranes in order to minimise disruption to production. That worked out fine. In fact, I was amazed to see how well-organised they were during their work.” Then, in a joking vein Buyst adds: “We haven’t even yelled at each other, not once, during the whole project!”
- Dismantling existing overhead travelling cranes and rails
- Installation of 15 new overhead travelling cranes, including
- 1 x DBK 2x2.5T x 34.7m with rotating hoist
- 1 x DBK 2x5T x 34.7m with motorized rotating compensation bar 3T x 27m and a cabin
- 1 x DBK 2x3.2T x 19 m with rotating hoist
- 1 x EBK 6.3T x 19 m
- 8 x EBK 5T x 16.4 m
- 3 x EBK 5T x 19 m
- All of the cranes are equipped with RF remote control with load display, tandem control, anti-sway, frequency control, and display of electric status on tablet. Dual-hoist cranes equipped with electronic motion synchronization.
- Installation of 1652m Burbachrail H-profile rails and 500m Burbachrail tubular rails, including aligning
- Installation of 1076m power supply cable
- Renovation of part of the rail supporting structures