Applying systems engineering to optimise the operation and maintenance of railway vehicles throughout the value chain

A recent move by the UK government to purchase two new railway vehicle fleets from the provider offering the lowest whole-life, whole-system cost creates significant challenges to traditional manufacturers and their extended enterprises. This paper describes the work of a collaborative academic-industry research project; applying systems engineering to enable the optimisation of the operation and maintenance of railway vehicles – one aspect of railway vehicles’ lives which will need to be fully understood in order to offer optimised whole-life contracts. A model of the current operation and maintenance extended enterprise is created using soft systems methodology with critical value generating parameters identified. Explanations are presented for the perception of the current extended enterprise being too expensive, slow to respond and inflexible. Future work is discussed detailing how systems engineering approaches and systems thinking can be further used to bring about a more optimised approach to operating and maintaining railway vehicles in the UK.