Innovation in Motion | A Flotec Rail Story
Updated: Mar 24
The Flotec Mission for Rail is to be a trusted and leading supplier of hose and engineering solutions to the market.
Flotec has a story to tell.
A gem of a company nestled deep within the County of Leicestershire UK; Flotec is proving precisely how valuable the SME community is, specifically within the rail supply chain.
Flotec achieves this by addressing the 4 C’s Challenge of: COST (reduction), CARBON (reduction), (increased) CAPACITY, (improved) CUSTOMER (satisfaction).
SME Flotec continues to innovate, adapt, evolve, and expand.
In 2020, Flotec celebrated twenty-five years of business where, it has historically supplied hydraulic, pneumatic and pipeline products and services, to a mix of industries in need of this offering.
Approximately ten years ago, Flotec entered the realms of rail.
Part One. I is for Innovation.
Innovation in Motion.
What does this strapline mean? It explains that when train fleets and track maintenance machines fitted with a Flotec engineering solution are in transit or operation, innovation is (quite literally), in motion.
Flotec’s value-added service provision helps to keep the rail sector moving.
What is Innovation?
To truly fathom this question, we need to understand the fundamental basics of ‘innovation’.
Flotec has ensured to make ‘innovation’ a major theme of its core values:
1. To continuously investigate and find new ways of doing things for the better
2. To develop, create and invent unique solutions relevant to the task in hand
3. Where appropriate, to apply existing ways of doing things to a new market
4. Where appropriate, to modify existing assets to perform better
5. Where appropriate, to radically transform and disrupt markets for the better
Let us examine innovation further:
Regarding how to apply existing ways of doing things to a new market, chat bot integration is already in use within airports.
Gatwick Airport recently introduced GAIL, a chat bot capable of providing up-to-date flight information with real-time notifications, details about available shops at the airport and places to dine.
Train stations and the wider rail sector could and can, integrate this technology.
Secondly, how do we modify existing assets?
Academic teaching will tell you about the evolution of the Boeing 747 aeroplane. In simple terms, the existing plane looks not much more visually different to when first designed.
However, over the years, all kinds of components have advanced (from internal HVAC, seat coverings, through to self-guidance systems and so forth).
New and existing train fleets as well as yellow plant assets, also come in to play.
The Flotec objective is to deliver innovative rail modifications between scheduled overhauls and help towards reducing costly downtime whilst enhancing train fleet and machine efficiency.
Applications such as the variable pitch fan for DMU units, hydrostatic and coolant hoses as well as coupling and clamping developments have all helped to add stripes and kudos to the Flotec service provision.
Over the years, Flotec has worked collaboratively with rail clients to develop proven systems and procedures which are currently in use throughout the UK rail network.
What does it REALLY mean to disrupt a market?
In a nutshell, to do something completely different and, never done before to the benefit of an entire industry (or, wider sector).
We are all now firmly embedded within the realms of IoT, whereby radical disruption has become quite common.
We have certainly seen (and will continue to witness) exciting developments regarding the design and application of connectivity and technology.
Flotec has developed sophisticated asset management solutions and automated stockholding of parts and components which, eliminates the need for time-consuming administration for its clients.
Furthermore, train installations are tagged and monitored where, advanced reporting helps to visualise the most likely critical downtime, so that replacements can be installed prior to failure.
Of course, Flotec’s objective is to design and supply solutions to the rail market which are quite unique.
The ethos is to deliver a solutions-based service as opposed to replace like-for-like products or components.
Part Two. S is for Segmentation.
Who does Flotec provide its rail services to?
This can simply be segmented in to the following:
· Light Rail
· Track Maintenance Machines (Yellow Plant)
Part Three. P is for Product.
Flotec has introduced a range of products to enhance the performance and reliability of train fleets.
The Flotec Bluestripe Rail Hose
Whilst silicone hose is a common coolant application for rail rolling stock and train fleets, Flotec has introduced an innovative EPDM product for coolant requirements.
Coupled with the Flotec PowerGrip band clamps, this enhancement has been proven to be reliable for over 750,000 miles of engine use.
Furthermore, the Bluestripe EPDM coolant hose is ten times more resistant to water permeation than traditional silicone hoses.
The combination of Bluestripe hoses and PowerGrip clamps guarantee a leak free solution between scheduled overhauls.
Flotec has also developed and introduced to market, a dedicated PowerShrink Control Box which, simplifies the process of installing the Flotec hose and clamping products.
The Flotec Hydrostatic Rail Hose
Committed to designing and installing a bespoke hose solution to rail rolling stock and train fleets, Flotec set about introducing an alternative hydrostatic rail hose and coupling innovation, which has been proven to outperform market competitors.
The MED-HT hose can withstand temperatures of up to 150oC.
This is a significant factor when realising that hoses are placed in a heated engine environment.
Flotec’s hoses have been proven to last three times longer than others on the market.
Combining this hydrostatic hose with a patented ‘C-Insert’ coupling innovation, guarantees a truly leak free solution.
The EXHI hydrostatic rail hose products are suitable for higher pressures and, have been tested to an astonishing 1,000,000 impulse cycles which, far supersedes the market standard of only 300,000.
The Flotec MegaTuff and XtraTuff Hose Coverings for Track Maintenance Machinery
Track maintenance (yellow plant) machinery and their hoses are exposed to frequent abrasion which results in premature failure.
This creates substantial and costly down-time and can, cause a negative ‘ripple effect’ disruption to passenger and freight train services.
To overcome this problem, Flotec has developed the MegaTuff and XtraTuff hose coverings.
MegaTuff has been proven to be 300x more abrasion resistant to other hose products on the market. XtraTuff also boasts 25x more abrasion resistance compared to standard hydraulic hose coverings.
The Flotec Variable Pitch Fan Innovation for DMU Train Fleets
DMU trains can experience ‘return to idle’ (RTI) engine problems which can catastrophically cause the train to slow down, resulting in delays or even worse, cancellations.
This issue typically occurs in warmer months and is caused by a build up of debris such as pollen in the system.
Flotec has developed a series of modifications to overcome the RTI scenario, consisting of:
· Hydrostatic Hose Installations
· Hydrostatic Reservoir Overhaul
· Electronic Fan Control
· Variable Displacement Pump Upgrade
· Variable Pitch Fan Innovation
Forming part of a wider overhaul project, the variable pitch fan is truly unique in that; its blades rotate on their own axis which, are effective in maintaining radiator cooling to solve RTI complications.
The Flotec Rail Fleet Battery Charging Solution
Part Four. D is for Diversity.
Every member of the Flotec team understands that, having a thorough appreciation of, and empathy towards, equality and, respect for diversity and inclusivity, creates a much more productive organisation where creativity and innovation will thrive.
Flotec believes that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a necessity as opposed to merely being a ‘box ticking’ exercise.
As a trusted champion of SME excellence, Flotec is a truly valued supplier within the rail sector.
Part Five. C is for Customer.
As part of its commitment to deliver a best-in-class customer service, Flotec’s Core Values promise the following:
· To offer a solutions-based approach for all customers
· To provide a polite, courteous, professional and, knowledgeable experience
· To focus on service, solutions, and delivery
· To give such an exceptional service that customers keep coming back
Obviously, the Pareto 80/20 rule immediately springs to mind. But, what about market growth? When considering the rail sector, Flotec has an exciting product portfolio to offer.
The products being delivered to market are proven, tested, trusted and robust. Furthermore, the Flotec strategy is to insist on delivering definitive solutions to address real problems and issues as opposed to merely replacing worn parts.
The Flotec engineering team will advise, design, and install a suitable alternative with guaranteed results based upon intelligent data and real-time analytics.
Additionally, the Flotec engineering team will do all the fitting and installation work on behalf of the rail customer.
Flotec provides a comprehensive provision of all required documentation to its rail clients.
Part Six. Q is for Quality.
Firstly, Flotec is fully EN 45545 fire safe compliant. Furthermore, the organisation is certified to the very latest standards of ISO 9001:2015 for quality assurance.
Fully RISQS verified and hose assembly approved, by the British Fluid Power Distributors Association, Flotec continuously strives to be the very best it can be, to empower the organisation; to provide rail clients with a reliable, proven, and robust service provision.
Flotec invests in its own people, assets, and systems, to ensure that the most up-to-date, safe, and reliable rail sector engineering solutions are always delivered on time.
Flotec is currently developing electric and hydrogen engineering solutions to support the rail sector with longer term objectives.
Flotec is an innovative, creative, solutions-based, diverse, dynamic, and inclusive SME, dedicated and committed to supplying the rail sector with proven results to help keep assets efficient, timely, robust, and reliable.