UWC’s product range comprises more than 70 models and modifications of freight cars. More than 145,000 railcars built in Tikhvin are operated not only in Russia, but also in other countries of the world on different continents. Let’s take a closer look at this advanced and unique production enterprise.
The Industrial Site of the United Wagon Company is located in the city of Tikhvin, Leningrad Region (Russia).
UWC’s freight car production facilities produce gondola cars, various modifications of hopper cars for grain and mineral fertilizers, box cars, flat cars for containers, timber and metal, tank cars for chemicals, oil and petroleum products, liquefied gases and foodstuffs, as well as specialized rolling stock, such as dump cars.
The main competitive advantages of Tikhvin freight cars include increased payload capacity, extended overhaul intervals up to 8 years, and a service life of an average of 32 years, for some components lasting up to 40 years. Improved performance is achieved through the use of highly efficient design solutions, wearresistant materials and reliable bogies.
The business management system at UWC’s production facilities complies with ISO/TS 22163:2017 “Railway Applications — Quality Management System — Business Management System Requirements For Rail Organizations: ISO 9001:2015 and Particular Requirements for Application in Rail Sector”, which enables the company to develop and improve business processes ensuring product quality and safety.
Freight car begins with metal
The company’s foundry manufactures the entire range of car castings needed for the assembly of bogies. These are heavy castings: side frames and bolsters, and medium-sized ones – automatic couplers, upper center plates, rear and front stops, yokes and other parts. The monthly output of castings approximates 6 thousand tonnes.
The model workshop is equipped with advanced machinery and tools, and all the necessary materials are stored in the warehouse: sands, ferroalloys, scrap metal, etc. Therefore, according to Andrey Zagainov, Chief Metallurgist of Tikhvin Freight Car Building Plant (TVSZ, the production centre of the UWC Group – Editor’s note), upon receipt of a new order, the enterprise can itself design and manufacture the required pattern and core tooling for any part.
Steel is melted in two electric arc furnaces with a capacity of 20 tonnes each. The applied technology of out-of-furnace metal processing makes it possible to obtain improved quality of steel at reduced energy consumption. The whole process is maximally automated.
UWC’s freight car production facilities produce different types of rolling stock for any railway gauge
While steel is being melt in melting furnaces at temperatures up to 1,700˚C, casting moulds are assembled in another area: these are elements that determine the internal and external contours of the casting (a casting is a hardened and cooled metal that has been shaped into the required part – Editor’s note). The casting mould consists of two half-moulds made of quartz sand, and cores installed in them, obtained from a special core mixture. To produce moulds, the plant employs a vacuum-film moulding technology. Its advantages are environmental friendliness, the precision of castings obtained with minimal labor intensity and the highest quality in terms of the absence of casting defects.
“The process looks as follows. The model is wrapped in a heated film and covered with a non-stick coating. Then, dry sand is poured into the flask (a flask is a special device that serves to hold the moulding sand – Editor’s note) and compacted by vibration. Then another layer of film is applied on top. With the help of special pumps, a vacuum is created to hold the shape. The cores are installed into it, and the finished form is assembled. After pouring the metal, the casting is cooled and knocked out of the mould. The remaining dry sand is also cooled down and then reused for moulding. That is, instead of being disposed of, it is just cleaned of metal inclusions and reintroduced into the production process,“ Andrey Zagainov adds.
After moulding, the castings enter the chipping workshop, where, first of all, the elements of the gating system (a system of channels through which the molten metal is injected into the mould cavities – Editor’s note) should be removed using manipulators or cutting and grinding machines, and then the casting is heat treated to acquire the necessary mechanical properties (the temperature in rotary kilns for normalization exceeds 900˚С). After a repeated cleaning procedure with shot blasting machine, the surface of the product becomes even and smooth. And at the next stage, the castings undergo a thorough quality control, including nondestructive testing for external methods. When compliance for all the parameters is confirmed, the cast billet is transferred to the machining, assembly and painting workshop, from where the finished part comes out.
After moulding, the castings enter the chipping workshop, where, first of all, the elements of the gating system should be removed using manipulators or cutting and grinding machines
UWC has selected the most productive and efficient machinery to equip its foundry. “The machinery and equipment installed at the foundry allow us to meet all the most stringent standards, not only Russian, but also international ones, so it is not really difficult for us to implement export contracts,” Andrey Zagainov assured. “Our list of suppliers of equipment and consumables, that pass thorough quality control and selection procedures, is growing year by year, including through Asian partners.”
Quality is paramount
It is difficult to imagine, but the casting quality can be subject to more than 2,000 parameters. At the Tikhvin Industrial Site, about 200 parameters were selected as key ones. For some of them, not even a slight deviation is allowed. For example, according to the chemical analysis results, the entire melt can be rejected. And, say, the fractional composition of the sand, the strength characteristics of the core and a number of other factors are important when considered as an aggregate.
In any foundry, there is such a thing as technically unavoidable rejects. Usually, enterprises determine such reject rate individually. This parameter at UWC is comparable to the global average.
It is difficult to imagine, but the casting quality can be subject to more than 2,000 parameters. At the Tikhvin Industrial Site, about 200 parameters were selected as key ones
All necessary studies to ensure and confirm the quality of manufactured castings are carried out by the central factory laboratory. First, it verifies the incoming materials for compliance with the requirements – this is the so-called incoming control. Produced castings are subjected to dynamic and static load tests. And each 500-th frame or centre sill is subjected to additional tests to determine internal defects, and the macro- and microstructure of the metal is analysed. Thus, the laboratory accompanies the entire process of casting production.
Top notch assembly
The freight car building plant at the Tikhvin Industrial Site manufactures parts from sheet, coil and shaped steel, welds and paints the freight car body, assembles bogies, and performs the final assembly and quality control of the rolling stock.
The most mass-market product that has been produced at the Tikhvin Freight Car Building Plant since its launch is a new generation hatch gondola car. With a freight car body space of 92 m3 and a payload capacity of 75 tonnes, it can carry approximately 10% more cargo compared to previous generation models. The freight car can be operated at all types of loading and unloading terminals. The daily output at the Site is 36 gondola cars. The takt time is just a bit over 30 minutes, which means a finished gondola car leaves the production line approximately every half an hour. In terms of global standards, it is a very high performance indicator.
Konstantin Konishchev, Chief Designer at TVSZ, adds that the company has the highest level of robotics and automation in the Russian car building industry. Blank processing areas are equipped with bending machines and rolling modules, which allow obtaining the desired configuration of parts, reducing the weight of containers, and providing the necessary strength and geometric parameters. In general, robotic and automated car assembly lines not only minimized manual labor, but also ensured the highest quality of manufactured products.
Much work is being done with new materials. For example, the introduction of wear-resistant parts – friction wedges, a dapters, sliders – made of high-strength cast iron, allowed to increase several times their service life before replacement. Currently, high-strength steels are employed in production to reduce freight car tare weight, while maintaining target reliability and strength levels.
All improvements are introduced as part of the Production System Development. Since its establishment, UWC has been actively employing lean manufacturing tools contributing to the optimization of the key production processes. To date, the Industrial Site has introduced and employs the most effective tools: the 5S1 system, the TPM2 system, the calculation of OEE3 factors, the Standardized Work method4 and Value Stream Mapping5. “The application of the aforementioned production system tools is forming a whole philosophy of continuous improvement. Moreover, not only projects that have an economic effect are important, but also those that allow us to change our thinking,“Nikita Morozov, Head of the TVSZ Production System Development Department, commented.
One of the key technological successes of UWC is the launch of its own bogie of a fundamentally new design on the 1520-mm track gauge area market, on which the company has relied since its inception. The process of development, testing, mass production, controlled operation and localization of components took more than 10 years. As a result, through many years of efforts on the part of the infrastructure owner represented by the Russian Railways to develop infrastructure and traction, as well as through the efforts put by the UWC Group to create a respective bogie and a line of freight cars on the 1520-mm track gauge area, a new axle load standard has been firmly established – 25 tonnes instead of 23.5 tonnes, which has existed for more than half a century. It gave a boost that Russia needed for the systematic development of its heavy haul traffic along with the renewal of infrastructure, debottlenecking and the creation of a foundation for a further increase in axle loads to 27 tonnes and more.
UWC products are used not only throughout the entire 1520-mm track gauge area, but also in Europe, the USA, Asia and Africa
UWC products are used not only throughout the entire 1520-mm track gauge area, but also in Europe, the USA, Asia and Africa. In particular, the company delivered its heavy car castings to the North American market, for which purpose the company’s foundry passed certification to AAR standards. There have also been implemented projects to produce container flat cars for Germany and Poland, gondola cars for Iran, hopper cars for Guinea and many others. Projects for the supply of casting parts and freight cars to India are currently being developed.
Konstantin Konishchev emphasizes that UWC produces freight cars for any gauge and international standards that differ from Russian ones. This rule applies to axle load, dimensions, design features of the brake system, coupling equipment and other components. The competencies of UWC employees and the existing production base allow to certify the production processes, products and go through all the necessary licensing procedures to fulfill export contracts.
To maintain and repair UWC freight cars, a network of authorized service centres has been established across the 1520-mm track gauge area, which are supplied with the necessary components. In foreign countries, service support is provided in an exclusive format. As a rule, together with the customer, a partner is selected in the local market, which can provide localized service maintenance for UWC freight cars. The Group provides trainings for personnel in key operations and replenishes the warehouse with spare parts. Sometimes, personal involvement of Russian specialists is required. In such cases, they travel to the site to tackle the issues on the spot.
In general, the main goal of UWC as a responsible manufacturer is to offer a freight car most beneficial in maintenance throughout the entire life cycle. It is important to ensure that it has a longer service life, fewer repairs and is able to carry more freights. The owner of the infrastructure is also interested in transporting more goods with fewer freight cars, as well as in minimizing the impact of rolling stock on the track. All these criteria are taken into account in UWC products.
One of the new and promising areas is articulated freight cars. Each such freight car is equipped with six axles instead of the usual four and two sections connected using a special device – an articulation unit. This solution has a number of advantages. The payload capacity of articulated freight cars is about 1.5 times above that of typical four-axle freight cars.
Thanks to specialists from the engineering centre of the UWC Group, the All-Union Research and Development Centre for Transportation Technology, as well as employees of the Tikhvin freight car manufacturers, who masterfully implement new developments, the product range of the United Wagon Company is constantly expanding.
1 The 5S system is a system of rational workplace arrangement.
2 The TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) system allows everyone to be involved in the equipment maintenance process. Developing visual diagrams and checklists, providing all the necessary tools – all this minimizes downtime, because preventive measures help the machines and equipment to operate longer.
3 Based on the OEE factor calculation (Overall Equipment Effectiveness), it is possible to comprehensively assess the effectiveness of the equipment. It consists of three elements. The quality factor shows how much the equipment used produces quality products. The availability factor shows to what extent the machinery or equipment is ready to produce products (i.e. breakdowns, downtime, etc. should be taken into account). The capacity factor shows how much the equipment operates in a given rhythm according to its datasheet specifications. This calculation is used to determine the factors to focus on to improve the efficiency of the machinery and equipment operability.
4 The “Standardized Work” Methodology allows to evaluate the staff workload and to determine the optimal sequence of operations. In the course of implementing this tool, the employee is monitored, the losses are eliminated, and the best sequence of operations, which is then fixed in the form of a standard, is selected.
5 This tool, Value Stream Mapping, allows to analyze the entire production flow, and to identify emerging losses, bottlenecks, imbalances between operations, and excess stocks. It helps to get a whole view on the identified issues and develop comprehensive measures to address them. If necessary, the line balancing is applied along with this tool to equalize the load.