A special mission

Dietmar Seybold has been with Deutsche Plasser since 1998, first as a service engineer, and for the last few years office-based in Technical Sales. Since the end of 2020, he has been supporting the team carrying out the retrofit of the 08-16/90 tamping machine from Scheuchzer at our Levekusen-Opladen maintenance workshop. We talked to him about this project and the appeal of a retrofit.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. You have been with Deutsche Plasser for many years and are now mainly looking after the retrofit project for the 08-16/90. Before we talk about that, could you introduce yourself to our readers.

Originally, I completed an apprenticeship as a car mechanic and worked as such for two years after I qualified. Then I moved to a rail construction company where I had various roles, primarily as front wagon operator and tamping operator on the 09-32 CSM and Plassermatic 08-275-3S tamping machines. I last worked there as a foreman. In 1998, I moved to Deutsche Plasser and worked as a field service engineer for many years. In 2017, I changed to an office-based job in Technical Sales and since then have been supporting our service engineers with various tasks, e.g. providing them with drawings, researching information, technical support and much more. Since the end of 2020, I have been doing this job in Leverkusen-Opladen, where I support the team working on the retrofit of the 08-16/90 from Scheuchzer.

You have a wide range of specialist knowledge and many years’ experience with the machines. What do you consider to be your strengths?

I think I am very good at working independently and am very conscientious, reliable and determined. In all my positions I have always been able to solve any problems arising, often by myself, or I knew where I could get help from. Whether it be from colleagues in the company or from Plasser & Theurer in Linz, for example. I have built up very good contacts with Linz, which is of great benefit, especially for this retrofit project.

Before we get to that, what do you like about your work at Deutsche Plasser?

Many things. The work is interesting and varied, but above all it is technically challenging. Furthermore, I appreciate the trust the company puts in its employees so they can work independently and take responsibility. I find this very motivating. I also like the camaraderie amongst colleagues and everybody in the team supporting each other. If you get stuck, your colleagues are always there for you and will help out to find a solution together.

You mentioned that you have been supporting the current retrofit project since the end of 2020. How did this come about?

Through my work in Technical Sales I was closely involved in the offer preparation and so very familiar with the machine, its condition and the customer requirements. Therefore, it made sense to support the team on the ground in the maintenance workshop that is responsible for the project implementation.

What is your specific role in this project?

I support the work on the machine from my office and am in charge of the technical project management. I.e., I am handling the contact with the customers and with Linz, for example, to clarify technical issues. I am also the first port of call in case of any issues and will try and solve these as quickly as possible.

The retrofit of this tamping machine seems to be a very appealing project. How is the work progressing?

On the whole very well and swiftly. The dismantling of the machine was no problem, in the course of the assembly process we have encountered one or two challenges which we were able to solve quickly, also thanks to the support from Plasser & Theurer. The project is going well.

In what way do you cooperate with Plasser & Theurer during this project?

Plasser & Theurer is basically the manufacturer of the machine and therefore knows the machine inside out. Through our close links with the company, we benefit from their knowledge of the machine and also have access to machine drawings. This was already of great help to us in the offer phase to be able to clearly define the project requirements together with the customer. During the project implementation, we are also in close and constant contact with the design department in Linz. For the project itself, we obtain of course many parts from Linz, including a new machine frame that was welded together there.

Did you also have design support from Plasser & Theurer?

Yes, we did. Scheuchzer decided, amongst other things, to have a new Caterpillar engine fitted. Since this is heavier than the original engine, we had to re-position individual machine components so as not to exceed the permitted axle loads. Furthermore, the customer wanted to replace the Matisa tamping units with Plasser & Theurer ones. This, and a lot more, was all done by the design department in Linz.

Does the work on a retrofit differ from a “normal” maintenance or repair job?

Yes, definitely. During maintenance or repair work, the machine retains its original design, and only the work that is stipulated or necessary will be carried out. In a retrofit, however, the machine is upgraded to the latest technology, as requested by the customer. This means that the machine as such is changed quite considerably in parts which affects the work to be carried out accordingly. This becomes even more challenging.

Are there any challenges that are specific to retrofits and that do not exist with other projects?

One of the biggest challenges is that the machine approval has to be retained. At the same time, this is also one of the great advantages of a retrofit because the machine can go straight back into service after the work is completed, without having to go through lengthy approval procedures.

However, this requirement means that all upgrades have to be within the existing approval, e.g. with regard to the axle loads. If, as is the case with the Scheuchzer machine, a heavier engine is fitted during the retrofit, other components have to be moved and larger wheels fitted in order to meet the axle load specification. This is a challenge for us, which we can manage thanks to the excellent cooperation with Plasser & Theurer. These issues don’t of course arise for traditional maintenance work.

In the end, a retrofit can be compared to a partial new-build of a machine, depending on the customer specification, and thus requires a lot more work than we are used to for maintenance and repairs. The cost of a retrofit for the customer, however, is clearly below the purchase cost of a new machine.

What other advantages do you see in a retrofit?

Apart from the well-known benefits, such as retaining the approval and extending the machine service life, I also consider the secure supply of spare parts as very important. Especially for older components, it can sometimes be a challenge to supply these. If such key components are replaced and upgraded during a retrofit, this opens up an entirely new supply certainty with regard to spare parts.

The current project for Scheuchzer is generally a very good example of the value of a retrofit. For various reasons, structurally identical machines are no longer produced these days and would not obtain approval. Thanks to a retrofit, their service life can be extended considerably while retaining their approval. At the same time, their performance and reliability can be increased.

Leverkusen-Opladen has carried out a few retrofits already. Why is the maintenance workshop particularly well suited for retrofits?

Our factory hall is equipped with the latest technology and has all the necessary aids such as cranes, lifting platforms, axle pit and wheelset weighbridge. There we also have a lot of space. This helps with the dismantling of the machines as well as with fitting the new components since we can place the required parts near the machine and keep the walking distances short. In addition, we have a washing plant and many sidings and test tracks. And, not to be underestimated, we are in a very central location and can be reached easily from everywhere in Germany.

Let’s come back to you once more. What is the appeal of a retrofit project for you personally?

On the one hand, such a project is really interesting and presents technical challenges for which we have to develop individual solutions. On the other hand, the work can only be done as a team that has to function like a gearbox where each individual gearwheel has to mesh into the next.

A big plus for me is also the close cooperation with Plasser & Theurer. This works very well and plays a crucial role for the customer to receive his “new old machine” as he expects it to be.


Thank you very much for your time!