Hanging safely by a steel thread

Monday 10.02.2014 Bruno Wassmer
Bruno Wassmer

Bruno Wassmer, COO, bbv Software Services AG

Ropeways are always one of kind, whether in the Alps, Andes or Rocky Mountains. The ropeway manufacturer Garaventa stands for the highest level of safety and comfort. For innovations in their engineering software they work with bbv.

With the software created by bbv, Garaventa can design unique ropeways efficiently.

Holidays, mountains, nature: Here, possibly few cable car passengers will think about all the things needed to overcome several hundred yards altitude in just seconds virtually unnoticed. But this is the daily challenge for the engineers at Garaventa who ensure that customers can enjoy their experience in perfect safety.

Additionally, they aim to set new standards by developing unusual ropeway constructions. They produce not just simple systems, but real tourism magnets which enhance the profile of entire regions. This is a factor not to be underestimated especially in a period of intense competition and declining tourist numbers.

Garaventa applies the same high standards both when building new ropeway systems and when upgrading or overhauling existing ones. Even the relocation of a single cable car support can change the statics of the entire construction. And factors like the terrain, weather or load all present very different challenges for the construction design calculation. All these factors interact to change the huge forces acting on the cables, supports and drives. Highly complex algorithms are used to simulate all conceivable load situations.

Complying with innumerable standards

In addition, there are many more ropeway types than the layperson will be aware of. The product range of the Doppelmayr/ Garaventa Group includes all of them: from ski lifts to large cabin systems, funiculars, supply ropeways, long-distance continuous conveyors and cable liner shuttle trains. These are not just used in the mountains, but increasingly in urban environments too. The previous software used by Garaventa could cope only up to a point with the growing variety of cable car systems, rising safety requirements and the continuously expanding range of regulatory standards. A new solution was needed. In bbv Software Services, Garaventa found a partner who not just understood the algorithms, but also knew how to implement the complexity of the engineering performance in a software designed for intuitive use.

Successful agile development

A first version was implemented in just six months with the aid of Scrum, an agile development methodology. The calculation models had to be standardized in a first step before they could be implemented in the software. GARAtre, as the new product is called, already contained the most valuable component of the software functionality from the start. New functions could be integrated with every new iteration and even short-term changes taken into account. “We were amazed by the speed of the development. We could calculate our current projects immediately and rest assured that every new version of the software would deliver reliable data,” says Garaventa project manager Ueli Sutter.

A new version of GARAtre with expanded functionalities was ready every three weeks. Since the software is used in a field where safety is absolutely critical, stability and security had top priority. To meet these requirements, bbv applied the save design approach. This method ensures that all variants proposed by GARAtre comply with all safety requirements, so that even less experienced users are supported optimally in complying with all safety standards. “There are very different safety requirements and regulatory standards worldwide. With GARAtre we can always guarantee full compliance,” Sutter explains. The software has now become an integral tool and can calculate even more complex systems and rare load situations. And it also offers advantages on the administrative side: “The software performs all development steps, from the pre-project to regulatory reporting.”

One of the first projects developed with GARAtre was new territory in terms of engineering too. A ropeway was created with an open upper deck where passengers can stay during the journey up and down. The world’s first CabriO ropeway went into operation at the end of June 2012. It is a combination of a Funifor and classic aerial tramway which transports passengers to the Stanserhorn in the canton of Nidwalden.

Success for both sides

The development of the Stanserhorn ropeway was a big success for Garaventa. The project found considerable attention in the national and international press and was showered with praise and awards, including the Marketing Trophy Award. bbv Software Services received the .NET Microsoft Award for GARAtre. Apart from the capabilities and efficient communication on the part of bbv, another factor was vital for the successful cooperation with Garaventa: “The decisive benefit for us was bbv’s deep understanding of the complexity of our business— not just at the level of IT, but also in the field of engineering technology,” says Ueli Sutter at Garaventa.

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