Green light for England
Ko Hartog Verkeerstechniek builds customised solutions out of standard components
When it comes to developing and building traffic control installations (VRIs), Ko Hartog Verkeerstechniek is a good acquaintance of the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management and of municipal and provincial highway authorities in the Netherlands. For a number of years now, companies in England have also been finding their way to Heerhugowaard. What started as a test, has grown into a huge success. itsme was involved in that development from the very beginning.
The Netherlands is a European leader in the area of optimal traffic flow; using sensors, the green time is tailored to the traffic supply. Ko Hartog Verkeerstechniek has been implementing this process for years in their products for public roads. That was exactly what attracted the attention of an English organisation, says Edwin Henning, Technical Director at Ko Hartog Verkeerstechniek.
“They wanted a mobile system with which you could wirelessly connect a total of sixteen lanterns – traffic lights – to temporarily manage a complete junction. This is not permitted in the European Union, in the Netherlands we only know the alternate arrangement. This system ensures that traffic can cross the same lane safely in two directions. They were looking for a creative company to develop and build such a solution, based on our system that guarantees optimal green time. At the same time, it also had to comply with the Topas, the British industry standard for traffic control systems.”
Back to basics
At Ko Hartog Verkeerstechniek, they’re not going to avoid such a technical challenge. And a challenge it certainly was. For example, the mobile VRIs could only be tested partially in Heerhugowaard. In England, more powerful radio signals are used than in the much more densely populated Netherlands. In addition, different types of disruption occur in both countries, which is why a number of test locations are being built on site.
But first we had to lay the foundation, says Edwin. “We have been using Mitsubishi PLC technology in our fixed devices since 1983, so we also wanted that brand for this system. However, we were looking for a PLC that can handle many more functionalities.” He contacted itsme with this question.
Edwin about that cooperation: “We mainly use standard components that we can theoretically order everywhere. We integrate these into our own software and hardware to create customised solutions. We sometimes miss the connection with those components: what best suits our specific applications? However, because our solutions require such a profound knowledge, we sometimes have seemingly simple questions that suppliers struggle to give an answer to. That is why we are not concerned about every single penny. We need technical specialists.”
With regard to the HMI, the end customer had one clear condition: even though there was a completely new technology inside, the operation with old-fashioned push buttons had to remain exactly the same. As it was a client-specific solution with the HMI running on Modbus, Arjen Schutte, Application Engineer at itsme, put Edwin into contact with Protonic, a company that specialises in this.
“We sometimes have seemingly simple questions that suppliers struggle to give an answer to”
At the same time, the quest for the perfect PLC started. Arjen explains how this led to the Mitsubishi IQ-F FX5UC. “This PLC is very compact, yet one of the fastest and most powerful available. This is necessary, because communication is essential, especially in traffic situations. You absolutely want to avoid two traffic lights switching to green at the same time. This is also not possible with this brand, because in the case of failure, a signal is sent: the lights switch to flashing amber.” Programming is also simple in essence. “You insert an SD card, the CPU copies the program and places it in its own memory. That saves a lot of time, everyone without specialist knowledge can do this, it’s completely fool-proof. And if a new PLC is launched in ten years’ time, you can easily migrate the old PLC program.”
He coordinated everything with Joop de Haan, Technical Specialist at Ko Hartog Verkeerstechniek, and the designer of this system, who also takes care of the programming and radiographic part of the VRIs. Edwin considers the fact that they regularly have contact to discuss matters or discuss new developments to be an advantage: “The people from itsme are always welcome for a cup of coffee. We are very selective with other suppliers, because such visits can also disrupt us. We notice that there are sometimes very small questions with our technicians who can be followed up quickly with such a visit. During one of these visits, Arjen found out that a communication module could be omitted. He then discussed this with Joop, which resulted in a saving of 80 Euros per PLC.”
Acting as a buffer
What started as a challenge of whether it could be made at all, turned out to be such a success that now it is mainly the question of how it can be made as efficient as possible. In order to guarantee fast delivery, itsme has the items for the traffic systems specifically for Ko Hartog Verkeerstechniek in stock. Danny van Leeuwen, Branch Manager at itsme, explains they ensure a buffer of 500 items. “While the standard delivery time is five weeks, we deliver directly from stock. If we reach a certain minimum level, we will inform Ko Hartog Verkeerstechniek and place a new order in consultation with them. In this way, they always have the requested goods at the right time and we monitor the inventory level for them.”
“We are not concerned about every single penny. We need technical specialists”
The future is looking bright for Ko Hartog Verkeerstechniek, certainly overseas, says Martijn Verkade, Commercial Director. “After we had rolled out the initial system, we received an order of 1,000 items. After the initial experiences, we continued to develop the product in a number of software versions. We meet with our English customers every year. It is funny to see that certain things that we consider as very normal in the Netherlands are seen as huge developments in England. That implementation is taking small steps, but we are on the right side of the line. This year we expect a sales volume of 3,000.”
Green. From every perspective
Ko Hartog Verkeerstechniek has been around since 1928 and is a team of twenty employees who are specialists in the development, production and sale of traffic systems. They meet strict quality requirements to guarantee road safety. Continuous innovation plays an important role within the company. One of these developments concerns the I-VRI, a traffic control system that connects with vehicles to further optimise traffic flow. Among other things, this has a favourable effect on the emissions of fossil fuels, which reduces the impact on the environment.