A recent article on the Bulk Distributor surrounding railway innovation in the rail sector demonstrates the need to change the way we think about railway innovation. Contrary to what the article states, Innovation does happen and it’s through modern software, data and analytics.
The article ‘why innovation in rail freight doesn’t happen’ suggests that “those looking to shift freight on the rail network are unlikely to see large-scale innovation soon”. This was supported by their case studies on manufactures taking years to develop new technologies, the rate in which the industry is growing, and the disconnect between stakeholders in the rail freight supply chain.
What the article doesn’t highlight is the leaps and bounds software, analytics, and data have played in better utilising the resources that we have available to us. It is this innovation that is:
- Connecting stakeholders within the rail freight industry,
- Enabling us to deal with both the volume of freight as well as the changing labor market, and
- These systems are being rolled out more efficiently, and quickly than ever.
Software innovation in the rail freight industry
Software in the rail freight industry has changed drastically over the last few years. Through SaaS solutions railways are able to reduce their IT footprint, integrate seamlessly with other systems and make their products more intuitive and user friendly.
The old approach to software delivery limited the ability for companies to easily customise and support their products for a changing environment often taking months to get a new software patch in place. Through the SaaS model, updates can be created, tested, and implemented in a matter of hours, days, or weeks depending on the changes.
What this means for the rail freight industry is that there is no more one size fits all approach to software delivery. Customised solutions can be built more quickly, and affordably than ever before.
Data Innovation in the rail freight industry
The terms Big data, and the Internet of things has been thrown around a lot over the last 5 or so years and despite the media trends, the benefits really do exist. As you can see in GE Transportation’s video on the Industrial Internet, through modern sensory devices we can now capture, and make critical insights to better manage the quality of assets and how effectively they are running.
The question becomes, how do we use this deluge of data to make real insights on an operational, short term, and long term planning time horizon.
Analytical innovation in the rail freight industry
Analytics is not a new phenomenon and has been used by companies to deliver insights and efficiency savings across critical tasks for hundreds of years. However, for most companies it is finding the right analytical techniques and methods to use in each situation. As outlined in this article on dynamic railway scheduling, thinking outside the box, at different techniques was required to find the best solution for the problem. By solving the problem in a different way, the railway is now able to drive end-to-end network efficiency rather than region based optimisation.
Smart companies bringing railway innovation together
The trick moving forward and turning railways into 21st century powerhouses is bringing these critical areas together.
Smart SaaS software, that can provide optimised results, using the masses of data that you have available.
By bringing these areas together the opportunities for railways to improve service delivery, reduce costs, and better allocate their critical resources are undeniable.
- What if Pit to Port operators could increase tonne kms?
- What if Network track operators could increase track utilisation?
- What if Rail Yards could increase throughput?
- What if Railway Engineers could predict locomotive engine failure and pre-emptively fix their engines?
- What if…..?