Scott Peoples Discusses Navis Acquisition of Biarri Rail

The Navis acquisition of Biarri Rail was completed in March of this year and the Chief Acquisitions Officer (CAO) of Navis, Scott Peoples, discussed the strategic benefits of the acquisition in an article in WordCargo News

In the interview, Mr. Peoples said Navis sees a number of long-term benefits from the acquisition. In the first case, it increases Navis’s presence in the rail market, including intermodal rail and on-dock rail sectors. Biarri Rail is also a software-as-a-service (SaaS) business, which aligns with Navis’s strategic direction, and is a best-in-class application.

Biarri’s profile with freight railroads opens up new opportunities for Navis as those railroads look to adopt more sophisticated yard management systems for intermodal terminals. Navis sees an opportunity to increase its presence in yard management at these facilities.

As a part of the transition, Biarri Rail has been rebranded as Navis Rail. For more information on Navis Rail and how it can help your organization, please contact Kevin Foy.

Rethinking Your Operating Plan

As freight rail traffic continues its historic decline in volume ( a 25% drop, year-on-year, during one recent week in the US), we believe that freight railroads must deploy new tools for updating their operating plans. With such a dramatic, and possibly sustained, drop in freight volume railroads need the tools and flexibility to build new operating plans that reflect these trends. In addition to the reduced traffic volume, the mix of the traffic is shifting, which could cause mis-allocation of assets such as locos, cars, crews and yards.

Tom Forbes, Vice President for Navis Rail, wrote recently in Railways Africa that the only way for freight railroads to quickly create and execute new operating plans is to deploy automated service design and planning tools for developing service plans. Operating plans can be rapidly developed using tools such as Navis Rail, powered by Biarri Rail, to improve all aspects of traffic management, train schedules and routing. Railroads can also simultaneously optimize network, locomotives, wagons and crews to lower capital and operating costs.

The Navis Rail planning system is based on the concept that quantitative analysis is the key to planning a railway. Quantitative techniques allow rail planners to develop and test multiple options in a reasonable amount of time; quantitatively measures the outcomes by costing various scenarios to understand trade-offs; and have the flexibility to quickly test the plan when an input is changed – such as traffic volume or asset availability. This can only be accomplished with automated planning tools.

In the Railways Africa article, Tom Forbes cites the work that Navis Rail has done with Kansas City Southern (KCS) to deploy new technology that allowed KCS to build asset allocation plans. They were able to use a “bottom up” approach to perform scenario analysis, such as locomotive procurement plans, and minimize the ongoing locomotive requirements for a train schedule. 

Even though traffic volumes may be depressed in the short term, all freight railroads need readily available tools to respond to rapidly changing conditions. And as a more normalized operating environment evolves, railways need to continuously improve plans and execution. This calls for a specialized set of automated planning and optimization tools, such as Navis Rail, powered by Biarri Rail.

For more information on Navis Rail, please contact Tom Forbes at Tom.Forbes@Navis.com

Photo by Gerardo Martin Fernandez Vallejo

Navis Completes the Acquisition of Biarri Rail

Navis has completed the acquisition of Biarri Rail, a global provider of planning and scheduling optimization software for freight railroads. Biarri Rail, based in Melbourne, Australia and Chicago, USA, has a strong track record of providing software to rail operators around the world including Kansas City Southern Railroad, Aurizon, Pacific National, TasRail and Rio Tinto, among others. 

The acquisition of Biarri Rail, combined with Navis’ world leading Terminal Operating System (TOS) offerings for intermodal operations, will support the company’s expansion into inland solutions, providing freight operators around the world with planning software designed to improve the quality and efficiency of rail operations, including train services, locomotives, yards, railcars, crews and train paths. 

The addition of Biarri Rail’s SaaS platform allows Navis to continue its rapid growth across the global cargo supply chain. Navis is now strategically positioned to address the changing needs of its growing customer base as they expand operations into the inland and intermodal rail market while also serving railroads and rail shippers globally. Biarri Rail’s intermodal rail domain expertise, world-class optimization capabilities and proven success delivering innovative rail solutions have saved rail companies tens of millions in operational costs per year. The Biarri Rail team will continue to operate out of its Melbourne, Australia and Chicago, USA offices under the direction of CEO Tom Forbes.

“At Navis, we are excited to now be able to complement our market leading port-based TOS solutions with truly first-class offerings for rail freight globally. Rail freight companies are investing in new digital initiatives in planning in order to increase efficiency and the return on investment of their supply chain assets.” – Benoit de la Tour, President, Navis

For more information, see the February 19, 2020 press release.

Navis to Acquire Assets of Biarri Rail

Navis to Acquire Assets of Biarri Rail

Navis has entered into an agreement to acquire the assets of Biarri Rail, a global provider of planning and scheduling optimization software for freight railroads. The acquisition is expected to be completed by the end of February 2020. Navis, based in Oakland California, builds the N4 Terminal Operating System (TOS) for intermodal operations, which is the most widely used container terminal planning and operating system in the world.

The acquisition of Biarri Rail, combined with Navis’ N4, will support the company’s expansion into inland solutions, providing freight operators around the world with planning software designed to improve the quality and efficiency of rail operations, including train services, locomotives, yards, railcars, crews and train paths. Benoit de la Tour, President, Navis, said “The Biarri Rail team is a true blend of technologists and mathematicians, one hundred percent focused on optimizing every step of intermodal rail operations. Existing Biarri Rail customers are thrilled with the substantial cost-savings and efficiencies that Biarri Rail solutions have brought to their business.”

The change in corporate structure will not alter Biarri’s commitment to freight railroads. Following the acquisition, the Biarri Rail team will continue to operate out of its Melbourne, Australia and Chicago, USA offices under the direction of CEO Tom Forbes. “As railroads adopt various monitoring and assessment tools to better track and manage the more than 1.6 million rail cars and 40,000 locomotives, it is important that technology keep pace to manage the data with efficient operational processes, tools and support systems,” said Forbes. “We are beyond excited to join the Navis team, combining our areas of expertise to offer our rail customers new ways to improve customer service, improve asset utilization, boost operational performance and maximize capacity.”

For more information on Navis and Biarri Rail, please contact Kevin Foy at Kevin.Foy@Biarri.com.

Post-PSR Service Planning Starts Now

In a January 21st article in Railway Age (“A New Decade of Post-PSR Service Planning Starts Now“), Tom Forbes stated that “2019 will be remembered as the year of Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) and for the great traffic drought in North American railroading.”

Even with the PSR-influenced improvements seen in operating ratios (OR), the downturn in traffic levels impacted earnings for most of the Class I railroads. The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported a 4.9% decline in carloads and an intermodal drop of 5.1%, as compared with 2018. Recent reporting also shows this trend continuing in 2020. While it appears that lower coal shipments and trade uncertainty created much of the drag, there also could be a long-term deterioration in rail volume that defies an easy explanation.

With PSR, many asset management and cost cutting strategies have been deployed. But regardless of the source of the traffic recession, no amount of cost cutting and improvements in asset utilization will bring back freight rail traffic. It appears that new Post-PSR strategies will be needed by the Class Is. In the Railway Age article, we laid out some current trends and technologies that should help the industry turn the traffic corner, while retaining the fruits of the PSR revolution:

Transparency in the Supply Chain – Shippers are expressing a desire to be able to see and track shipments from release to delivery. We believe that new technology and alliances will make this more probable in the near future. Devices and software for precisely tracking cars and individual shipments are now practical and this can only help railroads attract more service-sensitive traffic and make rail more enticing for all shippers.

Big Data and Analytics – The railroads are capturing massive amounts of data being produced in all parts of the rail operation. Information is flowing into railroads from GPS systems, signaling, Positive Train Control (PTC), Internet of things (IoT) sources and locomotive on-board event recorders. When this data is used to manage assets, operating and capital costs can be reduced, and powerful levers are made available for management to make a difference in real time.

New Service Models – Railroads have offered many different service types over the years, but most traffic currently moves in basic manifest, intermodal (long haul) or unit trains. One of the more interesting new services discussed in the past couple of years is short-haul intermodal (frequently defined as under 500 miles). See Jim Blaze’s article on short-haul IM (Railway Age, January 2, 2020).  This, and other service offerings, should continue to offer more interesting options for shippers throughout the industry.

Optimized Planning for Better Service – All of the Class I’s have the tools to prepare train schedules, blocking and trip plans for the carload traffic they are carrying. At Biarri Rail, we believe that all railroads should also be using algorithmic tools for defining the blocks, optimizing the assignment of traffic to the blocks and creating efficient block swaps to increase car velocity, while reducing train and crew starts. This approach takes the carrier beyond the basics of PSR to optimize assets while ensuring very reliable customer service.

Tools to Empower Rail Planners – Regardless of the planning paradigm (PSR or more traditional planning) a railroad needs flexible quantitative analysis tools to: 1) Allow rail planners to develop and test multiple options in a reasonable amount of time; 2) Quantitatively measure the outcomes by costing various scenarios to understand trade-offs; 3) Have the flexibility to quickly test the plan when an input is changed, such as traffic volume or asset availability.

While none of these will slow or stop the macroeconomic factors impacting traffic volume, railroads can take some control by deploying new strategies for better service outcomes and by opening new markets. The ability to produce better and more flexible plans, in a rapid response to changing conditions, will continue to improve their ORs while gaining market share that has been lost to the motor carriers.

For more information on these topics, please contact Kevin Foy at Kevin.Foy@Biarri.com.

PSR and the Need for Block Optimization

While most of the Class I railroads are at some point in the process of implementing precision scheduled railroading (PSR), we rarely hear any details about the actual steps being taken to lengthen trains, increase car velocity, or reduce handlings. What are the decisions that railroads are making to design an operating plan that optimizes assets while ensuring reliable customer service?

In a recent article in Progressive Railroading’s Technology Update (http://bit.ly/2Nr1zqm) we stated that building better blocking plans are an critical part of implementing PSR. Optimized blocking plans increase the velocity of rolling stock by reducing the excess handling of train blocks, which decreases yard dwell.

At Biarri Rail, we strongly believe that optimized blocking is essential to efficiently moving carload traffic, which is the most profitable traffic for the Class I railroads. Block optimization software gives you the tools to build the base of an operating plan, quantitatively test yard capacities, and to also make decisions on the size and location of classification yards.

In my career, I have seen many attempts to provide software for optimizing block design, and for the assignment of traffic to blocks, but all have been difficult to set up and maintain, and many had no way to easily incorporate the results into the operating plan.

However, this is not the case with Biarri Rail’s Boss planning platform. Boss is a fully integrated cloud-based system which supports planning for network, blocks, trains, rolling stock and crews. The blocking module uses specialized algorithms for defining the blocks, optimizing the assignment of traffic to the blocks, creating efficient block swaps, and reducing train and crew starts. Biarri Rail also features an intuitive user interface and is designed to ensure a seamless integration with railroad operating systems.

For more information on Biarri Rail and Boss, please contact Tom Forbes at Tom.Forbes@Biarri.com.