As today’s railroads strive to become more efficient, they often face challenges when it comes to analyzing their own operations.
Railroad data is often stored in multiple disconnected databases and can have quality issues. This makes it difficult for decision makers to gain insight and make informed choices, as the right data is not available to them at the right time and in the right format.
Only with a unified visibility of service measurements and key performance indicators can railroads make decisions that will improve the efficiency of their operations, reduce costs and maintain service quality.
How Data Analytics Plays In
Following recent improvements in the development of advanced data analytics software, railroad companies around the world have begun to learn how to make smarter choices. Data analytics tools can provide them with the visibility they need to analyze the effectiveness of their current systems and to make important changes and improvements.
In one such success story, CSX Transportation used data analytics to develop a next generation service measurement and reporting system.
For many years, CSX Transportation’s service measurement department had created daily reports that measured the health of their railroad network as well as assets including yards, tracks, railcars, crews and locomotives. These were traditionally static, table-based reports, and any detailed analysis of KPIs required manual manipulation of databases. Due to staff constraints, however, only a limited number of such analyses could be performed, reducing the company’s ability to make improvements.
In order to provide more employees with access to detailed analysis capabilities, CSX hired Optym, a global software company that builds planning and scheduling software for the transportation and logistics industry, to gradually migrate its measurement systems to one intuitive, web-based system. Back to the Drawing Board
Optym began by building pilot systems, including a web-based application and an iPad application, to demonstrate the feasibility of the concept.
After gaining approval from CSX executives on the applications, Optym worked closely with the company to create a detailed user interface of the new measurement system, which they have since named RailVIEWR. The Optym team designed RailVIEWR using a highly scalable software architecture that would allow thousands of concurrent users to access the system.
The team implemented the system in rapid development mode while continuing to receive feedback from business users. This allowed the team to further refine RailVIEWR as it evolved into a commercial grade system.
Since RailVIEWR was implemented, CSX has been able to analyze a number of measurements including car dwell, on-time train originations and departures, train velocity and more.
The system generates real-time responses to most user queries while simultaneously processing and managing terabytes of data. Its user-friendly interface, its look and feel, and its ability to quickly perform different types of analyses have generated rave reviews within CSX.
RailVIEWR has improved CSX’s overall visibility of service measurements and KPIs, giving the company unprecedented insight into its business. The presence of this advanced, centralized database at CSX has allowed for better communication between individuals and teams and more thorough and varied analyses, leading decision makers to make smarter, more informed choices.