Improving freight performance: Expert Panel
As part of our Improving Freight Performance In-Depth Focus, Global Railway Review asked our Expert Panel: What opportunities and challenges are there of bringing rail freight operations into the digital era?
Matt Scott, VP and General Manager Rail, ZTR Control Systems:
At ZTR, locomotive modernisation is in our DNA. We know that the challenge of bringing freight into the digital era and clearing the way for railways to get more from their fleets with Railway IoT solutions, is also a great opportunity for innovation.
Railways are realising the advantages of outsourcing solutions rather than placing additional burdens on their internal teams. That means utilising proven solutions, implementing them faster and allowing teams to focus on creating actions from the data insights.
Railways want to see the benefits to their entire operation from locomotives and other high value equipment and are demanding integrated solutions for other types of equipment, to get a complete picture of their fleet. From location to full heath and utilisation diagnostics, railways can now monitor and track everything from locomotives, to railcars, maintenance-of-way equipment and off -track yard assets.
The digitalisation of all railway assets through proven solutions from experienced industry suppliers makes it easier for railways to gather insights that lead to improved competitiveness over other transportation modes and increased operational efficiency.
Helmut Kaspers, CEO, Nexxiot:
Data is often referred to as ‘the new oil’. It might be considered a resource but needs to be refined much like other raw materials. Algorithms can contextualise data and thus generate valuable information. These insights can uncover unrecognised potential and further optimise processes. Supply chains used to be ‘black boxes’, the status of the transport between start and destination point remained opaque.
To close this information gap, Nexxiot combines a platform solution with IoT sensors. Strategic partnerships with a collaborative approach make it possible to share the benefits of digitisation. Platforms provide a single source of information for all stakeholders. Equipping the transport objects with IoT sensors digitally mirrors them. Modern hardware and software enable a comprehensive visibility of the entire transport process. One challenge of a digitalised supply chain is the large number of players involved. For real added value, all players and objects involved must be digitally addressable themselves, and they must be able to be integrated. This presupposes consistent, transparent end-to-end digitalisation without analogous processes or incompatible systems. Especially regarding transports with different carriers, that is often difficult to achieve. It is a prerequisite in order to fully benefit from the advantages of digitalisation, though.
Florence Delalande, Rail Business Unt, Traxens:
Rail freight operations are not exempt from the effects of the global digitalisation wave as connectivity is becoming a crucial element in globally connected supply chains. With rail freight playing an important part in most of these supply chains, it is vital for industry players to realise the potential of Industrial Internet-of-Things (IIoT) solutions in lowering costs, achieving greater efficiency and improving overall competitiveness. Digital solutions, such as those offered by Traxens, can bring significant benefits to the whole rail freight ecosystem by seamlessly connecting these operations to the rest of the supply chain anywhere in the world.
In addition to this, in a world in need of reducing the carbon footprint of all sectors, rail freight is in a great position to provide an answer to these demands as well. The sector is already a great asset in this respect with up to 60 times less CO2 emissions than road transport. This level could be further improved through digital services enabling remote access to accurate information on cargo, without the need for additional travel for surveillance or checks. At Traxens we believe that the rail freight industry should ready itself for a complete change of operations through technology and to prepare for a fully digitalised world sooner rather than later.