The science of Big Data analytics is transforming global business practices in ways that would have seemed unimaginable just a few years ago. With that data comes insights and strategies that can generate massive savings and improve efficiencies for companies that understand them.
The transport industry understands this dynamic deeply, and is integrating Big Data analytics into every aspect of their operations. The initial drive came from road and air logistics, but in the past few years attention has focused on another sector of the transport economy that is ripe for disruption: the railroads.
How big data impacts railroad industry?
The modernization of railroads is an opportunity to create intelligent rail systems. In recent years, the rail infrastructure managers, train operating companies and the rail maintenance companies started to collect and store data in order to monitor different assets and rolling stock.
Simply put, it’s the ability to gather and integrate large batches of information together in one place, then interpret it in such a way that it leads to a recommended course of action. Sounds simple, but it’s a seismic shift for almost all businesses. Companies have moved from trying to understand what happened in a given scenario, on to why it happened, and then used their data to predict what will happen in the future. The next stage is really empowering; the ability to say “What shall I do to shape what happens next?”
There are a number of railroad sectors where Big Data analytics are having a big impact. Rail Crew management, the scheduling of trains and workforce, real-time monitoring and tracking of moving assets, safety, and the rapidly growing Internet of Things (IoT) , which is set to deliver more information and more changed than ever before to global freight companies.
Siemens, one of the world’s premier providers of railroads infrastructure in over 60 countries, has come up with a concept called ‘Internet of Trains’ which basically involves harnessing Big Data, sensors and predictive analytics for guaranteeing close to 100% reliability and ensuring that trains are never late!
CloudMoyo, a premier cloud technology consultant, has worked on a number of large railway network solutions across the continental United States in recent years in these areas of expertise, and has witnessed first-hand how fast the industry is changing. Benefits include major saving of up to 25% in freight costs, a 5-15% improvement in asset utilization, as well as reductions in inventory and an improved capability to acquire capacity. This has all led to higher customer satisfaction as an end result.
Unexpected events happen such as unplanned delays, urgent maintenance and accidents happen all the time on a large, dispersed systems such as the railways. Monitoring and responding to change quickly is vital. Big Data analytics uses multiple real-time sources, such as sensors and GPS on the trains, along with RFID systems in terminals, to feed information into the system constantly so that companies can use to manage their assets and resolve crises when they occur.
By using a cloud native product to monitor your railroad, you achieve faster adoption and deployment, with better mobility and at a lower cost. Serviceability improves almost instantly alongside reduced costs which leads to a positive revenue impact and differentiation from the competition.
The volume of data which is generated by railroads is staggering. Lyndon Henry, a leading authority on railroads, has stated that U.S railroads “need to handle and monitor the movement of approximately 1.5 million freight cars each day” over a rail network that is 140,000 miles long across North America. When you add to that a scale-out infrastructure, unstructured data from social media, online feedback and machine learning, you get a sense of how big and complex the picture is. “Routing, sorting and blocking cars, scheduling, assigning locomotives, and dispatching are some of the really complex railroad activities increasingly dependent on analytics” says Henry, “but an untold number of smaller tasks, such as remote diagnostics and real-time monitoring of rail yards, are also being facilitated or expedited via analytics.”
Add to this Positive Train Control (PTC) -the regulation mandated by US authorities for rail safety. While debates may run around arguing over effectiveness of PTC in preventing accidents, the implementation of the same is ongoing. And it is delivering waves of vital data that will have profound implications in our understanding of the rail system.
So, how do we handle all this Big Data in Railroads?
CloudMoyo empowers Rail & Transportation companies to gain greater insight and unlock efficiencies in Crew Management, Fleet & Asset Management, Contract Management and in other critical areas of operations and maintenance. CloudMoyo’s pedigree in modern cloud-based analytics combined with our experience with both Short-Line and Class I rail customers allows us to be the ideal partner for railroads who wish to leverage large amounts of data into actionable Business Intelligence.
CloudMoyo prefers the use of various services from the Microsoft Azure stack such as Data Lake & Azure Warehouse for accumulating massive chunks of data, and using Azure Analysis services as well as Machine Learning to gain intelligence from the same. What’s more is that CloudMoyo is specialized in creating beautiful dashboards using Power BI so that decision makers can take action.
CloudMoyo has developed an Azure-based data analytics system utilizing billions of rows of data & complimented by visually appealing Power BI dashboards for simple interpretation. Metrics in the categories of inventory, crew and locomotives, utilization ratios, deadheads (and whatever else is needed) are presented to executives as actionable insights. Ultimately, these analytics are projected to create annual cost savings of 8-10% per crew per wagon via simple operational efficiency.
Of course, these are still early days in the relationship between big data and the railways. The Amadeus Research Group explains that “For railroads, big data demands big ideas and the courage to implement them. Managing and analyzing data is no longer an issue for IT departments alone, instead it is driving the travel industry’s business agenda.”