There is a reason that the phrase “Making sure the trains run on time” is used to indicate successful management and efficiency around the world. Getting the trains to run on time is a complex process that involves sophisticated scheduling of crews, stock and schedules and so much more. Rail Scheduling is at the heart of a successful railway system and is often the difference between a profitable growing operation and a struggling, overwhelmed rail operator. This is one of the arenas of the rail business where modern technology and big data has had the most impact.
Why is rail crew scheduling a problem?
Freight railroad crew scheduling comprises generation of crew duties for running trains on a schedule in a cost effective manner while adhering to all labor regulations and operational requirements. Typically, a freight railway operation uses thousands of trains and requires thousands of crew members to operate them. Because of the massive scale of this problem, even tiny savings in crew costs can result into large financial savings. However, freight railway operations are complex, and a crew-scheduling problem is difficult to solve
Success can be measured against two key scheduling measures in a rail environment.
- Are we able to provide the number of trips that were agreed on with the rail authorities?
- And in doing so, are we minimizing the number of empty runs (“dead runs”) that take place, typically at the beginning and the end of a schedule?
An inability to meet either of those challenges poses a severe threat to the operator’s viability and profitability. But with more trains and passengers on the rails than ever before, in addition to a huge mobile workforce, the logistics of managing all those moving parts becomes harder and harder to get right. Cloud-based analytics has proven itself to be a vital tool in the fight for better rail scheduling.
Cloud Technology in rail scheduling
A premier Cloud & Big Data Analytics consultant, CloudMoyo, recently took on a big data challenge with a major North American rail operator, who deal with movement of large volumes across a large geographical spread on a daily basis. Their CEO & President, Manish Kedia, explains “Proper trained personnel must be deployed for the efficient and timely movement of goods. Any delay in movement results in huge financial loss to the operator. With over 2000 crew members, the operator also needs to ensure that crew allocations are done based on their skillset, which ensures increased utilization of assets and lower downtime.”
The solution was to develop a cloud-native rail crew management system which can ensure that all available resources are optimally utilized to maximize existing investment. The key to successful rail scheduling is to look at the whole system. Not only management of the rolling stock, but fuel management, route optimization, control center ops and crew analytics all come under the spotlight, so that holistic change spreads throughout the system.
CloudMoyo’s Scheduling module is based on advanced algorithms that are used for determining the most optimal schedule based on various parameters that are configured in the system. It is based on history as well as traffic patterns. The planning output desires to satisfy agreed upon policies on service span and desired frequencies for the schedule. Using advanced algorithms that take into account ticketing history as well as traffic patterns, a big data analyst will use flexible travel time definitions, frequency definitions, revenue and cost considerations, and resource constraints for vehicles and crew to create the optimal schedule for an operator.
These types of interventions have been shown to produce a 5 -15% improvement in asset utilization, as well as up to 10% better driver utilization and ultimately a 2-5% reduction in overall costs and a massive leap of up to 30% in customer satisfaction.
Rail Scheduling and effective crew management make a dramatic difference to profitability and sustainability of rail operators. A rail system that runs on schedule has major knock-on benefits for the whole local economy and the civic life of society itself. At the end, a happy crew is what drives efficiency!
If you would like to find out more about how Big Data Analytics can make an impact in your organization, get in touch to book a 5-day Azure Assessment with our Data experts.