Act: Next steps in digitalizing and unifying crew and safety management

Moving forward agilely and proactively

Note: This is part of a 3-part series of blog posts around how freight railroads can unify crew and safety management under an integrated, cloud-based platform. If you missed part 1 on how to bring together your systems under an integrated platform, you can read the blog post here. If you missed part 2 on makings sense of your data with advanced analytics and BI, you can read it here.

You’ve been armed with the power of a unified platform to bring together crew and safety systems. You’re leveraging data analytics and data visualization solutions like Power BI to make sense of your crew data to take data sitting stagnant in departmental siloes and make these insights understandable, digestible, and informative.

So, what’s next?

In essence, taking the next step in your unified journey of modernizing IT systems and moving core operational systems to a secure, cloud-based environment can be summed up in 3 questions:

  1. Why continue to move forward?
  2. What’s next?
  3. How do I move forward?

These questions are partially prompted by a realistic analysis of the current transportation environment and technology opportunities as we know them today. They are also prompted by an awareness that the future is an unknown. How can we future-proof crew and safety functions for the unknown, be it changes in demand and volume, shifts in workforce needs, or new testing and training requirements mandated by the FRA and FTA?

Let’s tackle each of these questions, one at a time.

1. Why continue to move forward?

Not unlike a shipment on its way to its final destination, acceleration is a continuous movement forward. The world is a changing place, and adaption is a critical must-have for freight railroads. “While rail technology is pervasive,” writes the AAR, “the industry is on the verge of a new era of innovation. Advanced algorithms and data analysis software will enable railroads to harness the massive amounts of data being collected nationwide to enhance safety, reliability and service to customer.”

Adoption of highly interoperable solutions that you can quickly deploy is driving business growth, productivity, and proactivity. Real-time view of crew-related, data-driving processes has opened the door to untapped potentials for optimized crew management and scheduling, intelligent testing, comprehensive tracking of crew qualifications, and quick-to-deploy on-the-job training programs.

The ability to proactively predict and avert the risk of safety incidents is just one outcome that is driving this move forward. And the saving of time, money, and efforts in compliance management along with reduced penalties and fees is hitting home with rail leadership.

2. What’s next?

We mentioned system scaling as a key need in part 1 in this blog post series. It’s critical to continuously increase the size of your systems as your employee workforce grows and operations expand, or as market demand and volume fluctuates.

In an interconnected network and, now, an interconnected world, the opportunity lies in the realm of mobile accessibility to link office to the field, mentor to the trainee, and crew dispatcher to crew member.

There is a wealth of data that accumulates on a daily basis that, once analyzed and visualized, can provide insights to inform crew-related functions (from scheduling of qualified crew and intelligent board balancing to mentor/trainee allocations).

3. How do we move forward?

What is critical is to first identify the technology that you can use to accelerate modernization in your unification story. One example of this is the Azure Data Platform. We recommend this platform as it allows you to deploy a cloud-based analytics system on top of your core crew and safety management systems. You can next utilize Azure Storage with the Azure Data Factory to consolidate data from various sources and feed it into the Azure SQL Data Warehouse. From there, the data is ready for Power BI analysis and visualization which power role-related dashboards for your railroad.

Next, take a look at each of your crew and safety-related applications: your crew management system, operational and efficiency testing system (often used for drug and alcohol testing), on-the-job training management system, and qualification tracking system. Ask yourself these questions to quickly access areas of opportunity for modernization as you move towards integrating your business-critical systems:

Are you equipped to automate re-staffing and temporary crew relocations in times of crew shortages or demand fluctuations?

Are you able to conduct 100% compliant crew assignments?

Do you have easy access to records for pre-duty medical checks or take your safety briefings online?

Can you anticipate and plan for upcoming license renewals?

Is your current infrastructure and tools secure and scalable?

Conclusion

Have you heard of the agile methodology? This term refers to the various approaches to software development where both requirements and solutions evolve through collaborative, cross-functional teams and the end-user or customer. Agile software development values individuals and interactions over processes and tools, working software over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and responding to change over following a plan.

But what does this have to do with unified crew and safety management?

Deployment of software and cloud-based solutions within railroads is best achieved through an agile methodology. Remember that one of the key outcomes of cross-system integration is to eradicate data and process siloes. An agile approach to IT modernization means that you take a collaborative approach to address changing needs and digital opportunities.

Leveraging the domain expertise of technology partners, moving towards a more collaborative approach to managing crew across functions and departments, and proactively responding to change rather than reactively adjusting a plan according to unforeseen circumstances are all examples of how the agile methodology can be applied within a railroad organization.

This is the last blog post in our 3-part blog post series on unifying crew and safety management. The good news is, the conversation isn’t over! To learn more, you can check to listen to our webinar with the ASLRRA, where 2 of our rail experts dive into examples of unifying crew and safety management here.

If you’re interested in taking a look at the core capabilities that cloud-based crew management or operational testing system looks like, you can schedule a demo with our team here.

Live webinar

Opportunities for digitalization in railroad contract management

Date: 8th Dec, 20 Time: 10:00 AM PST