How can effective crew scheduling help support core KPIs for your Precision Railroading initiative?

Throughout the world and across industries, schedules drive a variety of daily operations. And in the railroad, the importance of getting from one location to another on-time is at the forefront of operations. Everyone wants the train to run on schedule, including the railroad company and the customers.

This is where Precision Railroading (PR) steps into the picture. It’s a method that is making the rounds of the railroad industry right now, as more and more railroads are looking at ways to apply it within their operations, maximizing revenue with less locomotives, time loss, and crew.

Railroads have the ability to customize an approach to implementing Precision Railroading processes and methodology into their rail operations, starting at the crew level. And with a modern crew management solution, railways can implement precision railroading in their crew scheduling and allocations. As a result, you can create a more reliable, on-time railroad that is beneficial for both you and your customers.

What is Precision Railroading?

You’ve probably heard the term making its round of the railroad industry. The method was developed by industry pioneer Hunter Harrison, who made a splash after joining CSX as CEO in 2017 and focused on implementing precision railroading in the company. He had previously led this implementation at Canadian Pacific Railway more than 20 years before.

The main goal of precision railroading is to closely monitor and optimize every asset and process in a railroad. As a result, you make customers happy by delivering their shipment from origin to destination as quickly as possible and enable crew and operators to work more efficiently.

The challenge of rail crew and vehicle scheduling

Traditionally, railroads have used a hub-and-spoke model to deliver shipments. All deliveries go through a centralized distribution hub, connecting with additional locations through the “spokes” (thus, hub and spoke).

But it takes time, concentrated efforts, and coordination to clear shipments and trains coming from various directions, and then redirect them to other locations. As a result, the yards become bottlenecks for traffic. Dwell time increases and reduces the total time it takes to move shipments from one location to another.

The Point to Point system

With Precision Railroading, you use a Point to Point system. There is no dwell time in-between destinations, which creates less pressure for the yards and less resources required there. Quicker delivery leads to greater customer satisfaction-one of the primary objectives fueling the implementation of Precision Railroading today.

But what gets you from hub and spoke to a Point to Point system and what kind of solution can enable this type of operational efficiency? Planning has to be precise and optimized, which is hard to accomplish under some legacy applications or manual processes. Railroads also have to invest within their own infrastructure to ensure better Precision Railroading, which only promises payoff in the long run.

The relationship between Precision Railroading and crew scheduling

A specific subset of precision railroading is Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), which focuses on how railroads can ensure that locomotives leave and reach destinations on time and with minimal dwell times, and that crew allocation is optimized to avoid delays in scheduling. At the end of the day, the train can’t run without the crew.

Railroads like Kansas City Southern are taking an incremental approach to Precision Scheduled Railroading, focusing on increasing operational efficiency and reliability, reducing tram starts, labor costs, and locomotives.

This is where a digital crew management solution can empower your railroad to optimize crew scheduling and allocation and ensure that you have the right crew for the right locomotive at the right time, taking you one step closer to running your trains on schedule.

Let’s explore three of your railway’s top KPIs that can benefit from Precision Railroading, implemented through a digital crew management solution.

  1. Improved customer service

Guaranteeing your customer that their shipment is going to be delivered to its destination in the shortest amount of time possible is a top priority for freight railroads, and it’s a KPI that is a strong driver for Precision Railroading. Customer service is improved through prioritized deliveries of shipments on a fixed point to point schedule while minimizing in-transit work events and dwell times.

With a digital crew management solution, you can reduce train delays associated with crew availability through reduction of deadheads and empty crew boards. This ensures faster and more transparent service to customers. Access to a digital system will enable you to increase velocity and agility with real-time, intelligent rostering and crew allocation.

  1. Lower operating costs

The more dwell times a railroad faces, the more locomotives they have idling and not moving, which means growing costs for the company. By getting locomotives to their destinations faster, you’ll reduce operating costs.

Given that major railway companies in the United States are still in various stages of implementing Precision Railroading into their enterprise, it’s hard to measure a more specific cost savings. But we can identify key areas of savings in equipment costs, and operating costs are improved through better fuel economy and lower maintenance expenses.

By harnessing a crew management solution that has crew board and assignment features, you can reduce deadheads and optimize crew availability and lodging requirements, which lowers costs. With a centralized, mobile system, you can also avoid costs that arise from manual, time-consuming timekeeping. Look for a solution that interfaces with hotel and taxi vendors so that in the case were your crew requires unplanned lodging, you can score the best rates. Plus, by implementing precision scheduling, you’ll reduce the number of days required to pick up and deliver a customer shipment, increasing asset velocity.

  1. Asset utilization

Because your crew scheduling and allocation has been optimized, you’re one step closer to ensuring that you’re managing your locomotives and rail cars better and are working towards an improved asset turnover ratio for your company.

You want to make sure that every asset (including crew and railcars) are being utilized and that scheduling is optimized to increase profits while lowering operating costs. To solve for this, choose a solution that provides a self-service, mobile app that enables IVR and SMS-based duty assignment and confirmations, on-duty reporting, shows upcoming shift plans, sends out notifications that you could receive with a smartphone, and allows you to manage accordance and leave management – all in a centralized system. Formulated crew boards should factor in crew eligibility and certification to help optimize allocations.

Why CloudMoyo Crew Management?

The CloudMoyo Crew Management (CCM) solution is a cloud-native product that empowers railroads to optimize crew scheduling and deployment, manage crew processes across boards, track qualifications and compliance, and provides real-time visibility with advanced crew analytics.

By empowering railroads to optimize crew scheduling and allocation, reduce dwell times, and adhere to regulations, we can help you implement Precision Railroading in your crew management processes.

We want to help you on the journey of implementing Precision Railroading in your railway. Talk to one of our rail experts today to see how CloudMoyo Crew Management solution can help you optimize crew scheduling.