How the Railroad Industry Use Analytics to Improve

Big data is everywhere and it has begun to have a huge impact on the railroad industry. A great example of this is by using an emergency dashboard and report to improve the working standards. There are various applications of analytics in the railroad industry that improve operational results and service availability.

What are the common techniques and tactics this has been done? Here is how the railroad industry is using analytics to improve the processes.

Shifting towards a modern railroad system

Every industry is racing towards reaching a completely modernized system that allows heightened automation and collaboration between technology and humans. Various solutions have been developed by OEM equipment manufacturers outfitted on freight cars.

Some of this equipment includes sensors and other hardware installed to monitor a variety of parameters. That has made the jobs of railroad personnel much more streamlined with increased productivity and frees up time to focus on other sensitive matters.

top ranked BI
Read how InetSoft was rated #1 for user adoption in G2 Crowd's user survey-based index.

The acceleration in development of IoT systems has powered new developments of OEM hardware for railway cars. These systems gather different types of data and analyze it to provide actionable intelligence on the dashboard with easy-to-use interfaces. Railway road operators and even freight car pilots do not even have to possess specialized technical skills but basic technology abilities.

That limits the number of time companies need to train and onboard employees to these different systems. Using data analytics in this industry is nothing short of ingenious. No one would have imagined all these systems that have been put in place to improve operational efficiency and railroad safety.

Many developers have used the Microsoft Azure stack to power their advanced and visually aesthetic Power BI dashboards. Some have opted for InetSoft for data analytics that is relevant to a problem they would like to solve. Real-time information is crucial in this industry to prevent larger problems from incurring on railroad service providers. 

Another great benefit of data analytics in railroads is managing personnel and getting a holistic view of a company's overall health at a snapshot. That contributes to a very engaged and progressively advancing community keeping up with the latest tech trends to resolve problems facing this industry.

view demo icon
View a 2-minute demonstration of InetSoft's easy, agile, and robust BI software.

Using data analytics for rail safety

An expert big data and cloud computing says that data analytics have been used to improve rail safety in more ways than one. Developers have focused greatly on sensors and real-time GPS tracking units and other hardware that monitors all railroads and tries to mitigate safety concerns. He cites an example here, "there is a system that operates on radio frequencies to provide a wireless data source that is analyzed in real-time to prevent accidents."

This system uses multiple narrow channels to connect more sensors and devices monitoring real-time conditions of freight cars. There are several conditions that are monitored to see if a freight car is posing a threat to remedy any problem before an accident happens. 

Some of the conditions monitored and analyzed by this system include vibration patterns, heat, the weight of that freight car, and its payload as well as brake integrity. If these real-time analytics raise a red flag, it might be time to wake someone and take the necessary precautions to prevent accidents.

For example, if vibration patterns are off the charts, railroad operators may deem fit to stop that freight car until a qualified engineer or technician resolved that issue. These cutting-edge technologies contribute to safer railways with the least accidents caused by freight cars that are in no condition of running. 

Using them might help identify problems that might have started after the train was cleared for that journey. Sometimes the issue might be with unmaintained railway roads that need immediate attention to prevent accidents. 

Sensors installed on railway cars can help curb problems that negatively impact company public relations. Not forgetting the safety element added and boosted confidence instilled in railroad operators.

view gallery
View live interactive examples in InetSoft's dashboard and visualization gallery.

Tracking operational metrics

Darren Fleming, who works as an analyst, says that when managing a fleet of freight cars, it is very important to get a view of how smoothly operations are going. With data analytics hardware and software, you can monitor metrics such as fuel consumption, service delivery, and a variety of benchmarks. If there are any changes the industry is experiencing in any of these aspects, they will reflect in the dashboard report.

For example, there are systems providing real-time fuel consumption insights. Fleet managers can use that data to identify how certain factors impact fuel expenditure and adjust budgets whenever required. When a potential problem has been identified in the freight car's condition, companies can dispatch maintenance units right away.

They would not even wait for the freight car pilot to identify that issue and call the fleet yard to get a mechanic. That decreases response times and downtime incurred by fleets outfitted with this technology. When using a company dashboard, you might also be able to easily identify qualified personnel nearby to expedite response times.

There are various other operational benefits of data analytics in the railroad industries. Besides, by keeping freight cars in good operational condition, you can avoid hefty fines posed on non-compliant businesses. Overall, data analytics in this industry improves customer service, employee support, and encourages environmentally-friendly solutions.  

Through real-time data and historical information stored regarding railroad operations, you will have the best dashboard system to provide actionable business intelligence. All of these aspects will help fleet managers and railroad operators undertake their tasks with greater efficiency.

Read what InetSoft customers and partners have said about their selection of Style Scope for their solution for dashboard reporting.

Increasing efficiency of railroad operations

Traditional communication systems of railroad operators and freight car pilots can seem inefficient, thus presenting numerous bottlenecks. Exchanging information manually using communication radios, cellphones or text messages can result in delayed information. Also, there might be places with no cell-reception, which poses a greater risk to fleet managers and railroad operators. 

For example, if a freight car has a problem that requires immediate attention, pilots might not be able to identify it until it is too late. Whereas real-time diagnostic solutions backed by modern communication systems can help bridge this gap by providing data instantaneously to relevant parties. Also, these tools have an incredible range using radio frequencies and sometimes satellite technology.

If there are any problems, mechanics will identify them earlier on using sensors outfitted on freight cars. Also, using data analytics, freight car businesses can provide realistic ETAs to customers. That will boost customer confidence and lead to long-lasting business relationships.

By implementing efficient tools of this kind, railroads will have smoother operations with less downtime. There is a lot of profit that might be generated by simply switching to a data analytics tool with features needed by your company.

The performance will always be at peak levels and safety regulations won't be much of a problem due to actionable business intelligence offered by these dashboards. Some tasks will be automated, leaving the workforce with more time on their hands to undertake other important tasks.

Read the top 10 reasons for selecting InetSoft as your BI partner.

Using data analytics to track the condition of freight cars

Currently, there are systems available that help freight car businesses conduct preventative maintenance on their railway cars. These technologies are progressively being developed to save large amounts of cash when running their fleet. This closes a huge gap in this industry of having a centralized system that helps with diagnostics for preventative maintenance.

These systems do not solely help keep the fleet up to standard with industry requirements but also helps save money because of preventative maintenance limits or eliminates larger problems. Using various sources of information such as data gathered when freight cars were running to other aspects such as mileage, service history, etc.

Combining these different types of data to provide actionable business intelligence makes running a huge fleet easier. Also, mechanics and other technicians do not have to periodically check each locomotive as they would without this technology. Undoubtedly, that reduces work expected from the personnel, and running diagnostics takes less time.

Mechanics and technicians can have more time on their hands to undertake other tasks. Companies will also be able to maintain the needed amount of staff resolving a lot of staffing problems, such as being understaffed. Having a holistic view of your fleet's health is a dream come true and can reduce human error in diagnosing and reporting problems on the horizon.

Relying on service plans that were prescribed by manufacturers might be inaccurate due to local conditions. For example, wear and tear might be quicker under certain weather conditions or railway road conditions. These systems have been developed to help you get accurate analytics and predicted time to service freight cars.

Read what InetSoft customers and partners have said about their selection of Style Report as their production reporting tool.

The bottom line

Railroad businesses can greatly improve their operations by using data analysis tools outfitted on freight cars with cutting edge software. There are various benefits of implementing data analytics in this industry. Those benefits include safety enhancements, operation efficiencies, and real-time analytics. Fleet managers can manage their freight cars using an intuitive dashboard that is functional and has various useful features. They can extend their fleet's lifespan by conducting preventative maintenance and saving a lot of costs in the process.