Ever since handwritten operational content and maintenance manuals were introduced to the rail industry – though it served a purpose in operational efficiencies – very little change has occurred over time in how this content is being used.
The format of rulebooks, general orders, maintenance manuals, and inspection-based content has evolved through different stages of digital transformation. The approach of structured content opened the door to the smart delivery era, enabling personalized and targeted content distribution – which is vital for the success of a digital approach to operations.
However, limited breakthroughs have emerged on how this content could be used to spark the next evolution of rail digital transformation. This article walks through some of the changes happening in digital transformation today and discusses how this content, when used innovatively, is and will continue to show a new wave of modernization within the rail industry.
Modernization and automation are rapidly changing how railroads operate. As innovative systems such as PTC (Positive Train Control), EAM (Enterprise Asset Management), and ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) become more advanced, both conditional and predictive data is captured to increase automation and make critical decisions throughout the railroad. Great advances in interoperability have allowed this data to be shared between systems, railroad passengers, and intermodal companies. But where might the digital transformation of railroad content evolve to?
Blending and Leveraging Data
Modern railway systems are an aggregation of technologies designed for a specific, mission-oriented purpose. Railway systems actually are an ecosystem of systems, each one producing thousands of different sets of real-time data, often connected but not always in real dialog. That’s precisely the case of railroad content – which tends to be living on its own, with little to no interoperability within the rail ecosystem of technologies. The new transformation era for rail content will be about integrating additional predictive and conditional data so that content becomes more relevant and meaningful than ever.
Interoperable Data: What For?
Let’s take a look at three areas where filling the data interoperability gaps can help improve safety, operational efficiency and keep both rolling stock moving, as well as passenger routes on time.
On the inspections front, the combination of data with targeted content represents clear efficiency wins. All drawings, rules and policies, if distributed based on the relevant data, reduces time needed for inspections. SMEs and/or crews will have all the relevant information they need to perform their duties.
When it comes to operations, data coming from sensors, signaling, and LiDAR systems can make it possible to instantly notify the train crew of a speed table, or territory changes with new rule books, taking safety to new levels.
Maintenance is also an area where data interoperability can bring significant efficiencies. Predictive and conditional data can serve up very specific parts of a manual, at the same time for repair, and capture compliance against manuals on new or different parts provided by the supply chain. Maintenance cycles on rolling stock and passenger cars can then be expedited, so that the rail network can be maximized.
Overall, real-time data can also drive real-time content so that efficiency gaps traditionally caused by static content will not only be filled but spark the next level of rail transformation. The content becomes dynamic where it is proactively delivered to crews helping them make better decisions. Data and content interoperability will be the next stage that railroads will be able to make great gains in safety, operational efficiency, and modernized railroads.
If you want to get started with conditional and predictive content, here are 3 steps to consider:
- Evaluate where your operation is not using content, but where it would bring efficiency to a process.
- Review where content is being used within your operation – and how? Is it in a dynamic manner or static manner?
- Once you figure out where content could be useful in your operation, begin a data mapping exercise to align content to the data that you’re already capturing.
About the Author
With over 25 years of working with regulated industries, Mark Weintraub heads up Comply365’s global rail business. He has helped some of the largest North American railroads gain operational efficiencies through digital transformations. Mark is a strategist and mentor to both Business and IT executives and shares a passion with them for solving current and future problems through innovative IT. With a background in sales and leadership, his experience optimizing data and content spans regulated industries including the rail, aviation, and federal government.