Railinc Tracks Blog

Railinc tracks are everywhere although you don't always see them. The Railinc Tracks blog reveals them one at a time and shows you how we help to keep railroads, railcars and rail shipments moving across America. The blog is staffed by the Railinc Corporate Communication team and will give you news and insights about our company, our people and our products.

Railinc's Traynham Named CIO of the Year

Railinc’s Jerry Traynham has been named Private Sector CIO of the Year for 2017 by the North Carolina Technology Association (NCTA). Jerry manages Railinc’s complex technology environment, providing vision and leadership for the company’s data, product development and information systems platforms. He joined Railinc in 2005 and has led a number of significant technology projects, including the technical reengineering of the Umler® system, a foundational application for the North American freight rail industry.

A graduate of Clemson University, Jerry has worked nearly 40 years in technology. He has held leadership and management positions with Lucent Technologies, AT&T, Bell Labs and Blue Shoe Technologies, where he led development efforts on applications for the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency and others.

Jerry talks about his career, technology and Railinc below.

Railinc CIO Jerry Traynham with Joan Smemoe, director of application engineering
Railinc CIO Jerry Traynham, right, with Joan Smemoe, director of application engineering

 

How did you get into technology and software?
I had a strong affinity for mathematics and engineering in high school. My dad was an engineering supervisor, and we had a machine shop on our property. As a kid, I was doing a lot of mechanical design, building go-karts. When I went to college, there wasn’t a computer science curriculum, so I pursued an electrical engineering degree, which encompassed computer science. After graduation, I went to work at Bell Labs as a systems engineer of radars for the Department of Defense.

The systems engineers designed and integrated the hardware, but we also worked with the software teams. I was drawn to the software side and transferred to a business unit where they were developing the UNIX system and software apps for the telephone industry. I worked shoulder to shoulder with some of the first UNIX developers and rose to project manager for the Trunks Integrated Record Keeping System (TIRKS), a telecom operations support system that’s still in use today. Creating this highly complex, critical industry system was when I really became focused on software engineering.
 

What do you like about working in technology and at Railinc?
I’ve always liked creating products that provide value and solve important problems. That was my attraction to Railinc. Our products touch the entire lifecycle of a train, and we use a lot of leading-edge technologies here, which is exciting for me and our engineers. We have tremendous breadth and depth for a company of about 300 people, particularly from an architecture, technology stack and design perspective.

Being a centralized hub for the North American freight rail industry, we maintain a wide range of apps that includes everything from financial exchanges to apps that help in the design of a railcar. Before I joined the company, I was doing work for the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense on some interesting, high-tech applications. I’m drawn to building things that add value. If I’m not able to do that, I’m not going to be particularly interested in the work.
 

What are the biggest technology challenges Railinc faces today?
One of Railinc’s greatest challenges is managing technology refresh. The rate of technology change continues to accelerate, supporting new use cases, and we work hard to stay ahead. One area we’re presently looking at is mobility, where we don’t have much of a presence today. Because of safety, there has been a concern around using mobile devices in railyards. But today, it’s possible to have in the palm of your hand devices that can enable you to perform business processes and analytics wherever you are, and our customers are adapting operational processes to take advantage of these capabilities.

Another area of challenge and opportunity is big data. There’s opportunity for us in both analysis and management of data. We’re a data hub for the industry, and we have enormous feeds of data coming in. The railroads are fielding sensor systems around North America that are capable of sending data to Railinc. I don’t believe many people fully realize the power or the growth of that data yet. The challenge is to continue to provide the technology, tools and expertise to enable that data to better serve the freight rail industry.
 

How do you approach strategic planning for the IT group?
It’s important for us to understand what the strategic plan is from the business team. We work to make sure that our IT strategy aligns with Railinc’s business strategy. Some strategic areas are more IT-centric and focus on IT workflows and processes. One example is security. It’s a top priority for our Board of Directors, and we have made significant investments in our security program the last two years. It’s the kind of investment that isn’t apparent to our end users, but our strategy is to have a security program in place that keeps all our business processes running and all our data secure and protected. I have quite a bit of experience in cybersecurity during my career and have seen the benefit of having a strong security program and what happens when you don’t.

Another important part of our strategy is staying current in our technology stack while at the same time reducing operational costs. It’s a continual challenge to maintain that balance. We look for open source options where possible. With the rapid advent of new technologies, we’re able to transition from good, expensive, proprietary solutions to good, open source solutions that may be easier to operate and maintain and that help us reduce costs.
 

What advice would you give to someone starting out in IT today?
I don’t think the size of the company you start at is that important as long as you have the opportunity to develop or enhance software systems. For most IT people today there are going to be the operations, support and maintenance aspects of the assignments. Finding the opportunity to work in product development or in the integration and support of underlying technologies is key because these enable you to grow professionally.

Also, it’s important to work on teams where you can realize mentoring, both in development techniques and quality processes. At Railinc, we are very supportive of our IT staff’s continued learning and professional advancement. We also emphasize mentoring here, especially from technical and software engineering process perspectives. All software engineers, from development to infrastructure, must stay current with technology changes by connecting with your peers and reading and experimenting as much as you can.
 

North Carolina's only statewide technology awards program, NCTA’s annual NC Tech Awards recognizes companies and individuals who have characterized excellence, innovation and leadership. Railinc was also named a finalist in the Mid-Size Company of the Year and the Business Value categories. Jerry will be recognized and the winners in the company categories will be announced at the NC Tech Awards Gala on Thursday, November 9.

—Railinc Corporate Communications

 

Railinc Interns Get Hands-On Experience

Railinc internships offer valuable, hands-on experience in areas ranging from IT to business operations to human resources. This summer, the company welcomed about a dozen high school and college students, including Jesse Morgan, a senior North Carolina State University computer science major who worked as a software engineering intern. Jesse was kind enough to share with us his thoughts on his Railinc internship experience:

What I Did
I worked on a product called the Car Repair Management System (CRMS), which keeps track of repairs between different repair companies. I helped test the product and web application. I spent most of my day writing code to automate the testing using a framework for the Java programming language Selenium, which makes it easier to automate. I ended up doing about 50 to 60 percent of the CRMS web application user interface testing. My typical day would start the night before. I would run tests through Jenkins, an automation server, before I left each night. When I’d arrive in the morning, I could see what passed and failed. I kept track of cases I was working on through a wiki page and added the new cases to the page so I would know what I needed to pass. I actually ended up getting them all passed by the end of summer.
 


Jesse Morgan, center, with his fellow interns at the Railinc summer event.


What I Learned
I learned a lot of practical skills. I already had some experience working with Java, but I was able to learn more and develop my skills. As I gained experience during my internship, I learned better software design techniques such as writing more general code that can be applied to multiple test cases.

What I Liked
I really liked the people. Everyone was always willing to help me if I needed it. My supervisors were knowledgeable and helpful, and they kept me on track. I never felt like I was on my own in figuring out a problem or attacking a project. I also built some great connections and relationships with people I worked with and with other interns. My internship offered me a taste of what a real-world job and working in an office setting would be like. I had never had that opportunity before, and it was just a really great experience.

Railinc hires interns throughout the year and posts internship openings on the Railinc Careers page. 

—Railinc Corporate Communications

Global Conference Panel Features Railinc Analyst

The North American railcar fleet grew by about 21,000 cars through July, adding about 5,500 grain or fertilizer covered hoppers, 4,500 tank cars and 3,500 plastic pellet covered hoppers. Those were among the takeaways from a recent Railcar Outlook and Overview panel featuring Railinc Senior Analyst Dr. David Humphrey and others at Cowen and Company’s 10th annual Global Transportation Conference.

The entire panel session is available below. Railway Age also published a recap of the discussion
 


Each year, Humphrey uses Umler data to create demographic profiles of the railcar and locomotive fleets and presents the information at the Rail Equipment Finance Conference in La Quinta, Calif. Companion reports on the railcar and locomotive fleets are available to download for free on the Railinc Research Reports page.

—Railinc Corporate Communications

Top Railinc Customer Questions (and Answers)

Railinc’s Customer Success Center handles about 40,000 inquiries each year, from requests for walkthroughs of any one of the company’s dozens of products to questions about locked accounts and lost passwords.

Here are five of the top questions Railinc’s CSC team gets from customers, with links to resources that have the answers.

Don’t see your question here? Our CSC team can help. Contact us at csc@railinc.com or 877-724-5462.
 

  1. How do I manage access rights for the Umler System?
    An Umler system user’s access is managed by an Umler administrator at their company. This administrator controls their colleagues’ ability to modify data within the system. The Umler Managing Access Rights Quick Guide covers how administrators can grant any or all data-modification rights to an Umler user or to another mark or company.
     
  2. How do I edit a Letter of Authorization (LOA)?
    Railinc uses LOAs to help protect its customers’ confidential data. These agreements ensure that appropriate data is sent only to authorized parties. Sometimes, you need to update information in an LOA to help with activities such as shipment or asset management. View our LOA Editing demo video for step-by-step instructions on editing an LOA.

     
  3. How do I nullify an alert closure in the Equipment Health Management System (EHMS)?
    When a repair or inspection is reported incorrectly, you can nullify the alert closure if your road reported the activity. There are restrictions on who can nullify an alert closure. Take a look at page 20 of the EHMS User Guide for complete instructions.
     
  4. How do I nullify an inspection in Umler?
    The Umler system gives users a way to report inspections. But sometimes mistakes happen, like reporting an air brake inspection in error. You can easily fix this by logging into the system and nullifying the inspection. Read our Umler Nullifying Inspections Quick Guide to learn how.
     
  5. How do I query historical lineage in Umler?
    The Umler system’s historical lineage function enables users to view all actions related to a specific equipment ID or equipment identification number, like the restenciling required by an ownership change. Some data are confidential and accessible only to equipment owners. Download the Umler Querying Historical Lineage Quick Guide to find out how to view historical lineage.

—Railinc Corporate Communications

Railinc Named Great Supply Chain Partner

Railinc Corp. has been honored again as one of the “100 Great Supply Chain Partners" for 2017 by SupplyChainBrain magazine. Each year, the magazine features an elite group of companies whose customers have nominated them for providing outstanding solutions and services that made a significant impact on their supply chain performance. This is the second consecutive year Railinc has been selected for this logistics industry award.

“Everyone at Railinc is honored by our customers’ recognition of the value we are delivering through products like RailSight,” said Allen West, CEO and president. “Freight rail is a critical component in the supply chain network, and we’re proud of the role we play in our customers’ success.”

Now in its 15th year, SupplyChainBrain solicits nominations from logistics industry companies to evaluate service providers that made a significant impact on their company’s efficiency, customer service and overall supply chain performance.

“This year’s field of nominees was abundant and very strong, hailing from all aspects of supply chain management,” said Brad Berger, publisher of the magazine. “Railinc should be proud to be named amongst the 100 Great!”
 

RailSight Delivers Rail Shipment Visibility and Rail Equipment Management Data

Railinc’s RailSight suite of applications delivers rail shipment visibility and equipment management data directly to the desktop or via TMS solution to support rail equipment owners, shippers and third-party logistics providers. Railinc’s data products and technology systems are deeply embedded in the North American freight rail network, providing safety and operational support. Railinc also manages widely-used industry databases, builds critical software applications and provides essential business intelligence services supporting the freight rail industry.

SupplyChainBrain, the world’s most comprehensive supply chain management information resource, is accessed year round through a wide range of ever evolving multi-media formats by hundreds of thousands of senior level industry executives. In addition to addressing the fundamental principles of supply-chain management, SupplyChainBrain identifies emerging trends, technologies and best practices, forward thinking ideas and cutting-edge solutions, and continues to write and report about these as they evolve and mature.

Railinc Corp. appeared in the 2017 July/August issue of SupplyChainBrain magazine as a member of this year’s 100 Great Supply Chain Partners.

—Railinc Corporate Communications

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