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.

Entries with tag analytics .

Railinc's Smemoe Named Rail Industry Rising Star

Railinc Director of Application Engineering and PMO Joan Smemoe has been recognized as a 2018 Rising Star by Progressive Railroading magazine.

The award recognizes individuals under the age of 40 who have made, or are making, a positive impact on their company, organization, department or team, and are viewed by others — peers, colleagues, supervisors, clients or associates — as up-and-coming leaders in the rail industry.

As Railinc’s No. 2 technology officer and a member of the executive management team, Smemoe helps to create the vision, shape the strategy, provide leadership and drive the success of Railinc’s IT operations. She leads the company’s software development and applications engineering across all product groups, guiding more than 100 IT professionals who are responsible for dozens of essential applications that help to keep the North American freight-rail network moving.

Smemoe’s technology leadership and expertise have been integral to the success and impact of Railinc technology solutions and initiatives. These include

  • The AskRail mobile application, which helps to ensure that emergency responders have access to accurate, timely information about railcars carrying hazardous materials when they arrive at the scene of a rail emergency.

  • The Gateway Operations Services program, which is developing traffic management solutions for major rail gateways with a focus on the Chicago Terminal.

  • The Component Registry, which supports the tracking of rail equipment health.

Smemoe, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science from the University of Missouri-Columbia, joined Railinc in 2006 as a senior software engineer. She has shown progressive growth, moving into leadership roles such as project manager, senior manager and director that have enabled her to shape Railinc technologies that are critical to freight rail industry operations in North America.

Smemoe and the other 2018 Progressive Railroading Rising Stars will be recognized at a dinner in Chicago on July 22. Click here to see a complete list of winners.

Railinc Releases 2017 Annual Report

Last year, Railinc continued working to deliver value to customers through innovative technologies that help to address some of the freight rail industry’s most pressing challenges. Leveraging our people, processes and technology, we completed critical industry projects, advanced important initiatives, upgraded systems and developed solutions that addressed rail safety, asset maintenance and utilization, and traffic management.

We’re proud of our purpose-driven work, serving the freight rail industry and creating value for people and business across North America. Our 2017 Railinc annual reportDelivering Innovation—highlights that work and our accomplishments from the past year.

Links to our 2017 annual report and past reports are available on our Annual Report page.

Automation Tools Help Railinc Manage Big Data

At Railinc, we handle a large volume of rail data every day and use automation tools to support our work. Control-M helps us monitor complex batch processes across multiple platforms and applications and plays a vital role in what we do. Robert Redd, a release engineer administrator at Railinc, wrote the blog post below about how we are using Control-M and big data to help build a smarter rail network. It was originally posted on BMC Software’s website. BMC Software also recently published a case study on Railinc’s use of Control-M.

Established in 1999 to provide IT services for the Association of American Railroads (AAR), Railinc is the railroad industry’s most innovative and reliable resource for IT and information services. Today, as a wholly owned subsidiary of the AAR, Railinc supports business processes and provides business intelligence that help the freight rail industry increase productivity, enhance operational efficiency, and increase their return on investment in assets.

Rail industry participants recognize the opportunities big data presents. In response to the critical need for actionable data, we are working with Class I, short line, and regional railroads as well as other Railinc customers to capture huge volumes of data across diverse points in the rail network and help our customers:
 

  • Track shipments across the North American freight rail network
  • Achieve efficiencies around railcar repairs, car hire and other rail operations
  • Monitor the health of equipment to ensure the safe movement of freight
  • Better manage traffic to keep railcars moving


Railinc is the largest, single source of real-time, accurate, interline rail data for the North American railroad system. That data is empowering our customers to drive efficiency, manage costs, and improve the health of the North American rail network.

To continue meeting our customers’ data needs, we’ve embraced big data and replaced a previous proprietary data warehouse with an open-source environment that offers greater flexibility at a lower cost. Two years ago, we began the move to Hortonworks Hadoop as the framework for storing, processing, and managing the massive volumes of data we handle today and support even greater data volumes in the future.

Control-M is a vital part of our big-data strategy. Railinc has used Control-M for 11 years to schedule and monitor complex batch processes across multiple platforms and applications. Control-M for Hadoop allows us to develop, schedule, and monitor Hadoop batch processes using the same familiar interface we use for our other workloads.
 

Big Data Brings Unprecedented Visibility

The North American rail network is growing increasingly smarter as railroads implement advanced technology such as intelligent sensors positioned alongside tracks. These sensors provide data such as location and movement information that helps customers manage their fleets, track their equipment, view ETAs, efficiently coordinate the movement of millions of railcars and time the delivery of cargo down to the hour. Still, other detectors monitor the physical condition of rolling stock, enabling railroads and car owners to detect issues such as a bad brake or a wheel with a flat spot. These data enable Railinc to provide advanced warning to schedule repairs before a minor issue becomes a costly repair.

The volume is staggering. We’re capturing data from more than 40,000 locomotives and 1.6 million railcars traveling across 140,000 miles of track. The data come from equipment belonging to 1,700 different rail car owners, 560+ local and regional railroads, and seven Class I railroads. Our data warehouse already contains 50 terabytes of data from disparate sources and we expect that volume to increase nearly 100% over the next few years.

Railinc industry applications leverage these data to enable customers to operate more efficiently and economically. Our car hire applications support activities around the fees charged and paid for the usage of rail equipment, enabling higher equipment utilization and improving payment accuracy. Traffic management applications such as our Clear Path™ System support the movement of trains through the Chicago Terminal, the busiest rail gateway in North America.


Control-M Helps Keep Big Data Flowing

To support our industry applications, we must gather huge volumes of data every day from many sources, move it through various systems for analysis and translation into actionable information, and generate and distribute reports to our customers. The workflows that get the data where it needs to be when it needs to be there are highly complex with numerous dependencies.

That’s where Control-M comes in. It simplifies the creation of even the most complex workloads. Using the graphical interface, I can literally draw the dependencies among jobs, so I can ensure that prerequisite processes in a sequence are completed before the next process in the sequence is started.

Perhaps the most significant benefit is that the solution isn’t tied to a single technology. When we added Hadoop, Control-M was a natural fit, giving us the same kind of visibility into and control of Hadoop jobs that we experience on other platforms. The scheduling staff didn’t have to learn a special scheduling tool for Hadoop. We use the same interface to schedule workloads on all of our platforms and we have full visibility into the hundreds of jobs that run every night.

Control-M Batch Impact Manager lets us monitor Hadoop jobs without having people sitting in front of a console 24/7. If the solution detects potential delays or failures, it alerts us immediately. Our customers rely on us to meet those SLAs. Delayed reports on the Chicago Terminal, for example, could affect rail operations not only in the Chicago area, but throughout North America. Batch Impact Manager gives us an intelligent, proactive approach to keeping processes—and trains—running.

Another plus for Control-M is that it supports multisite environments. The critical nature of our big-data environment makes it important to have a second site for disaster recovery purposes. So we created a primary and secondary site for our Hadoop environment.

However, we aren’t limiting the second site to DR activities. We need the flexibility to do any job on either site. Control-M can easily talk to both sites, enabling us to ETL to either site, manipulate data, create views, and move processes back and forth between sites as necessary and ultimately replicate IT services and data on both sites. In the future this multisite capability will help with load balancing, enabling us to keep up with the increasing demand for big-data reports.


Conclusion

The transition to Hadoop has added significantly to the number of jobs we run and Hadoop workflows now account for about one third of all our batch processes. The orchestration that Control-M performs to get data where it needs to be at the time it needs to be there is critical to the success of our big-data efforts.

We simply couldn’t do the job without Control-M.

—Robert Redd

As release engineer administrator, Robert Redd manages systems that ensure Railinc applications are working for customers and that support the work the company’s developers do to create innovative solutions for the freight rail industry. Redd, who joined Railinc in 2000, is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and a U.S. Army veteran.

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

Big Data Means Better Rail Shipment Visibility

Each time a wayside detector logs a passing railcar, Railinc receives information about the car. The rail industry uses these event messages to track railcar movements.

As the hub for rail industry data, Railinc receives more than 11 million of these messages every day from all seven Class I railroads and more than 500 short line railroads. That’s more than 4 billion annually, each carrying vital information that supports rail operations. The sheer volume enables Railinc to offer the most comprehensive data feed available to the industry.

Railinc uses these data to create car location messages (CLMs). And despite the name, CLMs aren’t just about location.

They can contain information about waybills, embargoes, bad orders, interchanges, arrivals, departures, estimated time of arrival, loaded and unloaded status, and the start or end of a railcar’s trip, among other data points.

These CLMs feed Railinc’s RailSight Track and Trace solution. The industry’s only comprehensive, single-source shipment-tracking service, RailSight Track and Trace sends out real-time rail data around the clock, enabling the most complete view available of a rail shipment’s lifecycle. RailSight helps users track railcars and intermodal equipment on more than 530 carriers across North America. Railinc supports various integration and connectivity options, including EDI, API and others.

Shippers, railroads, car owners and third-party logistics providers can use RailSight Track and Trace to access actionable information about equipment and shipments, enable process improvements, and reduce and avoid costs related to railcar storage, bad orders, IT support and infrastructure, billing disputes and other areas. Here are just a few ways RailSight can support logistics needs:

  • Shippers can tell whether a railcar is ready to be loaded or unloaded and have resources at the ready to minimize or avoid demurrage.

  • Railroads can gain complete visibility through a single source into a railcar’s status, even on foreign lines, so they can keep their customers informed about a shipment all the way through to delivery.

  • Car owners can monitor the health and usage of their leased equipment, keeping track of information like trip length and mileage, and who has possession of the railcar.

  • Third-party logistics providers can eliminate information gaps to deliver improved productivity and customer service.

From custom reporting to systems integration, RailSight Track and Trace can deliver the data you need, when you need it, providing information that improves visibility and helps you manage your business more efficiently and effectively.

Ready to learn more about RailSight Track and Trace? Visit the RailSight Track and Trace resource page or contact the Railinc customer support team at 877-724-5462 or csc@railinc.com.

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