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 Locomotive Report Featured in Railway Age

This month Railway Age again features freight equipment data and analysis from Railinc. But this time, we take a look at locomotives. Beginning on page 35 of the magazine’s July 2016 issue, Railinc data scientist Dr. David Humphrey gives a summary of the North American freight locomotive fleet’s size and composition.

The article is based on key findings from Railinc’s 2016 Locomotive Review. The review features data related to the characteristics of the locomotive fleet, including information about the age and size of the fleet, new locomotives joining the fleet, types of power in the fleet, horsepower ratings trends in the fleet and more.

Humphrey compiled all the data in the report from Railinc’s Umler® system. The Umler equipment registry contains the physical characteristics, transportation management and pool assignments of more than 2 million pieces of rail equipment in North America. It is the base file for other industry reference files and industry equipment accounting files and is updated more than 600,000 times each month.

The 2016 Locomotive Review provides more detail about the state of the fleet and is available to download for free. You can also read a Q&A with Humphrey on the locomotive and railcar fleets. All of Railinc’s reports—including the 2016 North American Freight Railcar Review—are available to download for free on Railinc’s Research Reports page.

—Railinc Corporate Communications

Railinc Named Great Supply Chain Partner

Railinc Corp. is being honored as one of the “100 Great Supply Chain Partners" for 2016 by SupplyChainBrain magazine. Each year, the magazine features a select 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 first time that Railinc has been honored with this logistics industry award.

Railinc RailSight improves supply chain visibility."Railinc is grateful to its customers for acknowledging the good work of our employees, and also to our employees for helping demonstrate the value of freight rail as a critical component in the supply chain network," said Allen West, Railinc CEO and president.

Now in its 14th 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 we received literally hundreds of nominations for solutions providers in every aspect of supply chain management," said Brad Berger, publisher of the magazine. "Railinc should be proud to be 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 along every link of the rail logistics supply chain. The company’s data products and technology systems are deeply embedded in the North American freight rail network, providing safety and operational support. Railinc also maintains widely-used industry databases, builds critical software applications and provides essential business intelligence services supporting the freight rail industry. 

Railinc Corp. will appear in the 2016 July/August issue of SupplyChainBrain magazine as a celebrated member of this year’s 100 Great Supply Chain Partners.
 

Railinc Wins SupplyChainBrain 100 Great Award and Improves Supply Chain VisibilityAbout SupplyChainBrain (www.supplychainbrain.com

SupplyChainBrain, the world’s most comprehensive supply chain management information resource, is accessed year round through a wide range of ever evolving multi-media format 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 Corporate Communications

Training, New Tech Help Employees "Own" Apps

Employee training is an important part of Railinc’s culture. From certifications to regular lunch and learns to on-site training in a working rail yard, employees have a variety of opportunities to grow their knowledge of Railinc technologies and the freight rail industry.

Remaking the way business analysts, developers and others approach their work, like the Railinc Rules and Process Modernization (RPM) program is doing, requires a significant training effort that helps educate employees on new technologies and concepts.

"We're digging into our applications and rewriting rules,” said Jeanine Bradley, senior manager of rules and process management at Railinc. “We're developing standards we can apply company-wide and ways to assess work outcomes. And we're training a lot of our people, teaching them new technologies and new ways to approach their work."

 

Nearly all Railinc business analysts have completed training that focuses on capture, analysis and specification of business rules. Many have attended business process model notation and rules authoring training as well as sessions on technologies such as RuleXpress. This year, 15 business analysts are participating in an intensive, hands-on "learn-by-doing" training program that pairs Railinc employees with outside business rules experts.

Railinc employees participate in RPM training.


"The RPM effort has taught me a lot about my product, Car Repair Billing," said Kiersten Duffy, a Railinc business analyst who is participating in training throughout 2016. “Once you go through the entire modernization of the business rules process, you are truly the product owner and know your application inside and out. It has helped me to identify production issues in a fraction of the time. When you’ve been in the code, you see first-hand the expected action. Once you have this knowledge, you can bring a lot of value to customers.”

Railinc is also conducting training sessions for technical staff, including developers, quality assurance engineers and architects.
 

Railinc RPM Program Featured in Red Hat Case Study

As part of the RPM program, Railinc is implementing technologies that will support these modernization efforts, including the Red Hat JBoss BPM Suite. Red Hat is one of Railinc's longtime technology partners and the Red Hat JBoss BPM Suite had the flexibility and cost-effectiveness required for the RPM program. Red Hat JBoss BPM Suite provides key capabilities, including the flexibility of open source, which prevents vendor lock-in and promotes innovation for both technical and business teams.

“Open source technologies help to support Railinc’s culture of innovation,” Bradley said. “They give our developers maximum flexibility to create solutions for the freight rail industry, and they cost less than other, more rigid technologies.”

Red Hat recently featured Railinc's RPM program in a case study that highlighted the increased agility, improved productivity and enhanced industry knowledge that the RPM program and the Red Hat solution are enabling.

"Red Hat strives to help our customers meet their business needs in a flexible and open manner, and we're pleased that Railinc chose JBoss BPM Suite as part of its modernization initiative,” said Phil Simpson, Red Hat’s JBoss BPM product marketing manager. “With Red Hat BPM Suite, Railinc is providing essential business rule management facilities for its customers in the freight rail industry."

—Railinc Corporate Communications 

This is the second in a two-part series on Railinc’s Rules and Process Modernization (RPM) program, its impact and the training the company is providing. Click here to learn about the program and how it is changing our employees’ approach to their work.

New Tech Changes Rules Management, Processes

Nearly half of Railinc’s project development activities involve the implementation of rules and processes. So when Doni Reece saw the connections among Railinc systems, industry terms and equipment components mapped, she recognized the potential a networked view had to help employees understand the myriad rules and processes that underlie the company’s applications.

As a business analyst, Reece works on Railinc’s Umler® system, a cornerstone rail industry application that supports numerous other products, from Early Warning to Component Tracking. Being able to see the relationships mapped into “neighborhoods” gave her new insights into these connections, eliminated assumptions around equipment and component classifications, and was a first step in standardizing language and terminology around rules and processes.

 

“The neighborhoods provided a great viewpoint into our systems and the terms our industry uses and how they all relate,” Reece says. “And having everyone use the same terminology will make it easier to onboard new employees and team members.”

The work, done in partnership with outside consultants, is part of Railinc’s Rules and Process Modernization (RPM) program, an ongoing five-year initiative to develop operational processes, enhance employee skill sets and leverage technology to modernize Railinc’s rules and process management.

Launched in late 2014, the program will enable Railinc to take a more consultative approach with customers and will help to improve the efficiency, consistency and reliability of the rules and processes and optimize the work around them.
 

Program Changing Railinc’s Approach to Business Rules, Process Management

The North American freight rail industry depends on specific business logic to ensure the proper movement, interchange, monitoring, and repair of more than 1.5 million railcars across a 140,000-mile rail network. This business logic—often expressed as rules and processes—has traditionally been buried in code in Railinc’s applications, making it difficult to respond quickly to customer questions or requests, update applications, or share knowledge across the company.

For example, recently a customer wanted to know if individual railcars were qualified to carry a specific commodity and provided the commodity specifications. Railinc documented these specifications in the business rules engine, then ran the rules against the Umler system to instantly generate a list of which railcars could or could not transport the commodity. As a result, the customer could take action based on the inquiry in record time, keeping their freight cars—and their business—moving.

The RPM program is shifting the responsibility for rules authoring and management from IT to the business side of the company, increasing agility by enabling seamless knowledge transfer among developers, business analysts and customers. Business analysts, product support specialists and others will be able to research and update rules within an application without help from developers, which will free up time for IT to focus on development tasks.

“We wanted to manage the life cycle of the rules and process capabilities within our applications to create value through improved quality, increased productivity, and greater speed and innovation,” said Jeanine Bradley, senior manager of rules and process management at Railinc. “The program will improve visibility into the rules and processes, will spread these capabilities across the organization and will help us better align our products with our customers’ needs.”

Railinc is in the process of completing nearly a dozen technical assessments of applications to understand whether they are compatible with a rules engine, as well as business assessments of three product groups. The company is modernizing business rules and process management for five applications in 2016.

Railinc teams will also apply what they’ve learned to a new application that is expected to launch this year that will analyze and report on equipment failure data. This work is in addition to developing standards for internal authority over business rules and terminology, conducting multiple proof-of-concept projects and defining metrics that will help measure the productivity of development teams.

—Railinc Corporate Communications

This is the first in a two-part series on Railinc’s Rules and Process Modernization (RPM) program, its impact and the training the company is providing. Click here to read about the training that is part of RPM implementation.

Freight Rail's Ripple Effect Benefits U.S. Economy

An auto carrier railcar moves vehicles across the country.

Freight rail is one of the basic building blocks of the U.S. economy, and its impact creates an immense ripple effect that touches all regions, including the Research Triangle, and most industries.

How big is that ripple effect?

Spending by Class I railroads created nearly $274 billion in economic activity, generated almost $33 billion in total tax revenues and supported about 1.5 million jobs across the country in 2014. That’s according to findings in the most recent State of the Industry Report from the Association of American Railroads (AAR), Railinc’s parent organization.

Railroads Contribute Billions in Tax Revenue, Pay Billions in Wages

Commissioned by the AAR and released June 13, the report is the first to quantify the freight-railroad sector’s economic and fiscal impact on the U.S. The industry, the report shows, is a jobs generator, creating a wide range of opportunities in areas including business operations, mechanical services, engineering and technology. Combined, workers in these jobs earn $88 billion in wages each year.

The jobs have a broad impact on the entire economy. For example, the report found that one job in the freight rail industry supports nine others touched by the industry, including retail, manufacturing, and transportation and warehousing.

Other highlights from the report include:

  • The industry had nearly $28 billion in capital and maintenance expenditures in 2014, an amount equal to more than half of all federal government spending on transit formula grants, federal highway construction programs and airport improvement programs.

  • The industry generated $20.9 billion in federal tax revenues and $11.9 billion in state and local taxes in 2014.

  • Railroad activity supported 234,000 retail trade sector jobs, about 125,000 manufacturing jobs, and 113,000 transportation and warehousing jobs in 2014.

Railinc, Employees Help to Grow Local Economy

Railinc employees discussing rail data.

Though the report focuses on railroads’ broad economic impact, Railinc also delivers real economic benefits to the engine that helps grow the industry and the communities where our employees live right here in North Carolina, from Greensboro to Greenville. Railinc’s technology work is woven into customers’ daily operations, but the tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue the company produces also helps to generate revenue for other businesses and grow the local economy.

These contributions come in the form of partnerships with local IT and technology vendors such as Red Hat, SASCitrix and Rally, resourcing from staffing agency vendors such as The Select Group and Alphanumeric Systems, the lease on Railinc’s building, which Raleigh-based Highwood Properties owns, and even our coffee, which comes from Larry's Beans, a downtown Raleigh roaster. We contribute to the business community through the N.C. Technology Association, the Council for Entreprenurial Development and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. We are also strong backers of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, which helps feed those in need in our community. 

Railinc supports the economy, too, through its 285 employees, contractors and consultants, who use their paychecks to dine out, join PTAs, make car, house and rent payments, go to Carolina Hurricanes hockey games, shop in local stores and pay for services that enable businesses to provide jobs and pay wages that help to grow the economy. Many employees also receive a Railinc-paid education at Meredith College, N.C. State University or UNC-Chapel Hill; or they receive training through the N.C. Project Management Institute.

Railinc is proud of its technology that helps keep the North American freight rail industry moving. We're also proud that our work helps keep our employees and the Triangle moving too.

Read the entire State of the Industry Report at https://www.aar.org/Report-2 and see AAR President Ed Hamberger deliver a short overview at https://youtu.be/QWrPCbButvw.

—Railinc Corporate Communications