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.

From Freight Rail Rookie to Rising Star

Just because you don’t have freight rail experience, doesn’t mean you can’t find success in the freight rail industry.

“When I started at Railinc, I couldn’t tell the difference between the ‘A’ end and the ‘B’ end of a railcar,” said Jerry Vaughn, the company’s director of interline services. “Everyone welcomed me and shared their knowledge.”

Railinc's Jerry Vaughn, left, with Kirk Bastyr,
publisher of
Progressive Railroading magazine.


Since 2009, when he joined the company as a business analyst, Vaughn has learned and grown as a rail industry professional. Rising through the ranks of product management, he has been in charge of nearly all of Railinc’s AAR-related industry products. These essential applications and systems are embedded in critical industry processes and operations that have an impact on everything from car repair to maintenance to financial exchanges. He also has led high-impact industry and internal initiatives that have delivered value to the industry and helped to change the way his colleagues work.

Progressive Railroading magazine recently recognized Vaughn’s work at Railinc, naming him among the  winners of the 2016 Rising Star Award and profiling him in the September issue of the publication. The award recognizes 20 people under the age of 40 who are making a positive difference in the North American railroad industry. Vaughn was recognized along with the other winners at a July 24 dinner in Pittsburgh. Also honored was Rapik Saat, director of operations analysis at the Association of American Railroads, Railinc’s parent organization.

“Jerry’s vision and leadership have enabled Railinc to deliver on critical industry initiatives and to provide innovative technology solutions,” said E. Allen West, president and CEO of Railinc. “Through his approach to his work and his passion for the freight rail industry, he has earned the respect of Railinc customers, his colleagues and industry peers.”
 

Vaughn Leads Innovative Tech Development, High-Impact Programs

Vaughn leads a team that develops innovative technology solutions that are critical to the efficient movement and interchanging of railcars across the North American rail network. He also serves as product manager for the Umler® business unit, which includes the Umler system. This mission-critical resource for rail equipment data contains the physical characteristics and other data on more than 2 million pieces of rail equipment.

But Vaughn’s work goes beyond the day-to-day management of Railinc products and services and the people who develop them. He has been a leader in multiple long-term initiatives that will have a lasting positive impact on the freight rail industry and on Railinc, including the Component Tracking program, the Asset Health Strategic Initiative (AHSI) and the Railinc Rules and Process Modernization (RPM) program.

Launched in 2011, Component Tracking is an ongoing industry initiative to build and maintain a database of railcar equipment component information. This multi-year program enables electronic tracking and identification of specific railcar components to enable decision making that improves rail safety, reduces costs associated with equipment maintenance, and supports more efficient and effective rail operations.

The first phase of the program focused on wheelsets. One example of the program's real impact is a 2014 recall that targeted only the affected wheelsets and railcars, enabling a strategic approach to assessing risk and executing a mitigation strategy. The success of the wheelset phase implementation has led the industry to approve expansion of the program to sideframes, bolsters, couplers, the service and emergency portions of brake valves, and slack adjusters.
 

Initiatives Addressing Rail Yard Challenges, Changing Way Railinc Employees Work

Vaughn has also been instrumental in providing product leadership around AHSI, a multi-year, multi-phase program that will apply IT solutions and processes to address challenges associated with railcars. The program seeks to reduce mechanical service interruptions, improve the quality of railcar inspections, and increase rail yard and repair shop efficiency. As head of Railinc's asset services products, which include the Umler and Early Warning systems, Vaughn provides product and project management focus that has helped the company execute on AHSI concepts and incorporate them into product releases and align them with internal and industry processes.

Jerry Vaughn speaks at the Progressive Railroading
Rising Stars dinner on July 24 at Pittsburgh.


“Jerry is an inspiration and is deserving of widespread recognition,” said Jeff Usher, assistant vice president at the AAR. “I have observed over several years now Jerry’s maturation at Railinc. He always handles the challenges presented him with a cool confidence that calms the situation at hand while doggedly advancing to achieving solutions that satisfies stakeholders and constituents alike.”

Vaughn also serves as the steering committee chair for the company’s RPM program. This internal corporate initiative is designed to improve the management of the industry rules and processes that underlie Railinc’s software applications and data systems. The program is unique because it affects many existing software applications, extends across multiple business lines and customer segments, and will play a role in how future applications are developed and managed. It also impacts the work of about 100 software engineers and 30 business analysts.

“You could never learn everything about railroading, but my experience at Railinc has helped me understand the complexities and challenges our customers face every day,” said Vaughn, who now serves as director of interline services. “Thanks to the guidance of the industry and the work of our people, Railinc has been able to help them deal with these complexities and solve these challenges. And it takes the entire industry—manufacturers, committees, repair shops, our own development teams—to execute on these important programs with the success we do.”

—Railinc Corporate Communications

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.