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.

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

Railinc Supports Growth, Training for Employees

As a release administrator on Railinc's Infrastructure Services and Support Team, Robert Redd works to make sure the company's applications are working for customers and that developers have the infrastructure they need to do their jobs.

He tweaks automated builds to account for changes developers make to code. He makes sure the automated build system is functioning properly. He creates dashboards for performance and uptime analysis for Railinc systems. And he keeps up with new technologies that can improve the way the company's developers work.

"I'm always learning new things at Railinc," Robert said. "We're always trying out new technologies to see if they fit our goals as a company."

Recently, Robert participated in a beta Jenkins certification initiative and became one of the first Jenkins-certified engineers in the world, earning the CloudBees Jenkins Platform Engineer Certification with the support of Railinc. Jenkins is an open-source continuous integration tool that powers Railinc's automated testing and build systems. Railinc has used the tool since its release in 2011 and used its predecessor, Hudson.

Jenkins Essential to Railinc Development Process

Jenkins is critical to the development process at Railinc. Anytime a developer submits a code change, Jenkins reads the code and immediately begins compiling and testing it. Robert also uses Jenkins to help make developers' jobs easier, automating tasks such as the deployment of applications to development and pre-product environments, the building of queues and the creation of listener ports.

Before Jenkins, Railinc would do a build every three to six months. At the end of a development cycle, Robert said, there would be late nights spent compiling code and looking for errors. Now, we can do builds every two weeks and the tedious tasks that seemed to take forever are automated.

"Jenkins supports the Agile methodology we use here, and it helps immensely with our code quality and speed to market," Robert said.

Training, Professional Development a Hallmark of Railinc Culture

A former tank commander in the U.S. Army, Robert came to Railinc in 2000 as a Java team lead and has also held business analyst and database administrator roles. As he has moved from role to role, he has taken advantage of Railinc training to keep up with technology changes and find new ways to work. You can learn more about Robert in his Careers profile.

"The certification shows how Railinc supports efforts by employees to learn new technologies and even get recognition for their knowledge," Robert said. "We're encouraged to use and test and learn new technologies here, and I get to work with a lot of different tools, which is really fun."

Certifications are just one way Railinc supports its employees' professional growth. It's not unusual to see dozens of employees packed in the company's training room for regular technology training sessions that cover everything from Java to security to data storage.

Most new employees come to Railinc with little knowledge of the freight rail industry. To help give their careers in the industry a kick start, the company provides training that covers railroad industry fundamentals. Railinc even sends groups of employees to CSX's Railroad Education and Development Institute (REDI), where they get a firsthand look at a working rail yard and get to pilot a locomotive simulator, drive a railroad spike and learn about rail safety. Click the image below to view a slideshow highlighting a Railinc visit to CSX REDI.

Railinc Training at CSX -- May 2015

There are also more personalized resources that supports career development, from online training tools for business and technical skills to a Career Paths program, which helps employees design their own personal action plan for pursuing their career goals. Railinc also offers a generous tuition reimbursement program, which employees have used to pursue advanced degrees like MBAs and to take a one-off course to refresh skills or just learn something new.

"The freight rail industry is constantly changing, as is the technology we use to support it," said Jerry Traynham, Railinc's chief information officer. "These kinds of initiatives and the training and education employees like Robert get help employees reach their career goals and help develop the innovative thinkers we need to serve our customers."

—Railinc Corporate Communications

Railinc Named a Top Logistics IT Provider

Inbound Logistics magazine has named Railinc Corp. among the Top 100 Logistics IT Providers for 2016. This is the fifth time in the last six years that the publication has recognized the company for this annual award.

"Railinc continues to provide the technology solutions Inbound Logistics readers need for freight rail shipment visibility and rail fleet management control that drives successful supply chains," said Felecia Stratton, editor of Inbound Logistics. "As rail shippers and 3PLs continue to increase their use of logistics IT, Railinc remains flexible and responsive, anticipating customers’ evolving needs. Railinc deserves recognition for providing the innovative solutions empowering logistics and supply chain excellence in 2016."

Many of Railinc's products support critical operations throughout the freight rail industry. The company’s RailSight suite of applications delivers valuable tracking and tracing data to improve network, equipment and shipment visibility, manage exceptions, optimize rail fleets and manage loaded and empty rail equipment. Railinc's Umler® system is the industry's official resource for data on rail equipment used in interline service across North America. The company utilizes its software and technology systems to deliver operational data, provide business intelligence and produce custom reports to that enhance freight rail shipping.

"Increased competitive and economic pressures since last year have put more focus on delivering opportunities to improve business by leveraging Railinc’s unique capabilities," said Chuck Hieronymi, director of business solutions.

"We continue to create better, faster solutions with our data, software as a service and analytics offerings. In spite of growing headwinds, we continue to expand our business with many global and domestic leaders with intermodal, rail shipper and railcar owners, transportation management systems, logistics services providers and ports. They all understand that better data leads to better operational and strategic insights which, in turn drives better business performance."

Each year, Inbound Logistics editors recognize 100 logistics IT companies that support and enable logistics excellence. Drawn from a pool of more than 300 companies, using questionnaires, personal interviews, and other research, Inbound Logistics selects the Top 100 Logistics IT Providers who are leading the way in 2016.

"It is always an honor for Railinc to be recognized for its work to serve the technology needs of the freight rail industry," said Allen West, president and CEO. "This award is a testament to the value we strive to deliver every day through our products and services."

—Railinc Corporate Communications