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Big Data, Big Potential

The rail freight sector is a complex system, involving a great number of different public and private stakeholders performing daily operations. The railway is going through a digital transformation and rail freight needs to keep up, especially if passenger and freight are to ever work alongside each other in harmony. Optimising operational efficiency has been a challenge since railways were first invented. With the coming of the ‘digital railway’ and big data being seen increasingly as a strategic asset to help guide decisions, KeTech discuss how big data can help increase the operational efficiency of the rail freight industry.

Big data is defined as large volumes of structured and unstructured data that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis. Big data analysis however, that’s where the magic really is. Big data analysis allows the processing of these huge amounts of data and in turn unlocks the opportunity of tackling problems in the freight industry. However, this raises the question: is the result of this analysis meaningful, contextual and presented in a useable format? That’s where KeTech come in. It’s important to understand that big data analysis is not a replacement for human information handling, but a way for users to have a better understanding of the situation and make faster and better-informed decisions with intelligent information that was­­­­­­ before inaccessible. The rail freight industry is especially amenable to the advantages of analytics and big data because they are generally closed systems that involve sophisticated processing of large volumes of data. The more that decision makers understand and implement big data and analytics, the more effectively the users will be able to utilise its promise.

KeTech’s goal is to identify the right data to solve the problem at hand. Harnessing data from the industry through collaboration and analysing it in real-time is what makes our systems different. There are so many variables that affect the day-to-day operations of the freight industry, sure the industry currently uses some form of big data, but not to its full potential. Big data analysis can improve both operational efficiency and maintenance in freight. Just like passenger rail, freight works to a deadline and it is important they meet their timing points in order to avoid looping or facing delay charges. What if you could prevent a delay before it happened? KeTech’s systems use various techniques to integrate heterogeneous data sources into a high-performance rules-based system hosted in the Cloud. Using historical data to identify events that cause delay, allows freight operators to not only be reactive in the present moment, but to utilise this data in the long term in terms of route optimisation and planning. So, the system recognises events that have happened in the past to predict delay; but there’s a first for everything, some things can’t be predicted, and this is when truly real-time information is most valuable. KeTech’s award winning, on-board Connected Driver Advisory system (C-DAS) constantly recalculates optimum profile from live data, updating second-by-second, providing the best advice to the driver during disruption, re-routing, TSR’s and ESR’s. In turn, more efficient driving also reduces running costs and supports decarbonisation in terms of fuel and energy usage. KeTech’s award winning on-board system is proven to reduce fuel costs by up to 20%.

The use of predictive maintenance in freight and passenger rail could have significant effects on the reliability of the infrastructure. Some of the assets on the rails are over 100 years old, as are the methods used to inspect them. Remote condition monitoring unlocks a host of benefits such as improved safety of the workforce, increased knowledge and understanding of assets and reduced running costs. KeTech’s systems turn data into intelligent data, driving the shift from fix-on-fail to predict and prevent, reducing delays and unplanned works. KeTech’s system connects the dots across the rail network and creates scalable predictive algorithms from diverse data sources combined with real time communications to allow access to rapid insights from disparate sources of information. Ultimately improving asset knowledge, service levels and reducing unplanned engineering works and implement smarter maintenance strategies.

Research shows that the main reasons rail is a less preferred option in comparison to road is due to low flexibility, delays and a lack of real-time visibility on order status. KeTech’s truly real-time information can enhance freight’s competitiveness over road, not only in terms of being more environmentally friendly but through providing a seamless transfer of information between modes making freight more cost and time effective. KeTech’s system is centrally controlled and allows remote access to intelligent information, giving the freight operators the option to distribute accurate train movement predictions in real-time in order to better integrate the supply chain and operations within and in turn increase customer satisfaction.

The coming of the ‘digital railway’ and the application of big data go hand in hand. The time is now to redefine operational and maintenance processes in the rail freight industry, integrating next generation technologies to align with ever growing customer expectations. KeTech’s systems are truly flexible, scalable and integrated. Just like the railway, our solutions are dynamic. Speak to KeTech today to unlock the potential of superior decision-making.

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