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Could Rail Asset Management Improve Freight Scheduling and Planning?

Rail is one of the most asset-intensive industries in the world. Millions are spent each year investing in a huge range of physical assets such as tracks, platforms, bridges, switches, trains, and overhead wiring. With so much being spent on these assets, getting the most out of them is key.

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Rail asset management is the modern solution that’s being incorporated in railway software systems. With rail asset management, companies implement the tools, processes, and staff to better monitor and maintain their assets – all with the goal of improving performance, efficiency, and budget.

What is Rail Asset Management?

Rail asset management is a broad term that covers all systems, tools, and procedures used to increase asset performance and achieve the lowest possible lifecycle cost.

Take Network Rail as an example. It is one of the largest asset management organizations in the UK. According to Rail Engineer, it has over 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, 2,500 stations, and a huge array of equipment.¹ Effective asset management is essential for the company to keep its promise “to deliver the timetable so that trains run safely, punctually and reliably now and in the future”.²

Increasingly, the industry is digitizing rail asset management, leveraging IoT devices and intelligent railroad software to collect and interpret asset data faster and more effectively than traditional methods. In 2017, for instance, the Netherlands installed 2,000 IoT sensors to monitor all of its rail assets.³

Smart asset management offers the opportunity to significantly improve railroad businesses.

How Can Rail Companies Use Rail Asset Management?

There are several ways companies can use rail asset management to improve operations, but we will focus on two of the most important: scheduling and planning.

Using Rail Asset Management to Improve Scheduling

Many companies create a comprehensive rail asset management strategy that includes monitoring their assets, using predictive analytics to determine when common problems, such as water event disruption, will occur, and proactively planning to deal with them. Knowing in advance when service-disrupting problems may occur gives rail organizations the time to change schedules to minimize delays.

The same predictive analytics technology can also be used on assets themselves. By analyzing the age, performance, and use of assets, smart asset management technology can enable predictive repair and maintenance, making sure that assets are serviced before serious issues occur that could result in significant delays.

Using Rail Asset Management to Improve Planning

With smart, digital asset management, rail companies get greater visibility over their current assets. Informative, visual dashboards display data in a way that is easily digestible for all operators, so they can use it to inform strategic decisions. By quickly understanding which assets are performing and which aren’t, for instance, operators can prioritize upgrades and future purchases to ensure optimal asset performance.

Predictive analytics also allows teams to better plan and prioritize their work, particularly when it comes to maintenance and repairs. Smart asset management allows repair teams to identify and prioritize the most time-sensitive repairs, enabling them to work as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Technology is Driving Change and Efficiency for Railroads

Smart rail asset management offers opportunities to improve railroad performance, increase asset lifespan, and decrease costs – all critical aspects of managing a rail network. Ninety-two percent of rail companies plan on digitizing their business in the next three years, with a heavy emphasis on big data and automated trains.⁴

Digital rail asset management with smart technology, including IoT and AI-based railroad software will go a long way to making those investments a reality.



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