RMS: One-Stop Shipping – The Age of Railroad

Written by

Danny Dever, Product Manager, TransmetriQ

RAILWAY AGE, AUGUST 2022 EDITION: TransmetriQ, the commercial products unit of Railinc, introduces the Rail Management System (RMS), which offers shipment tracking and ETA information, electronic bill of lading capabilities and analytics, all on one platform.

North American rail shippers have long sought better information about the status of their freight. That’s why, in early 2021, our team of product, technology, UX (user experience) design, and data science experts embarked on a focused effort to provide shippers with a more efficient shipment tracking solution.

Applying over 20 years of advanced rail technology, along with Railinc’s extensive rail data repository, the TransmetriQ team has developed its new Rail Management System (RMS) from early 2021. Mission Critical Support of the RMS developed by Railinc includes:

  • Single access to data from over 600 railways.
  • High quality, near real-time data protected by Railinc’s Secure Data Access Policy.
  • Ideas developed by a team with over two decades of railway experience.

Today, RMS delivers powerful shipping data and insights, and it will continue to evolve as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are applied.

The team’s work history is an example of the rail industry’s desire to continually improve customer service.

The rail industry already provides shippers with safe, sustainable and efficient supply chain services. The challenge for TransmetriQ was to make these services more user-friendly through improved shipment management and tracking.

The solution started with the creation of a team made up of TransmetriQ experts as well as rail service users and providers. The goal was to develop and prioritize ideas that would benefit all industry participants.

Look through the eyes of shippers

We quickly found that shippers were ready and willing to contribute their experience and ideas. Initially, we were supported by some 25 shippers, large and small, whose shipping needs covered a wide range of commodities and products. This group participated in Voice of the Customer sessions that provided valuable guidance for our efforts. Based on the feedback from this group, we were able to quickly identify the main challenges, primarily related to the need for more current data, a common desire to reduce or eliminate the need to collect data from multiple sources, and make the RMS more intuitive. than the rail management systems available.

After extensive briefings from these customers, we developed customer profiles that helped us understand what they needed from RMS. These personalities revealed that the system should encompass a wide range of customer demands. One shipper may have a very complex shipping system involving multiple commodities to and from many locations, while another ships one or two commodities between a few origin-destination pairs. Some are new to logistics while others have decades of experience. Familiarity and comfort levels with technology also vary widely.

TransmetriQ then built a business case of what could be done to successfully meet the key needs identified by customers.

In addition to the significant business challenges we sought to address, our team also launched its work in the midst of the pandemic. Fortunately, we had developed remote working protocols and practices before the outbreak of COVID-19. This has allowed us to pivot quickly and continue to communicate effectively and develop mutual understanding with our sender partners in the new environment of Zoom meetings and other remote collaboration methods.

Internally, and as COVID-19 guidelines evolved, our Business Development team was also able to safely meet in-person at Railinc’s corporate headquarters in Cary, NC for valuable board viewing sessions. White. We also started developing screens that would present data to customers in meaningful, easy-to-understand graphs and dashboards. As development accelerated, our internal team met twice a week to continue to give the development team timely information and feedback that would allow them to work without disruption.

Breaking down the jargon barrier

Based on customer feedback, we recognized that the success of RMS would depend on more than timely and actionable data. It should also minimize the use of industry jargon and instead provide language and terminology that customers were already comfortable using.

Safe and efficient rail operations rely on complex internal systems, terminology and location credentials. For example, railroads rely on Standard Point Location Codes (SPLCs) that are assigned to each station to manage operations. In cities of any significant size, there are probably dozens, dozens, or even more SPLCs.

A shipper in Indianapolis, for example, is likely unaware of the SPLC that would apply to the specific location of a factory, warehouse, or other shipping location. Until now, they had to look up the code or request this information from their railroad or a third party to initiate an expedition. The advisory board made RMS developers aware that it was time-consuming and frustrating. As a result, RMS incorporates a more intuitive feature that allows customers to begin entering an address, and the system immediately identifies and populates the SPLC serving that location.

Similar easy to use functionality is provided for specifying goods to be shipped and customer identification codes, all of which are held in Railinc’s reference files and linked to the RMS.

Envision a busy future

RMS developers realized early on in their work that the initial deployment of RMS would be far from the end result. They designed the highest priority components first and began work on subsequent releases as soon as RMS launched in early 2022.

The next major offering is the RMS Bill of Lading (BOL), which will be available before the end of 2022.

When shippers hand over a BOL to a rail carrier, the message is – essentially – “our shipment is ready, pick it up”. Historically, BOLs have been created in several ways. Larger shippers often have systems in place for this purpose, but others must visit the originating railroad’s website, as well as one or more connecting railroads if the shipment is an interline movement ( which is the case for most).

The new RMS BOL incorporates the intuitive features described above and can easily be created from a shipper’s smartphone, tablet, desktop or enterprise system.

Later, we plan to introduce an RMS virtual assistant that will handle many routine requests to save customers even more time when submitting, managing and tracking rail shipments.

All of these features are developed to be fully compatible with shippers’ systems. RMS is completely customizable and can be adapted to the needs of each user. Customers can choose different product modules and data insights and easily create a system that fits any company’s unique business practices.

Eye On The One-Stop Shipping Prize

RMS is designed to serve as a TMS for rail shippers. Just as shippers expect ease of use from motor carriers, railroads understand the need to minimize customer touchpoints, in order to provide a shipment management system that enables get things done transparently, then quickly identify and provide options for resolving exceptions in real time.

As the most powerful adaptive rail freight management system, RMS enables shippers to make rail transportation even more efficient and reliable, with these key features:

  • Custom control that allows users to adapt the RMS to changing needs over time.
  • Built-in industry-leading expertise.
  • Global perspective, with a modular design that enables data integration with other platforms.
  • Increased accuracy by leveraging Railinc’s direct connection to the railways to deliver high quality data, quickly.

In addition to providing the industry with a higher value freight rail management system, it has been extremely rewarding to work with the dedicated, brilliant and diverse TransmetriQ team who have been challenged by the profound task of developing RMS . Those who have never worked in the rail industry may not realize what a rich and resourceful pool of talent exists within our ranks. It is the work of our team, individually and collectively, that will support the success of North American railroads and their customers for years and decades to come.

About TransmetriQ

TransmetriQ is a group of Railinc (www.railinc.com) transportation experts, product managers, UX designers, software developers, data scientists and critical thinkers developing ideas and solutions that help customers to create competitive and winning companies. Our teams are working to improve our current products and develop the next generation of business-focused transportation solutions. Visit us at www.transmetriq.com.

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