A Holistic Approach to Rail Tracking: Beyond Location Monitoring

A Holistic Approach to Rail Tracking: Beyond Location Monitoring

Greater demand for fast, reliable transportation brings greater demand for visibility into this segment of the supply chain. Companies want to know how they can increase their efficiency and the effectiveness of their decisions, while their customers want to know when their shipments are expected to arrive. The industry focus for visibility has previously been on trucks and ocean freight, but now companies are realizing they need the same level of tracking for their rail freight. Fortunately, we’re able to reach the same level of advanced tracking quickly with what we’ve learned from truckload visibility, that is, a need for a comprehensive approach to rail tracking.

The Limitations of Location Monitoring

The difficulty has been that traditional rail tracking relies on manual processes and manual communication, often lacking precision. These methods only offer fragmented snapshots of a train's journey. Delays between checkpoints, human errors in recording or communicating a train's location, and a lack of real-time data make it challenging to get a holistic view of the operations.

One of the biggest challenges faced in rail tracking is covering any and all gaps. The sporadic nature of updates in traditional systems means companies may be left in the dark for hours, or even days. Data collected at different points or stations often remains isolated, creating silos. This prevents a unified view of operations and can lead to missed opportunities for optimization or fast responses to issues.

Beyond Location: Building a Holistic Approach to Rail Tracking

For rail tracking technology to best serve its customers, the goal must be to go beyond simply pinpointing a train's location. Rail tracking should provide a view of the entire rail operation, including the condition of goods in transit and the operational status, through the integration of various streams of data and advanced technologies.

Whether it's data from on-board sensors, GPS-based tracking, railway infrastructure, or third-party logistics partners, bringing all this information into a centralized platform is essential. This combination of data allows shippers to see the bigger picture and get insights that were not previously available.

Three Steps Toward a Holistic Rail Tracking Strategy

Shippers need the following three pieces for their rail tracking efforts to be most effective. It’s not just about the data but also allowing them to do more with that information.

1. Real-Time Condition Monitoring

Without continuous monitoring of cargo conditions, rail transport leaves a lot of room for uncertainty, and less-than optimal conditions can easily lead to damage and loss. Instead of finding out about damage after the fact, shippers can receive instant updates if conditions exceed predefined thresholds for temperature or humidity, which allows for quick corrective actions. There is also impact monitoring for sudden movements or excessive vibrations, which can damage fragile goods. Companies can also use this information to improve their shipments moving forward, for example, in how they pack their freight. Essentially, this detailed level of monitoring gives companies eyes to stay informed and make optimizing decisions.

2. Data Integration and Insights

Data is only useful if it is usable. With detailed, real-time data coming from various sources and across every shipment, companies need a way to integrate this data into their existing systems and avoid data silos. If users must log into another system to access certain information, there may be instances when they decide not to spend the extra time retrieving this data. By merging different threads of data and making them all accessible, shippers can ensure they have a holistic picture of their operations, as well as consistent standards for data quality. This can then lead to insights for tailored strategies.

3. Enhancing Decision-Making with Advanced Analytics

Advanced analytics is about detecting trends and anomalies in large datasets. When applied to rail tracking, these data-driven insights allow shippers to predict disruptions and points of concern so they can take a proactive approach. They can set benchmarks on performance and strive for continuous improvement, optimizing routes and resource allocation, leading to greater efficiency, cost-savings, and better service for their customers.

Vizion: The Next Step in Enhanced Rail Tracking

With more shippers seeking real-time data for their rail shipments, Vizion offers intermodal rail tracking to bring shippers a streamlined, unified solution that eliminates traditional tracking obstacles and replaces them with actionable insights.

From ports to inland facilities, Vizion ensures gap-free visibility for rail freight with features like Last Free Date and Container Available for Pickup events. The result for shippers is the opportunity to reduce demurrage charges, increase operational efficiency, and stay proactive.

To learn more about Vizion, reach out to us today to schedule a demo.

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A Holistic Approach to Rail Tracking: Beyond Location Monitoring

September 20, 2023
rail tracking

Greater demand for fast, reliable transportation brings greater demand for visibility into this segment of the supply chain. Companies want to know how they can increase their efficiency and the effectiveness of their decisions, while their customers want to know when their shipments are expected to arrive. The industry focus for visibility has previously been on trucks and ocean freight, but now companies are realizing they need the same level of tracking for their rail freight. Fortunately, we’re able to reach the same level of advanced tracking quickly with what we’ve learned from truckload visibility, that is, a need for a comprehensive approach to rail tracking.

The Limitations of Location Monitoring

The difficulty has been that traditional rail tracking relies on manual processes and manual communication, often lacking precision. These methods only offer fragmented snapshots of a train's journey. Delays between checkpoints, human errors in recording or communicating a train's location, and a lack of real-time data make it challenging to get a holistic view of the operations.

One of the biggest challenges faced in rail tracking is covering any and all gaps. The sporadic nature of updates in traditional systems means companies may be left in the dark for hours, or even days. Data collected at different points or stations often remains isolated, creating silos. This prevents a unified view of operations and can lead to missed opportunities for optimization or fast responses to issues.

Beyond Location: Building a Holistic Approach to Rail Tracking

For rail tracking technology to best serve its customers, the goal must be to go beyond simply pinpointing a train's location. Rail tracking should provide a view of the entire rail operation, including the condition of goods in transit and the operational status, through the integration of various streams of data and advanced technologies.

Whether it's data from on-board sensors, GPS-based tracking, railway infrastructure, or third-party logistics partners, bringing all this information into a centralized platform is essential. This combination of data allows shippers to see the bigger picture and get insights that were not previously available.

Three Steps Toward a Holistic Rail Tracking Strategy

Shippers need the following three pieces for their rail tracking efforts to be most effective. It’s not just about the data but also allowing them to do more with that information.

1. Real-Time Condition Monitoring

Without continuous monitoring of cargo conditions, rail transport leaves a lot of room for uncertainty, and less-than optimal conditions can easily lead to damage and loss. Instead of finding out about damage after the fact, shippers can receive instant updates if conditions exceed predefined thresholds for temperature or humidity, which allows for quick corrective actions. There is also impact monitoring for sudden movements or excessive vibrations, which can damage fragile goods. Companies can also use this information to improve their shipments moving forward, for example, in how they pack their freight. Essentially, this detailed level of monitoring gives companies eyes to stay informed and make optimizing decisions.

2. Data Integration and Insights

Data is only useful if it is usable. With detailed, real-time data coming from various sources and across every shipment, companies need a way to integrate this data into their existing systems and avoid data silos. If users must log into another system to access certain information, there may be instances when they decide not to spend the extra time retrieving this data. By merging different threads of data and making them all accessible, shippers can ensure they have a holistic picture of their operations, as well as consistent standards for data quality. This can then lead to insights for tailored strategies.

3. Enhancing Decision-Making with Advanced Analytics

Advanced analytics is about detecting trends and anomalies in large datasets. When applied to rail tracking, these data-driven insights allow shippers to predict disruptions and points of concern so they can take a proactive approach. They can set benchmarks on performance and strive for continuous improvement, optimizing routes and resource allocation, leading to greater efficiency, cost-savings, and better service for their customers.

Vizion: The Next Step in Enhanced Rail Tracking

With more shippers seeking real-time data for their rail shipments, Vizion offers intermodal rail tracking to bring shippers a streamlined, unified solution that eliminates traditional tracking obstacles and replaces them with actionable insights.

From ports to inland facilities, Vizion ensures gap-free visibility for rail freight with features like Last Free Date and Container Available for Pickup events. The result for shippers is the opportunity to reduce demurrage charges, increase operational efficiency, and stay proactive.

To learn more about Vizion, reach out to us today to schedule a demo.