Events Are Everything in Railroad Management (And in Your Business)

The recent tragedy in Canada involving an unattended train magnifies the critical need for organizations to have systems in place to monitor critical events. Events aren’t new to railways. The logistics and transportation industry was one of the first to adopt event management around the physical movement of goods and resources. The need for hyper efficiency, safety monitoring, and simplification of complex logistics led to the development of RFID and other systems that could monitor and anticipate opportunities and risks as they occur…as discrete events.

From the early days, railroads deployed mile markers alongside their tracks. Those mile markers became an ideal place to put event sensors that track the movement of trains. Railroad engines, cars, and axles are independently detected and data is transmitted as trains pass by. In more recent years, sensors have been installed to read temperatures of brakes, movement of rails, and other factors that are critical for the anticipation of challenges like equipment breakdown and maintenance needs. This is where events enter the picture as a powerful concept.

Often times, those events occur not as a single measure or moment, but in combinations that can be correlated by technology.

Events are Key in Anticipating Derailment

As an example, when excessive heat is detected, the train engineer is notified when and where to discharge suspect railcars for manual inspection. These cars are left behind and the train maintains its original course; these steps are taken to avoid affects to the train schedule. A process is initiated for the freight on the suspect cars, and transfers of materials or goods are made to another viable car. Additionally, customers are notified of the potential delay. Efficiency is boosted and maintenance becomes less expensive and derailments are avoided. The value of event processing alongside process is enormous.

Events in Smart Track Management

Soon, all tracks and railroads will be mandated to be smart and “see” and understand train traffic; and coordinate multiple trains, switches, and advanced signaling for safe avoidance of emergency stops (which create equipment problems). As one can imagine, there will be more events generated and coordinated in a complex way to make rail travel (of people or freight) safer and also reduce labor costs for the railroads.

Net; Net

Events are crucial to railroad management and other industries. The nature of events recognized, aggregated, and responded to will continue to evolve over time, but events will grow significantly in the foreseeable future.

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Jim Sinur is an independent thought leader in applying business process management (BPM) to innovative and intelligent business operations (IBO). His research and areas of personal experience focus on business process innovation, business modeling, business process management technology (iBPMS), process collaboration for knowledge workers, process intelligence/optimization, business policy/rule management (BRMS), and leveraging business applications in processes. When with Gartner, Mr. Sinur was critical in creating the first Hype Cycle and Maturity Model, which have become a hallmark of Gartner analysis, along with the Magic Quadrant. Prior to joining Gartner, Mr. Sinur was a director of technologies with American Express, where he worked on a large, industrial-strength, model-driven implementation of a business-critical merchant management system. Before American Express, Mr. Sinur worked for Northwestern Mutual Life, where he was involved in leading-edge projects like the Underwriting Workbench that employed many new and emerging methods and technologies. This was after he was involved with building and re-architecting many major applications on the investment and annuity side of NML's business.