7 questions for profitable rail freight planning

7 questions for profitable rail freight planning

Customers are demanding more – they want lower prices and shorter delivery windows. In response, many companies are switching up to more efficient planning systems to cut costs.

The new reality is that rail freight planners need to make more than a few incremental improvements to their operations. They need a broader, company-wide business transformation to see significant productivity gains.

Is your company equipped to handle the current challenges of rail freight planning and beat the growing competition in the market? Ask yourself the following questions.

1. Do you have an overview of your complete production chain in one place?

It is crucial that you have a transparent overview of all your resources and orders on a single, integrated system. Are your staff, locomotives, and wagons where they should be? It is hard to get a complete picture of what is going on when resources are planned in different systems with little to no communication between them. Planning in silos could obscure problem areas until it is too late.

2. Do you have an integrated plan for your crew and locomotives?

Keeping track of locomotives is one thing, matching them with the right people is another. Reassigning crew can produce unexpected conflicts on your roster. It is important that your system takes into account the skillsets, availability, and preferences of your crew when re-matching them with locomotives. If a match cannot be found, you should be the first to know.

3. How long does it take for you to resolve disruptions?

When disruptions happen, the cost clock starts ticking. Your customer’s satisfaction is on the line; their customer’s satisfaction is on the line. It is doubly important for you to resolve disruptions quickly and effectively. How long will it take to find a replacement wagon? Is it the right type of locomotive? It is hard to make informed decisions when there are a thousand factors to consider at once. You need a system that can recommend the best solutions quickly when things go wrong.

4. Are your trains operating at optimal capacity?

Train configurations should not be set in stone. Is your system capable of optimizing the block planning down to each wagon to match the cargo load for each order and to combine orders?

7 questions for profitable rail freight planning

5. Are your wagons positioned where they should be?

Your wagons are scattered throughout the network. Some are loaded and in transit, some are at the maintenance site, and others stand empty. To satisfy an order, you might need to move them around and reallocate them. But handled poorly, the cost of doing this will add up to quite a bit. Empty repositioning should be avoided as much as possible.

6. Do you know how you are doing in relation to your KPIs?

Are you on track to meet your goals for this period? If not, how far away are you, and what actions should be taken to get back on track? It can be hard to keep an eye on the things that matter most when your KPIs are on the whiteboard and not built into your planning system.

7. Can you handle demand spikes without breaking the bank?

Good demand planning is crucial to any rail freight operation. It helps prevent disruptions and avoid unnecessary replacement of rolling stock, resulting in lower operational costs. The high cost of rolling stock means that poor planning can produce expensive mistakes. Make sure your system is able to generate demand forecasts automatically.

So, how did you fare?

Discover how top rail freight companies like DB Schenker solved these challenges, boosted profits, and lowered costs with this exclusive management briefing.

Debbie Rovers

About Debbie Rovers

I'm fortunate to have a job that challenges my imagination. It takes real creativity to think out of the box while keeping in mind corporate guidelines, as well as the product and the audience. My business unit solves daily planning puzzles for rail and public transport and I, - as a marketer - have my own puzzle to solve: finding new and innovative ways to raise awareness of our solutions. Outside of work, I get creative inspiration from architecture, interior design, graphic design and photography.