CSX Transportation Streamlines Patch Rail Request System with Bentley Software

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Expansive Rail Network Needs to Boost Efficiency:

CSX Transportation is one of the largest transportation suppliers in the United States, with a railway network that spans more than 21,000 miles of rail track across North America. Therefore, railroad safety is a top priority for CSX Transportation. Based in Jacksonville, Florida, the organization transports a wide variety of goods, including metals, agricultural and forest products, automobiles, and waste throughout 23 states, Washington D.C., and parts of Canada.

CSX Transportation receives 5,000 patch rail requests, or a request to repair worn rail in curved sections of the railway network, from track supervisors annually. The organization’s capital planning committee reviews these requests and evaluates their validity and importance; the team approves a repair for the requests that prove evidence of poor condition. The capital planning committee is often provided with paperbased, conflicting data that comes from a variety of sources. Evaluating this disparate data was arduous and it required time-consuming, error-prone manual review for every patch rail request. As a result, CSX Transportation launched a USD 56,000 capital planning project to streamline their patch rail request service system process with the help of Bentley software.

“We’re responsible for proper allocation in the capital program and so our goal is to have accurate data and to be able to evaluate it and put the capital in the right locations,” said CSX Transportation Director of Capital Planning Ed Tubbs. “The objective is to do it as effectively and efficiently as possible.”

Patch Rail Request System Process Becomes Obsolete:

CSX Transportation decides how to allocate capital expenditures regarding track maintenance by evaluating data collected from the company’s track geometry cars. They use three rail-bound track geometry cars and contract 17 ultrasonic rail flow detection cars that scour the network looking for internal rail defects. The information gathered equates to 30,000 measurements per mile of track that CSX must evaluate to pinpoint areas of track repair. The company previously recorded this data on paper. They hired a contractor to take the data from the geometry cars, process it, and supply the data in a PDF file format. This information was then printed and placed into binders. Many times, the old data was replaced with new data. However, if there was an error in the new data set, the previous data was no longer available, and a lot of information was lost. This process was inefficient because accurate information was difficult to locate or missing, and the review process was labor intensive.

OpenRail Operational Analytics includes customizable views, highlight capabilities, and a tabular view that enabled CSX to organize and rank the submitted patch rail requests.

Prior to seeking an optimized patch rail request system, the capital planning committee at CSX Transportation used information from eight independent data sources to evaluate the condition for each request, and every data source required research for data inclusion purposes and validity. The majority of the information was delivered through correspondence and sometimes included spreadsheets containing mismatched fields of entry. Additionally, stand-alone data silos required technology support to extract information. As a result, manual data evaluation was time consuming, demanding, and susceptible to inaccuracies. Moreover, in the absence of data, the capital planning committee often had to rely on comments made by the field managers.

“In the absence of information, we can make mistakes,” Tubbs said. “And when you’re dealing with millions of dollars, a small percentage will add up to a huge amount.”

Digitizing an Outdated System:

CSX determined that that they needed a solution that would help them identify and prioritize patch rail jobs as well as differentiate reviewed jobs from submitted jobs pending evaluation. OpenRail Operational Analytics (formerly Optram) provided the platform to facilitate the solution to this project.

The organization also wanted a seamless interaction between OpenRail Operational Analytics and the existing CSX capital planning application. The organization decided an overlay checkbox that connects OpenRail Operational Analytics to CSX Transportation’s current patch rail request system application was necessary to seamlessly integrate the software. Consequently, CSX engaged Bentley to add the checkbox feature to the application to link OpenRail Operational Analytics to CSX’s existing patch rail request system user interface. This integration provided many more layers of precise data for evaluation, all of which can be analyzed simultaneously as the data layers are transparent, enabling more accurate decision-making.

“They were able to implement this checkbox system and make it work so it’s probably the best way to evaluate the rail wear on the system. Right now, I can’t think of anything that can be better. This is the perfect system. We don’t need to change it a bit, it does exactly what we want, it works great.” – Ed Tubbs, Director of Capital Planning, CSX Transportation

Now, CSX can review the data under the transparent overlay, allowing the capital planning committee to see precisely where the rail wear is located in relation to the request limits. When the CSX capital planning committee clicks on the overlay checkbox, both applications open, allowing the team to examine photos, approve requests, add comments, assign priority, or roll the request over.

OpenRail Operational Analytics Capabilities Boost Efficiency:

Data gathered from a variety of sources is unified and presented on a single display in OpenRail Operational Analytics. This data visualization ensured accuracy and enabled the organization to make optimal decisions. Users can open a specific data source system’s screen related to a work order or asset and evaluate the embedded information, including any documentation or images.

The software includes customizable views, highlight capabilities, and a tabular view that allows CSX to organize and rank the submitted patch rail requests. The highlight capability in OpenRail Operational Analytics allows CSX to see what work has been completed and what repairs are pending. In addition, the highlight capability is used to color code certain flaws or defects. All patch rail requests are visible on the tabular view. When an employee clicks on a specific request, the Track Chart, which visually displays the information and all corresponding measurements of each request, appears. Then, the capital planning committee reviews the material on these charts, and a need for repair is determined. Now, CSX can successfully identify at-risk locations and remove them from the track. 

Simple Solution Offers Big Impact:

This project was completed in November 2016 within one month. The amount of information that was collected regarding patch rail issues doubled since implementing OpenRail Operational Analytics. The collection of additional data indicates that more accurate measurements of the railway track were reported to CSX, alerting the organization of noteworthy information about their network. Approximately one-third of the patch rail issues submitted were approved and repaired by the CSX capital planning team. Therefore, reliable, specific data is tremendously beneficial to CSX in terms of deciding what patch rail requests are significant and necessary, which saves the organization money.

Since the new patch rail system has been implemented, CSX Transportation has experienced a significant reduction in the time necessary to perform hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of annual capital planning review processes for the program. More importantly, the new system has up-to-date data readily available for users, enabling faster decision making. The process is now swift, efficient, and more accurate.

Applying Solution to All Rail Network Assets:

This was a very small project that was relatively inexpensive to implement but had a great impact on efficiency. In addition, the results of the integration in this one area has the potential to have a greater effect when rolled out to other assets. Because this project has been such a success, CSX Transportation will replicate this project on other types of work, such as gauging and concrete pad repair. At the same time, CSX is synchronizing their engineering data with their geographic information system (GIS) survey locations. Once the proper locations of the assets are pinpointed, CSX can overlay the test data, which will allow the organization to forecast costs up to five years in the future, enabling the capital planning committee to better plan finances in the present.

Project Summary:

Organization:

CSX Transportation

Solution:

Road and Rail Asset Performance

Location:

Jacksonville, Florida, United States

Project Objectives:

  • To streamline the patch rail request service system to properly allocate capital funds to rail repair.
  • To better evaluate accurate rail wear data quickly and with precision.

Products Used:

OpenRail™ Operational Analytics

Fast Facts:

  • CSX Transportation transformed their patch rail request system within one month by using Bentley’s application.
  • The organization plans to expand this initiative to other facets of its organization based on the success of the patch rail program.

ROI:

  • The OpenRail Operational Analytics solution is simple, cost-effective, accelerated efficiency, and saved resources.
  • Integrating OpenRail Operational Analytics with CSX’s legacy patch rail request system improved analysis and saved the organization time and money.

Author:

Ms. Meg Davis, Bentley Systems Industry Marketing Director, Roads and Bridges

Meg Davis is the Industry Marketing Director for Bentley’s road and bridge solutions from concept through operations. In this position, she is responsible for the marketing and positioning of Bentley’s road and bridge industry products and solutions. She joined the company in 2011 and previously held the position of Senior Product Marketing Manager for the road and rail asset performance products. Meg has worked in the transportation industry for over 25 years and has held marketing leadership positions at several companies providing transportation asset management software solutions. She holds an undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley, an MBA from the University of San Francisco, and resides in San Diego California.


Source: Bentley Systems

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