Railroads Increasingly Run on Predictive Analytics

In Glidex®, Rail Lubrication, Railroads by Eric Vantiegham

Predictive analytics software enables American railroads to find significant cost savings and make life-saving predictions.

Predictive analytics is transforming the American economy, as industries ranging from finance to healthcare have come to fully embrace the technology. Among those industries is rail, which has already begun investing heavily in these capabilities. As a result, within a few years, American railroads may well run on predictive analytics.

Positive Signs

According to Joe Becker, the Director of Industry Analytics at the predictive analytics provider Uptake, the rail industry’s shift towards the technology is a direct financial result of persistent financial pressure to decrease train downtime. “When locomotives aren’t moving, railroads aren’t making money,” Becker writes for Mass Transit.

A railroad’s predictive analytics program doesn’t need new data. In fact, the very information on which it relies has long been available from track-side signals. Inherent in these devices’ responsibility for letting trains know when and where to move is the ability to track a train’s location, condition, and other variables. Until recently, this data was only noted and used in real time, but it’s now being “harvested” and saved to the cloud to provide technicians and engineers with educated, data-driven forecasts whenever they need them.

On the Right Track

Predictive analytics can offer the rail industry a number of specific benefits. When a rail line is operation, the software can immediately determine whether a train is (or will be) available, identify looming mechanical failures, and help operators join cars with locomotives in the yard before sending them onto the tracks. In short, it can quickly conclude which locomotives are best suited to certain trips and ensure that every locomotive is in working order, which in turn helps rail companies maximize operational efficiencies.

Indeed, some major railways have already noted significant improvements as a result of implementing predictive analytics. Becker notes in an article for Mass Transit Magazine that a North American Class I railroad has prevented more than 50 road failures in the two months after it first started using predictive analytics — representing over $1 million in business value. He adds that another Class I railroad has reduced fuel consumption by over 35,000 gallons after replacing manual car tests with predictive analytics only six months ago.

Let Goods Times Roll

All of these technological innovations are exciting news for the rail industry. Nevertheless, a railway backed with a state-of-the-art predictive analytics platform will still face operational challenges if its tracks and switches aren’t properly maintained. Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc. has supplied railroads across the country with patented rail switch lubrication products like Glidex® for over four decades to help ensure that every train runs on schedule every day of the year.

When applied correctly, our products keep railroad switches, throw rods, and other vertical rail surfaces properly lubricated for as long as several months at a time while preventing dust and precipitation from accumulating and causing damaging. More durable than graphite or petroleum products, Glidex remains a liquid in temperatures as low as -40° F, making it an ideal choice in even the most extreme climates.

Count on Midwest to provide a proven solution to all of your rail switch maintenance challenges — so you can focus on the rest of your business.

Eric Vantiegham is Midwest’s Rail & Transit Specialist. Skilled in product development, new business development, and strategic planning, he enjoys playing ice hockey and coaching his boys' youth teams.