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Five Reasons Why You Should Be Using a Rail Logistics Platform

Posted on June 6, 2018 | Posted in: Core,Fleet Management,Latest News,Railcar Tracking

As your fleet of railcars grows, so too does the time and effort required to efficiently manage and track your schedules, your cars, your products and all associated records – past and present.

Suddenly, you may find the simple spreadsheet system that once served you so well has ballooned out of control. Or that the railroad’s tracking system you have piggy-backed off of is now too limited in the functionality it offers.

An in-house rail logistics platform is a powerful and straight-forward tool for tracking and managing fleets ranging in size from 25 to 10,000+ cars. There are several options to choose from – each varies in terms of their functionality, ease of use and customer support. You can find a solution that can be installed on an individual computer or server, or you can take advantage of today’s cloud-based hosting solutions that allow you to access your system from anywhere, on any device.

If you have been sitting on the fence, debating whether or not it is time to introduce internal logistic and tracking software within your operations, here are five reasons to get onboard.

1. You’ll make your life way easier

When you have multiple cars traveling from multiple origins carrying multiple cargos, the complexity can lead to a multitude of planning, scheduling and organizational challenges.

Today’s leading rail logistics platforms have designed their products to provide all of the information you could possibly need at your fingertips. While most information is viewed in well-organized data tables, some providers are now building handy map views into their products as well – which lets you visualize where your cars are at a glance.

The key is to choose a system that is quick to learn, easy to update/integrate, highly flexible and incredibly intuitive. This will allow you to manage your fleet more efficiently and with greater confidence.

Systems that are able to provide alerts and notifications in the event of a delay are particularly helpful. In this day and age, the ability to access your rail logistic information on the go using a smartphone or mobile device ensures you’re never in the dark.

2. You can manage everything on one system.

A rail logistics platform eliminates the need to frantically search for information across multiple computers and a variety of systems and document types. And we won’t even mention the frustration of having to dig through the filing cabinets.

When you have a comprehensive rail logistics platform, you can rest easier and run smoother knowing that all key information around your fleet is in one spot. Different modules and screens are available to help you with all aspects of your operations, including managing railcar fleets, product transloads, loading and offloading racks, and the product rail supply chain.

The fully integrated platforms provide a place to log maintenance schedules and service records, and set reminders when maintenance is due. Many offer more advanced functionality specific to managing rail yards, bills of lading, customs documentation and more.

3. A rail logistics platform will inform business decisions.

Knowledge is power. In the rail business, knowledge is also profitability. The more you know about your fleet and the details around the products you’re moving, the better positioned you are to meet the needs of your customers and make data-driven decisions for your business.

Having real-time information on shipping progress allows you to provide accurate information to your customers who have a lot riding on your ability to deliver on schedule. Some rail logistics platforms will give you the ability to directly provide customers with automated updates – for an added level of customer service.

You can use the data from past trips to conduct a detailed analysis that may help you better plan for future trips in order to optimize your operation. Many companies are finding that the ability to arm themselves with data gives them an edge when negotiating with the railroads.

4. Help when you need it.

When something goes wrong with an excel spreadsheet, you are on your own. Logistical software providers will generally offer customer training and support. The degree of support will vary from company to company, so be sure to choose one that is prepared to provide the guidance and support you need – when you need it.

5. Your system can grow alongside your needs.

A highly scalable rail logistics platform gives you the ability to only use the functionality you need – with the flexibility to take advantage of additional functionality as required.

This is particularly valuable for those who are using professional rail logistics software for the very first time. It will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed – allowing the opportunity to phase in functionality when it makes sense to do so.

For this reason, it is a good idea to consider a more robust system than one that simply offers the basics – backed by the customer support to guide you as you explore the full potential of the platform.

Introducing a rail logistics platform

Introducing a professional rail logistics platform should be easy and worry-free. Choosing the right provider will make your experience a positive one. If you’re worried about costs, systems are available at various price points. Those hosted on the cloud are often available on a subscription basis – ensuring you’re never locked in.

Once you start using your rail logistics system, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without one. Do your homework and choose a platform that will serve your needs now… and further down the line.