© DB AG (Barteld Redaktion & Verlag)

Rail in Motion: viable for the future?

Transferring wagon sequences conveniently with a tablet

11/2017 – Five years ago, Deutsche Bahn sent out a clear message with the Rail in Motion application: train drivers no longer require a stack of paper in the driver's cab. Since then, the app has been enhanced with numerous new features like the digitalisation of daily speed restrictions. Modifications will also be made in the future.

The need to digitalise various processes and piles of documents paved the way for the idea of Rail in Motion – RiM for short. RiM is a mobile tablet solution that allows users to use apps to access diverse background systems that they need for their relevant daily tasks. Prior to RiM, it was first necessary to collect all information about new construction sites where caution should be exercised and numerous safety directives that must be followed. However, the benefits of RiM are not just less paper, but clearer and improved workflows. The focus is on users, whose work is to be made easier with the use of their new tablet.

Since the introduction of Rail in Motion, a lot has happened. In 2016 and 2017, the focus was on increasing customer satisfaction, as well as improving quality of the entire platform and the applications. RiM now has 18,000 users in over 25 user groups, of which, at DB Cargo alone, there are approximately 4,500 in Germany and 2,600 users in nine non-European countries. The applications are used to provide timetables, forms and staff assignment plans in electronic format. This means that train drivers not only need to carry less paper but also have a better overview of everything. Not only is information passed on to employees, but internal processes are simplified, for example, for DB Cargo or DB Fernverkehr. The distribution of commands and their confirmation within the app have made day-to-day work much easier.

Plans for 2018 include expansion of the user group as well as further development of the app. This enabled DB Systel to win more Group-internal customers for Rail in Motion besides DB Cargo and DB Fernverkehr.

New application functions

 While talking to project manager of mobile communication at DB Cargo, Thomas Madalinski, and portfolio manager of mobile at DB Systel, Guido Kissner, it became clear which new features have been integrated and what will shape RiM in the future. The biggest and most important new feature is the digitalisation of the speed restriction list. This contains current daily speed restriction sections that are updated daily and must be observed. Before this data was made available electronically, this key operational topic looked quite different: prior to starting their shift, train drivers had to collect up to five speed restriction lists, which could contain up to 180 pages. Previously, this data had to be updated far in advance and sent to a printing shop to bring everything up to date. In this respect, the electronic availability represents a key improvement.

Other functions are RiM reporting, in which the correct confirmation of commands can be displayed as well as the embedding of specific customer safety requirements. This has allowed DB Cargo and DB Fernverkehr to successfully integrate diverse regulations. In addition, more and more new third-party applications are being connected to Rail in Motion. For instance, RiM users at DB Cargo can now forward defect notifications electronically using the integrated “ESM” app.

Rail in Motion: Digitalised staff assignment plans

© DB AG

Technical sophistication

Unlike two years ago, temporary data no longer needs to be deleted in the RiM menu to relieve the burden on the device. The tablets have now been replaced with a better tablet series that is smarter and more reliable to run. Every train driver at DB Cargo today receives, along with the tablet on which Rail in Motion is installed, a power bank that ensures the power supply during working hours. A tablet case is also provided that is both water resistant and non-slip, allowing it to be placed securely on the driver’s console. The system on which RiM is based now runs very stable. Business-critical applications that must not suffer failure are geo-redundant – that is, they’re operated at two different locations. This was set up last year to guarantee the system’s reliability.

The underlying architecture of Rail in Motion was also modified. So-called hot deployment now allows system updates to be run, or even new documents to be imported, while the tablet is being used. Previously, the entire RiM platform had to be shut down, which led to a temporary loss of use.

Rail in Motion’s viability for the future

At DB Cargo, it will possible in future to forward the wagon sequence directly to RiM or update departure notifications. As a result, the legacy hardware that was previously used can be replaced. All apps can be bundled and used in just one single application, namely RiM. DB Cargo will use the application primarily to assist with local train formation and vehicle readiness control. Approximately 4,500 new users are planned for RiM.

Furthermore, DB Fernverkehr plans next year to introduce digitalised staff assignment plans so that all employees are not only able to see and plan their future assignments but also track their working time retroactively. Currently, staff have to take a screenshot at the end of the day as their personal proof. There’s also potential in how the document overview is displayed. It’s not yet possible to display the most recent notifications and documents at the top level. This means it can sometimes take longer to find the relevant document.

Everyone involved is working passionately on ensuring that Rail in Motion is viable in the future. However, to also be able to optimally align the product also in the future, the software’s architecture always needs to be adapted in line with the new circumstances of an ever rapidly increasing digitalisation. For this purpose, DB Systel’s new standard product, MOVE, will be enhanced to deliver, also in the age of the cloud and co., an innovative and future-oriented solution to 20,000 colleagues for daily working challenges. In parallel, investments are still being made to further expand the individual development of RiM. Hence DB Cargo’s current 36 customer requirements clearly demonstrate the importance of the system and its new future functionalities.

Reaching goals together

In the last five years, much has happened in terms of the form of collaboration between DB Systel and customers. Communication has improved considerably and is more open. Intensive work is also being carried out to realise customer requirements and adherence to deadlines. “Of course, there’s always a need to improve, but we’re still very happy with how our interests are being perceived”, says Thomas Madalinski.

All things considered, RiM has advanced DB considerably in the course of digitalisation. Many work processes and workflows have been simplified, transparency improved, and the burden on employees relieved. The successful Rail in Motion system is being continuously further developed to help improve day-to-day tasks of train drivers and on-board service staff in the future, and – as from April 2018 – also for shunting locomotive drivers, wagon inspectors and shunters.