This is currently the largest IT project at DB Fernverkehr AG. In early March, IVU Traffic Technologies AG was awarded the contract and their IVU.Rail software will now form the basis for the new digital production platform at DB Fernverkehr AG. A gradual rollout will commence with the initial stages of the platform going live in early 2020 – significantly assisted by DB Systel. “The scale of this project is enormous”, says Kai-Uwe Freiberger from the DB Fernverkehr account team at DB Systel. “It incorporates absolutely everything to do with driving trains and carrying passengers. All IT related to planning and dispatching will be replaced. Moreover, new end-to-end processes will facilitate a better form of collaboration. From now on, planners and dispatchers will consult an integrated system for all information needed to make critical business decisions.”
The goal of the production platform project is to simplify and optimise planning and management processes. In time, all historically grown IT will be replaced with an integrated system. “Production mainly uses IT systems that have reached the end of their life cycle. Consequently, the IT side is under pressure to act”, reports Frank Orthey, overall IT project manager for the production platform project at DB Fernverkehr AG.
Reducing the daily workload
The system landscape has reached the limits of its load capacity. Increased roadworks, growing passenger numbers and high service frequency make the train schedule susceptible to unpredictable incidents such as storm events. The new system will deliver flexibility and transparency, both of which are needed to satisfy the growing demands placed on DB Fernverkehr AG.
Ultimately, everyone will benefit from the new IVU.Rail-based production platform. In the long term, DB Fernverkehr AG will also be able to honour its commitment to its customers. The process landscape will become transparent and processes will be easier to plan, thus reducing the daily workload of our colleagues. Moreover, the production platform project will make DB Fernverkehr AG both future proof and competition proof for many years to come.
What changes are needed? “The fundamental problem here is that we currently have a large number of systems that are inadequately connected to one another”, explains Frank Orthey. “Planning and dispatching turn too many iterative loops.” A huge undertaking is required here to make a lasting improvement: Currently, five product teams and three support teams, comprising almost 50 employees, are rising to the challenge of adapting off-the-shelf software to the needs of DB Fernverkehr AG. This includes, among other things, moving the application to the cloud and configuring an interface adapter to connect numerous peripheral systems. “Employees in the DB Enterprise Cloud service unit (SEEC) at DB Systel are taking care of cloud-based rail operations management. We anticipate that we will set up a cloud environment for each service strand, in other words, each product team”, says Kai-Uwe Freiberger. This will ensure fast deployment. The entire project is now in the growth phase.
In the case of the production platform project, we talk not only of systematic digitalisation of processes but of a fundamental transformation into a new working environment. This project presents us with an opportunity to realign collaboration between DB Fernverkehr AG and DB Systel. Something of this nature requires time and, above all, a clear direction.
Consequently, when the production platform project commenced, four guiding principles were defined, which will serve as a compass for the duration of the five-year project:
- Standardisation: Processes with recurring patterns ensure secure handling.
- Digitalisation: Keeping manual routine work to an absolute minimum eliminates sources of error and reduces the daily workload.
- Transparency: Each employee has access at all times to any information he or she requires for their daily work.
- Reactivity: The system provides specific supports during incidents that affect train operations.
When combined, these guiding principles epitomise optimum production: “Let’s say that a storm causes rail transportation in North Germany to grind to a sudden halt”, outlines Frank Orthey, “our employees then need the latest information to quickly manage the crisis. For example, in order to resume transportation, they must know where all standby trains are located and which routes are passable. Only in this way can they ensure that passengers can continue their journey as quickly as possible.”
With great passion
This change process for production at DB Fernverkehr AG involves approximately 1,500 employees from five areas of expertise, who, as users of the new system, will be directly affected. “Collaboration between these areas of expertise will become closer and faster”, enthuses Frank Orthey. “However, we will not ‘impose’ this new system on our colleagues. Quite the opposite in fact! We want to provide comprehensive training and involve employees from the relevant areas of expertise and the CIO area directly in this project.” It is hoped that the project will advance at a fast pace. Furthermore, affected employees and managers will receive regular updates on project outcomes and be asked to provide feedback that will then be relayed to the project team and used to further improve the product iteratively.
This concept of communication and involvement will be supported by information in the social intranet DB Planet as well as regular newsletters and online surveys to be completed by those employees affected by the changeover as a result of implementing the production platform.
However, none of this will be easy. “We are at the start of a very long and what will sometimes be an unpleasant change process”, states Frank Orthey. The production platform project is not just a challenge from an IT perspective. Implementing and stabilising end-to-end processes and continuous system data deliveries will demand a great deal from everyone involved.
The production platform project is not a conventional IT project. Rather, it is a business transformation project that will demand an extremely high degree of mutual trust and reliability. The collaborative partnership with DB Systel works very well in this regard.
“This project will only succeed if everyone puts their heart and soul into this collaborative endeavour. It is akin to performing open heart surgery on long-distance traffic”, stresses Kai-Uwe Freiberger with complete certainty. “However, when we reach the end of this project and everything is complete, it will be a joint success that will bring us all closer together and shine a bright light on Deutsche Bahn’s future.”