Developing a Service Analyzer System

CSX Transportation

2013

Chairman’s Award for Excellence

CSX

Overview

We partnered with CSX Transportation to develop its next-generation service measurement and reporting systems. With these systems in place, users can now easily view hotspots and drill down to details to perform a root cause analysis. Hundreds of users now use this system every day to better understand current operations and identify how to improve them.    

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Business Problem

CSX Transportation’s service measurement department created daily reports that measure the health of the railroad network and assets, including yards, tracks, railcars, crews and locomotives. Historically, these data resulted in static, table-based reports. But it would require manual manipulation of databases for CSX to perform any detailed analysis of key performance indicators (KPIs), such as trend analysis, comparison with goals, comparative analysis of time periods and drill-down analysis to determine the root cause. Due to limited analytics staff, CSX could perform only a limited number of such analyses. CSX hired Optym to build its next-generation data analytics systems to provide detailed analysis capabilities through graphical and intuitive interfaces to almost everyone in the organization.

Our Approach

First, we built pilot systems, including a web-based application and an iPad application, to demonstrate the feasibility of the concept, which CSX approved. We also created a highly scalable software architecture that enabled thousands of concurrent users to access the system simultaneously. Working closely with the company, we created a detailed user interface design of the new measurement system. We established multi-dimensional databases (or cubes) to store data so users received real-time responses to queries involving terabytes (thousands of gigabytes) of data. Every day, a data bridge automatically moved this data from CSX databases to the system. We implemented this system in a rapid development mode while continuing to receive feedback from business users. This allowed us to refine the system as it evolved into a commercial-grade product.

Key Benefits

  1. In total, we added over a dozen measurements within the system, including dwell times of cars in the yard, velocity of trains through its corridors, train on-time performance, and on-time shipment delivery.
  2. The system gave real-time responses to most user queries, even while processing and handling terabytes of data.
  3. The CSX team involved in this project received the Chairman’s Award for Excellence in 2013.

Results

The system generated positive acclaim within CSX for its interface, feasibility, widespread application and ability to quickly perform different kinds of analyses.