Developing a Business Intelligence System

Canadian Pacific Railway


While freight railroad databases contain data for all asset movements, they lack integrated data analytics and business intelligence systems so that users can analyze this data quickly.  Planners utilize these systems to improve operations or reduce costs. We partnered with Canadian Pacific (CP) Railway to design, develop, and deploy such an application, which has now become a standard tool for its Service Design department.    


Business Problem

Every day, railroads generate massive amounts of data related to car movements over their networks. However, railroads store this data in multiple company databases that are disconnected, have data quality issues, and are difficult for users to access. Because of this, many railroads have difficulty fathoming current operations, cannot easily identify areas of poor performance, and cannot see why those issues are happening. They also lack the tools to find disconnects between their operating plan and actual operations. Canadian Pacific Railway partnered with Optym to design, develop and deploy an application that would provide a solution to these business problems.

Our Approach

We worked closely with the railroad’s service design team to create the Rail Business Intelligence System (RailBIS®), a web-based, map-based, multi-user system that can process vast amounts of data and give real-time responses to most user queries. We developed this system in multiple phases so that CP could start using completed parts of the system and users’ feedback could improve future phases. We offered several workshops and one-on-one training to users so they could become familiar with all of RailBIS®’s functionalities and start using it in their day-to-day tasks.

Key Benefits

  1. Using RailBIS®, the company now regularly monitors train volumes and adjusts its plan, which helps lower train operating costs by a few percentage points.
  2. CP uses the system to monitor and improve its trains’ on-time performance, resulting in increased service quality.
  3. CP employs RailBIS® to routinely monitor the assignment of locomotives to trains to ensure each train is getting the right level of horsepower.


RailBIS® has become a standard data analytics tool for CP’s Service Design and Network Surveillance teams. With RailBIS®, CP can clearly see actual operations and perform root cause analysis so it can fix the issues.