In keeping with global trend, there has been a long outstanding demand of the industry and trade for transparency in sharing of information to give the customers an up-to date business like environment. Railways in this millennium have decided not only to perform the traditional tasks of carrying passengers and goods efficiently, but also to change the mindset of working as a closed system. The great concern to improve on its market share has prompted Railways to have a multi pronged approach to its freight policy. Continuous Cargo Visibility has always been a critical component of the Supply Chain Distribution Management System.

To achieve this, out of the stated multi pronged new freight policy, a lot of emphasis has been laid on establishing a computerized FREIGHT OPERATIONS INFORMATIONS SYSTEMS (FOIS). The system indigenously developed is fully functional in the B.G. system of Indian Railways being the first of its kind in South East Asia.

1. Freight Operations Information Systems Mission – FOIS

To give a total transparent system with continuous Cargo visibility and an up-to date business environment to the Customers with instant access to information regarding their consignments in transit for just in time inventory.
FOIS is an On-Line Real-Time system based on absolute current State of Art Technology and efficient Communication system.
A management tool to optimize utilization of costly assets and resources by improving the distribution of Rakes/Wagons & Locos, and also scheduling and Routing Traffic in an optimized cost effective manner.
Provides Continuous Cargo Visibility and enables the Freight customers to have instant access to information regarding the current status of their consignments in transit for just in time inventory.

2. Strategic Advantages Derived From the FOIS System

Ø  Extension of the current business practice from bulk movement of freight trafficin train load formations to piecemeal traffic by clubbing and moving togethersimilar type of stock in ‘Hub & Spoke’ arrangement to increase its market share by re- diverting high profit yielding piecemeal cargo from road to rail.
Ø  Global tracking of consignments in real time Rakes or individual wagons.
Ø  The insight and pipeline of consignments thus captured on the entire BG network is made available for timely planning and just in time inventory management on a time span cargo movement which may extend to 2 to 5 days from origin to destination.
Ø  Facilitate acceptance (customer’s Orders), billing and cash accountal of freight traffic from identified nodal customer centers which may not necessarily be the handling terminals.
Ø  Extension of such facilities to customer’s premises and introduction of ecommerce, benefiting both IR and trade & industry, by eliminating manual transactions which necessarily add to the burden of logistics management.
Ø  Providing requisite Foundation for a total logistics system furnishing real time information of the chain of physical distribution, an essential element in reducing inventory costs.

3. Scope of FOIS Systems

Presently two subsystems of FOIS are already in use after extensive field trials and validation.

a)    Rake Management Systems – RMS

1.       Rake based consignment tracking and pipeline
2.       Train / Rake operation
3.       Stock Holding in terms of summary of wagon types
4.       Train and Stock Interchange
5.       Terminal Handling performance
6.       Loco holding, outage and power on-line
7.       Reporting to take care of Train/Load on summary basis.
8.       Invoice based consignment tracking
9.       Wagon wise Stock Holding
10.   Reporting of consist Wagon wise
11.   Invoice based loading originating tonnage and revenues
12.   Wagon wise Interchange
13.   Statement of missing Wagons/wrongly delivered

b)    Terminal Management Systems – TMS

- Computerized booking and delivery of consignment
- Station Accounting
- RR generation / Transmission
- Improved Customer Interface

4. Crew Management has been developed & is under implementation. Control charting of trains currently being done manually will also be integrated with FOIS.
The above two sub systems have been fully developed and tested and are ready for implementation.

5. FOIS Design Architecture 

FOIS is designed and developed in conformity with the state of art technology which is scalable, maintainable, with open systems architecture and is based on the Indian Railways Organizational hierarchy, its present and future requirements. Based on the business processes that are being adopted, the business model developed in the FOIS – IT architecture is based on the assumptions:-

The current business practice of bulk movement in rake formation is the accepted norm for future also. Around 85% traffic already moves in Rake, majority of which comprises similar type of rolling stock.

Global perception is more important, with respect of tracking of consignment and Rakes rather than of individual wagon, locomotive and train. The insight and pipeline of consignment and rakes should be seamlessly available. Railway would like to share information on booking and movement of consignments with individual customers also.

The operations and data capturing, will remain control centric for train, rake, locomotive and stock management and terminal centric for booking, loading, unloading, and delivery. Taking into account the spatial distribution of activities, which need to be captured.

Integrity of Operation and Commercial data is an absolute necessity. RMS and TMS application are conceptualized, to provide the integration with the other subsystems as and when these are developed.

FOIS ultimately expects an even driven integrated reporting in real time, beginning with the tendering of Forwarding note to loading and generation of invoice, followed by load consists, train ordering and departure/arrival of load destination, unloading and delivery. The data thus captured is used for generating associated managerial reports on-line information (MIS). The data will also be used for expanding the scope to cover other functional areas of the remaining modules and can easily integrate with RMS/TMS using appropriate middle ware Technology for sharing information locally. Therefore, a strategic approach has been adopted to computerize IR operations by implementing RMS/TMS systems in a phased manner using modular approach.

6. FOIS System Architecture

Key components of the System Architecture

Intelligent terminals will be placed at the field locations to capture the data from the place of activity namely control offices, yards, goods sheds, C &W depot, Loco sheds etc., and connected to the identified Application Server through reliable communication links for transaction processing.

Application servers are centrally placed at CRIS office. These servers are connected to the Zonal Hd. Qtrs., Divisional Control Offices, Yards, interchange points and goods sheds etc., with a reliable and integrated network. The servers are networked amongst themselves and to the Central server for global level transactions.

The central server provides management Reports at board level and acts as repository of all the global data and also provides global services to maintain referential integrity of the databases including master files.

7. Network Topology

In view of the Centralized application architecture, a star based network topology has been designed. However, in order to provide alternate paths (to meet the up time requirement of 99.9%) from reporting locations, a mesh has been created with in each zone so that every location has at least two paths to reach CRIS. Each zonal HQ has been connected to central location (CRIS) on high bandwidth pipes. In addition to this, another zonal location has been connected to CRIS using high capacity link, hence these two high bandwidth links shall cater to the entire transaction load generated by a zone. Railway communication media has been provided for reliable and fast means of data transfer.

8. Phased Implementation – Approach

i) In case implementation is attempted for events of all the functions to be reported in real time, concurrently from day one, then the reporting sites to be readied, the associated communication requirements and the number of staff to be trained assume enormous proportions. To ensure that the implementation effort is within manageable limits, one way is to take up, one by one, only limited portions of geographical territory for computerization at any given time. On the other hand, if the territory issmall, instances of repetitive data entry increase; resulting in redundant expenditure on reporting infrastructure that will have no use as the territory expands. At the same time, if the MIS requirements are be met ion totality, the territorial expansion must ensure that a function is implemented on end to end basis as quickly as possible, otherwise only a truncated picture will beavailable to various levels of users and the benefits of computerization remain postponed till the entire Indian Railways have been covered.

ii) The FOIS comprises several subsets of functions each meeting a distinct set of objectives. Certain FOIS subsets presuppose others to be operational before they can be implemented. Loco and wagon based functions presuppose load/train/rake functions to be operational. Goods shed functions expect wagon-based functions to be in place before they can be implemented. With these assumptions the FOIS / RMS systems have been designed in a modular structure which could be taken up for implementation in a phased manner.

For example:-

Phase I (PI module)
Provides facility for reporting load summary with only wagon type and number of units.
Phase II (PII module)
Provides facility for reporting the consists with details of wagon numbers.
Phase III (PIII module)
TMS provides facility for good shed functions and generation of RR.

9. Implementation Strategy

Realizing that functional phasing is the only way to keep the implementation effort within manageable limit and yet remain meaningful at every stage, FOIS software has been developed as above in three modules such that functions of global utility are implemented faster from fewer sites. It also takes into account that the beginning is made from the control offices where computer awareness is of a high order. The implementation can grow on need basis driven by the Railways themselves.

For timely completion of field implementation, the total involvement and commitment of Railways is very essential from day one. Therefore, COMs of Railways have been given the total responsibility and charge of implementation of FOIS, to provide for the following:-

- Railways to get staff identified and train them to work on PCs
- Railways to prepare the sites for installation of hardware including provision of electrical and civil facilities.
- Maintenance of channels & data come equipment has been given to CSR of the zones.
- CRIS would provide specifications for the same.

For facilitating this process the organization of CAO/FOIS has been strengthened and made responsible for coordination, implementation on All – India – basis.

The software implementation and maintenance shall remain the responsibility of RIS. Pre implementation training of the required number of staff (consisting of Core Implementers and Telecom Inspectors from each of the divisions.), in RMS – phase 1 has been completed by CRIS for all the zonal railways and their divisions.

However, Railways will be required to make arrangements through the Zonal Training Schools to train the remaining staff of the concerned categories.

10. Benefits

i) Continuous Cargo Visibility

a)      Rake based consignment tracking and pipeline
b)      Invoice based loading – originating tonnage and revenues
c)       Information on trains on the run, the ETA at next point and the work to be performed.
d)      Vehicle guidance of all trains on run
e)      Daily report describing the performance of all through trains operated in a controlled territory for the day
f)       Actual / estimated arrival and departure particulars for a particular train at  any or all the reporting points.
g)      Yard or on the run delay information.
h)      Train and stock interchange
i)        Wagon wise interchange

ii) Optimised asset utilization

a)      Improved locomotive utilization by reduction in light engine running and reduced ineffective
b)      Statement of missing or wrongly delivered wagons and finally its elimination
c)       Elimination of un connected wagons
d)      Increased availability of repair capacity
e)      Stock holding
f)       Loco holding

iii) Increased revenue

Savings in wagon fleet would result in corresponding saving in the recurring cost of maintenance of wagons.
a)      Reduced locomotive power and rolling stock maintenance cost
b)      Savings in time and cost of handling in yards, cost of empty haulage
c)       Ensures optimal crew management and monitors statutory limits for running duty and overtime payments.
d)      Reduction in staff cost per unit of transportation due to improved productivity of the available manpower.

iv) Improved productivity per man year.

Accuracy of reporting in the head and hand system collecting data on telephones results in sizeable error levels, which need to be reconciled and corrected periodically. FOIS data with built in validation systems has zero errors.

a)      Drudgery of manual processes like maintenance of registers etc. is eliminated
b)      Particulars of crew on train with hours spent on duty
c)       Re deployment of major portion of staff involved in wagon tracing and  accounts checking activities.
d)      Improved customer service and satisfaction.
e)      Facilitation of acceptance (customers order) billing and cash accountals from identified nodal customer services centres and not necessarily at the handling terminals
f)       E-Commerce will facilitate the customers to operate from their premises for the above requirement of the above billing and cash accountal and thus reduced the burden of logistic management, and in addition drastically bring down the inventory costs in the entire chain of physical distribution system.
g)      Quick settlement of claims.
h)      Just in time inventory

v) Goods Shed Operations.

a)      Arrival particulars of wagons
b)      Placement and Release Particulars
c)       Information on demands registered and pending Indents
d)      Preparation of Railway Receipts
e)      Information on Demurrage and wharfage
f)       Loading particulars
g)      Goods Shed Earning
h)      Information on delayed wagons and Wagons awaiting Placement / Release.

II. Application/Software

RMS module has been developed with GUI interface which is highly interactive, very user friendly. The software is totally menu driven and navigation is through logically linked tasks. The application and front end forms for reporting events has been developed in Visual Basic and resides in the client machine located at the reporting location. Date is stored in the central server locate at CRIS.

1. General Concepts

A Rake is a much generalized term, which refers to any set of wagons moving together and has been identified in the system as rake. Wagons can be attached/detached to a Rake. A rake is identified by a unique defined ID number, which remains unchanged through various Load/Empty cycles & movements. A  Rake when given a destination is known as a Load. A Load when given a loco is known as a Train. Thus, there can be no Train without a Load & no Load without a Rake (except where a load is mixed and is not identified in the system as a rake). With a clear understanding of these terms, you enter data through clearly defined “tasks’.

The RMS software has two identifiable cycles-
Train cycle: It starts the moment a load is identified as a train and the following tasks are used for online reporting:-
Train Ordering: TO/Call between two crew-changing points.
Train Departure: reports departure.
Train Arrival: reports arrival.
Train Run-through: reports through runs
Train rerouting

Yard Cycle:  It starts as soon as a terminating load arrives at its destination or a train is cancelled. (i.e. the load is sent to load planning ) and the following tasks are used for various online reporting:-

Load Related Tasks

Inward Number Taking: destination validates consist.
Load Planning: initial activity, following rake assignment.
Load Stabling: run/ordering termination is reported through this.
Load Diversion/Termination/Extension: reports changes in planned load destinations
Load Yarding: takes a load-to-load planning screen, but will not reflect in stabled position.

Vehicle Guidance Related Tasks

Consist Reporting: originating station reports summary details. (Guidance is also called as Consist).

Rake Related Tasks

Rake Formation Details: from/modify rake consist.
Movement order: facility to give advance assignments to rake
Rake Placement/Release: reporting Load/Empty cycle.
Rake Dissipation: for generating piecemeal out of rake or for doing away with a rake which has no wagons left.
After a load is made ready, loco attached and train ordered
Again the train cycle begins.

Loco Related Tasks

Attachment/Detachment of locos.
Loco Reporting: reporting shed activities of loco.
Light Engine: reports light engine movements
Given above is the list of tasks that are to be performed on real-time basis i.e. as soon as the event takes place.
Demand: This function is to be reported at station where the party/consigner registers his Demand for supply of Rake/Piecemeal wagon for loading of goods.
The following tasks are used for reporting this activity:-
New demand
Modify demand
Add/delete demand
Fulfilling demand
Forfeiture /Withdrawal of demand

Interchange forecast: In the system as the trains are planned, a pipeline is generated from Originating Station to destination and the position can be viewed at any point in its route. Forecast can be reported by selecting trains from the pipeline shown at the interchange point. The task used is interchange forecast reporting task.

Given below is a summarized list of entity related tasks:-

Rake related tasks

Rake Formation Details: form/modify rake consist
Movement order: facility to give advance assignments to rake.
Rake Placement/Release: reporting Load/Empty cycle
Rake Merging: moving wagons from one to another rake.
Rake Dissipation: for generating piecemeal out of rake or for doing away with a rake which has no wagons left.

Load Related Tasks

Load Planning: initial activity, following rake assignment
Load Stabling: run/ordering termination is reported through this
Inward Number Taking: destination validates consist.
Load Diversion/Termination/Extension: reports changes in planned load destinations
Load Yarding: similar to stabling, but will not reflect in stabled position.
Cut-in by Arrival/Departure: was useful when there were non-computerized territories also.

Train Related Tasks

Train Ordering: To/Call between two crew-changing points.
Train Departure: reports departure.
Train Arrival: reports arrival.
Train Run-through: reports through runs

Loco Related Tasks

Attachment/detachment of Loco: reporting loco failure on run.
Loco Reporting: reporting shed activities of loco.
Light Engine: reports light engine movements.
Roadside/Piecemeal Wagons Related Tasks:
Attachment/Detachment of Wagons en route: load & consist are automatically modified in this task.
Piecemeal Placement/Release: reports piecemeal activities.
Piecemeal Sick/Fit Reporting: reports sick/fit.
Clearance of Detached Wagons: clears detached wagons.
Demand: reports indents for a good shed type of loading.

Vehicle Guidance Related Tasks

Consist Reporting: originating station reports summary details. (Guidance is also called as consist)
Detentions Related Tasks
Train Detention en route: reports unscheduled stoppages.
Pre departure Detentions: reports detentions suffered by loads/trains at yards/stations.

Other Tasks

Interchange Forecast: reports daily targets, which should be frozen by noon.
BPC & Crew details: reports these details.
Modify ETA: changes ETA for a train.
Re-routing : changes path of a train while on run

As you realize these are all routine tasks. Besides this the divisions have to carry out some systemic tasks which help in generating MIS reports (name for reports which are not generated on online data) and some time specific reports.

Google+ Followers