"Digitization creates new ways of collaboration"

02. 09. 2020

IT boss Vanessa Langhammer takes us on the road to digital RCG. She tells us how new solutions are gaining a foothold in the company, what the hurdles are and why innovation requires a lot of courage, flexibility and patience.

Everyone is talking about digitalization. How does RCG approach to the topic?

I once read a good quote that is very fitting: "Digitization is like sex among teenagers - everyone talks about it but no one really knows how to do it and everyone thinks everyone else does it or at least says they do it". Through new collaboration possibilities and intelligent technologies, digitization is changing processes, the way people work together and the corporate culture; in particular, the understanding of someone's own role and the way transparency is handled. The particular challenge is to not build on existing structures, but to completely rethink our business. It is very important to test the ideas in a small environment in order not to lose touch with operational reality. We laid the cornerstone at the Future Laboratory at the end of 2016. In three workshops with a varied group from all operational areas, we made the topic of digitization tangible for us and identified the first topics that were very positively received in the implementation phase. The "Cargo 1492" program was set up to scale up the first attempts of our ideas. The quickly visible results are great to see the success come in small steps and, if necessary, to intervene in time. Nevertheless, we live in two speeds and two worlds, which makes everyday life always exciting. This only works because we have many committed people in the company who are courageous and support us in various ways.

Were there any obstacles? How were they avoided/integrated?

We have already overcome initial fears of innovative methods and approaches to agile working methods in the Future Lab, but it is still an ongoing process to bring the different worlds together. Communication is both a key and an obstacle, depending on the format in which we communicate and how this content is then understood and communicated. Misunderstandings are unfortunately more the rule than the exception and it is very difficult to anticipate who needs what kind of information. My approach is to give as much opportunity as possible for personal exchange. We are currently establishing system demos on video and similar formats in order to give people a feeling for where we stand, even with a wider reach.

Public procurement law, internal processes and emerging fears from various quarters have sometimes presented us with exciting challenges. But with a little creativity, expert support and staying power we have always found a good solution. The COVID time is e.g. by the short-time work now also very challenging for the program. Here we were able to react ad hoc to the individual challenges thanks to the flexibility that comes with the agile way of working.

Which digital services are already possible in MIKE?

For our customers, MIKE, the digital assistant, offers the function of tracking for rail services. Via map & list displays, the customer's own shipments are made available with the information on the consignment note. The employees at RCG can then justify via comments deviations or delays. The next step here is train tracking as a supplementary display to the customer shipment. Deviation management will then be the main focus next summer. Customers can already order their empty cars via the platform and manage their orders. In the future, it will also be possible to order entire trains in the context of the agreed weekly and monthly programs.

We have set ourselves the goal of making the system less reactive and thus more resource-efficient, because challenges can be solved collaboratively with foresight. Embedded in a complex logistics network, rail freight transport will be even better networked with other means of transport.

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