With MIKE we are digitalising block train ordering

30. 10. 2023

The digital assistant MIKE simplifies the processing of freight transport using smart services. Now comes the next step. In a pilot project with Omya and Rohrdorfer, block train ordering is being integrated into MIKE. This frees up resources in everyday office life and strengthens cooperation among the staff. An exchange of experiences at a round table. 

Customers and employees of the Rail Cargo Group have long been familiar with the digital assistant MIKE. They can use a range of digital services on the platform. These include tracking consignments, smart planning of wagon requirements (capacity planning) or ordering empty wagons (ordering). 

With the digital block train ordering for MIKE, RCG is now testing a new service – and right from the start in close coordination with Rohrdorfer, the Austrian market leader in ready-mixed concrete and aggregates such as sand, gravel & crushed stone, as well as Omya GmbH, Austria's leading supplier of industrial materials based on calcium carbonate and dolomite. 

A conversation with Felix Auinger (Head of Procurement & Logistics, Rohrdorfer), Bernhard Sereinig (Teamlead Logistics Gummern, Omya), Vanessa Langhammer (Head of Digitalization, RCG) and Martin Bauer (Product Manager, RCG) about the unique pilot project, the biggest hurdles and benefits and the vision behind the digital assistant MIKE. 

Vanessa, what tipped the scales in favour of the MIKE pilot project for block train ordering?

Vanessa Langhammer, Head of Digitalization, RCG

Vanessa Langhammer: Our goal was to digitalise and standardise all processes around the management of trains. Or, to put it more simply, we wanted to get away from mails and Excel documents. We all know the problems. Too often, people play Chinese whispers and important information does not reach all the relevant places, or only very late, and too often there are misunderstandings, for example in the case of confusing Excel spreadsheets. With our new service, we create a common base and connect all parties involved in real time, progress log included!

Mr. Auinger, was this also a reason for you to participate in the pilot project?

Felix Auinger: Rohrdorfer and RCG have a strong and long-standing partnership. So participation was a no-brainer for us, especially since we had the unique opportunity to contribute our requirements in the best possible way and directly. Digitalisation is the key here, because in logistics we transport not only quantities and goods, but more and more also knowledge and information. What we really liked was that from the very beginning, the focus was on the users and their needs. Then a creative solution was worked out directly with the development team, and only then was a prototype developed. The prototype encompassed the entire railway process, including all those involved, and thus did not simply shift work steps from left to right.

Felix Auinger, Head of Procurement & Logistics, Rohrdorfer

Martin, teamwork is complex. How did the coordination work with two teams from different companies, with very different cultures?

Martin Bauer, Product Manager, RCG

Martin Bauer: For us, it was very important to work in an agile way right from the start. That means we involved our customers right from the conception stage and gathered their feedback in very early usability tests. In this way, we were soon able to see whether the user interface and functions were really intuitive and comprehensible and only started development when we were really sure. As for the actual work, often large projects can be overwhelming. That's why we agreed from the beginning not to go through every detail, but to approach the final product step by step. 

And what does that mean for the daily coordination?

Martin: We constantly exchanged information on the current status via team meetings in different constellations, collected and incorporated feedback and built on it. The commitment of our clients to be available for this feedback and constant exchange was really worth its weight in gold. 

Mr Sereinig, what did you think of the cooperation?

Bernhard Sereinig: We were very well looked after, from the presentation of the project to the implementation and installation. The team was really very professional, competent and friendly. Furthermore, it was very interesting for both sides to see each other's point of view – i.e. how work is done, how problems are seen and tackled, and how solutions are finally found. 

Bernhard Sereinig, Teamlead Logistics Gummern, Omya

That sounds like a perfect workflow. Nevertheless, projects of this size don't always go according to plan. Martin, what were the biggest challenges for you?

Martin: The biggest difficulty was definitely, apart from the pilot implementation with Omya and Rohrdorfer, to maintain the ongoing operation for all other customers and transports within the previous system landscape. It's a bit like juggling balls. Helped by the support of the individual RCG departments, we were able to find an interim solution in order to cause as few problems and additional effort in the day-to-day business as possible. It was simply great that we could rely on the RCG colleagues who had to look after two channels in parallel – i.e. the newly developed and the already existing services – especially during the pilot phase.

Was the effort worth it?

Bernhard Sereinig: Absolutely. Our goal was to facilitate the processing of block trains. That is exactly what has happened. Our actions are mapped in real time, which is a huge benefit! That's why we are already eagerly awaiting further updates in the tool.

Felix Auinger: The access and insight to live data is also a big advantage for us. Ordering trains has been made much easier thanks to pre-maintained general conditions and master data, direct communication has improved and unnecessary e-mails have been reduced. 

Vanessa, I assume these are words you like to hear?

Vanessa: We are very happy that the coordination and cooperation with our customers worked so smoothly and that what we are doing is being validated. I think our application-oriented approach has played a big part in the success of the project. Block train ordering is another essential cornerstone in the digital service portfolio for our customers. It is the next step in positioning MIKE as a central logistics platform that simplifies access to rail transport for all our customers. A big thank you to Omya and Rohrdorfer and all the colleagues involved for the successful implementation of this project.