Martin Zsifkovits (RCG) & Adrian Fulton (A1)

SmartCargo: Interview of the project managers

17. 05. 2019

With SmartCargo we are taking a major step towards state-of-the-art logistics – our customers will benefit from the provision of information along the train route including tracking & tracing, departure and arrival notifications as well as the estimated arrival time of the wagon.

We met the two project managers Martin Zsifkovits, RCG Solution Manager Innovations, and Adrian Fulton, A1 Technology Senior Project Manager, for an interview.

Which divisions of RCG and A1 are involved in the project?

Martin Zsifkovits: SmartCargo affects many divisions of the Rail Cargo Group. We have included all our Business Units and considered all requirements. Mainly involved were Rail Cargo Wagon, ÖBB Technische Services as well as the divisions Digitalization, Business Development and Equipment Management.  

Adrian Fulton: First and foremost, our subsidiary A1 Digital is involved in the project. In addition, as part of SmartCargo we are working closely with our business partner Cargomon Systems – one of the leading specialists in the field of tracking solutions and transport monitoring.

What have been the biggest challenges so far?

Zsifkovits: SmartCargo started at the beginning of this year and is running absolutely according to plan. At the moment, the biggest challenge is time pressure, because after a short test phase we will go into the roll-out around the middle of the year. It is not just a matter of mounting the devices on the freight wagons, but of connecting the devices to our IT systems, mapping them within the IT platform and maintaining feedback loops.

Fulton: I totally agree with Martin. Time pressure is our greatest challenge. Equipping around 13,700 wagons with tracking technology by the end of next year is not a walk in the park. Not even for two companies as experienced as RCG and A1. Such an extensive and important project must be well thought out.     

Which RCG wagon types are going to be equipped with SmartCargo?

Zsifkovits: All of them! We considered in advance whether we should prefer certain wagon categories, for example, but decided against this option. Because the most efficient solution is to equip every wagon that comes to the workshop – either in the course of a routine check, maintenance or repair. Assembly is carried out throughout Austria at a total of ten ÖBB Technische Services plants. From now on, each wagon will leave the workshop with a brand new GPS device.

How exactly does the IoT platform – specially developed for SmartCargo – work?

Fulton: As soon as the wagon begins to move, the GPS device sends certain information, such as the exact departure time, to the IoT platform via the mobile network. There, the information is processed visually. At predefined intervals, the current condition of the wagon, as well as various reports and analyses, can be displayed. In addition, alarms can be defined that are monitored and managed separately via the IoT platform – for example, the system can use Geofencing to send an immediate message when crossing predefined zones, such as national borders.

GPS is already used as standard for passenger cars and trucks. Is it more difficult to equip a wagon with this technology?

Fulton: I wouldn't say that it is more complicated. But in this case it is a challenge, because there is no electricity connection directly at the wagon, for example. We have to offer a custom-made solution. The SmartCargo device can do that, it is energy self-sufficient and lasts at least six years. Another aspect is that only the driver needs data in both, the car and the truck. It's different with a freight wagon: the data has to be sent, centrally processed and finally made available to RCG's inventory systems.   

Zsifkovits: Theoretically, we could have implemented this technology many years ago. In practice, however, roaming charges were an enormous braking factor. Our transports are not only about national transports in Austria, but above all about Europe-wide transports. This was simply not feasible with roaming charges.

What are the next steps?

Fulton: My focus is mainly on our business partner Cargomon, in order to ensure that the production of GPS trackers keeps running reliably. We are currently in the testing phase and want to meet RCG's quality requirements. The next big step will be to complete the test phase with an evaluation and then roll-out SmartCargo to the RCG fleet.

Zsifkovits: At the same time, we must ensure that all data is processed correctly and that all systems function smoothly. We are also in talks with Rail Cargo Hungaria, whose wagons are also to be equipped with SmartCargo. And we are not only driving our own wagons but also rented ones – we will therefore enter into discussions with the wagon hire companies and conclude data-sharing agreements with our European railway partners.

More about SmartCargo.