"We are shaping the transformation of the industry"

10. 09. 2020

As Spokesman of the Executive Board, Clemens Först is responsible for the digital transformation of the Rail Cargo Group. He explains why there is no way around digitalization in rail freight transport and what RCG is working on at full speed.

Why do we need digital solutions in rail freight transport?

The way we live and work is currently undergoing a radical change, driven by the trends toward digitalization and sustainability. As one of the leading rail logistics companies in Europe, we have made it our mission to actively shape the future of rail freight transport in Europe. A few examples: We are equipping our trains with state-of-the-art telematics and sensor technology so that our customers can see the exact location of their goods at all times. Our wagon innovation TransANT, which adapts to the needs of individual customers, is pioneering. And we are playing an important role in the introduction of the Digital Automatic Coupling (DAC) to pave the way for a fully automated and thus much more productive railroad operation throughout Europe. We are the logistical backbone of the economy - in the common interest of a Europe worth living in - and thus also have a responsibility to society. By ensuring the efficient and sustainable flow of goods, we make a valuable contribution to the country's security of supply. 

How do you approach the digitization project? And how are you implementing it?

We have been working intensively on digitizing ourselves as a company since 2017. In many "future workshops," we have identified the requirements of the RCG team, our customers and suppliers from the bottom up, and top down we have defined a future-proof architecture and program structure. At the same time, we have space at our company headquarters - in the center of the floors - for the joint work of end-users, our digitization department and external developers. It became increasingly clear that digitization not only changes our processes but also the way we work together. In order to gradually transfer our entire range of services to the digital world, we have to rethink all processes, develop scenarios, try things and adapt them. To ensure that we don't lose sight of the practical side of things, we focus on the needs of our customers and potential users when developing our digital services, and have already involved them in the design, development and test phase. We also focus on an agile approach through short development intervals, clear goals and guidelines. This enables us to react more flexibly and faster to trends. The importance of a strong team is once again evident throughout the entire process: because change can only succeed if everyone is convinced of the idea.

What can customers expect from SmartLINK or MIKE?

SmartLINK embodies all elements of RCG's transformation process: innovative technology and service, digitally processed, with a clear responsibility to people and the environment. It's time for us to present our first digitization initiatives externally as well, thus laying the foundation for the new digital RCG. There are two initiatives for our customers: SmartLINK is our digital range of services and makes it easy and intuitive to understand how freight transport works - that was our central concern. MIKE, the digital assistant, also provides the first digital services for our customers. Easy access to the rail system is thus becoming a reality bit by bit. For me, this is a day on which I am very proud of what we have achieved as a team over the past few years, especially in such dynamic and challenging times like these.