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Rail News Home Rail Industry Trends

6/14/2002



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

TOP, e-business push NS' performance, Wolf says


The Thoroughbred is lengthening its stride: Comparing 2002's and 2001's first quarters, Norfolk Southern Railway improved terminal-dwell time 6.4 percent, average train speed, 5.4 percent, and cars on line, 6.8 percent, despite a 3 percent decrease in weekly shipments.
Although traffic dropped (meaning there were fewers cars to measure), NS showed improvement over and above the declining business' effect, said NS Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer Henry Wolf at the Merrill Lynch Global Transportation Conference held June 13 in New York City, according to a prepared statement.
Helping NS along the operational-improvement curve is Thoroughbred Operating Plan (TOP), a redesigned merchandise network the Class I fully implemented during the quarter.
"TOP minimizes transit variation, improves network efficiency, enhances service consistency and reliability, reduces car handling and circuitous mileage, improves asset utilization and reduces costs," said Wolf. "One of our large asphalt shippers called it, 'an incredible turnaround.'"
TOP helped NS improve first-quarter merchandise and automotive on-time train performance from 57 percent to 82 percent compared with 2001.
Likewise, enhanced information systems are paying NS dividends.
"Historically, we tracked train performance, but we are introducing information systems that will enable us to monitor car performance dock-to-dock," said Wolf. "At the heart of this effort is our plan to migrate our core data into an enterprise warehouse [enabling] us to access more detailed information about our business on a real-time basis [and] provide better customer service."
NS offers Thoroughbred Information System, a suite of secure, Web-based business applications designed to enable customers to track shipments, query mileage, divert and reconsign equipment, obtain performance reports and manage coal shipments.
The Class I also recently launched Web-based bill-of-lading, rate-inquiry and empty-equipment forecasting functions.
Meanwhile, NS plans soon to launch Operating Plan Developer, designed to assess the impact of operating plan changes before implementation; Locomotive Routing Model, which would forecast network motive-power supply and demand, and recommend locomotive repositioning strategies; and Car Distribution Optimization Model, designed to forecast when specific car types will next be available to better reach points of demand.


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