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Digital transformation, IoT, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and cybersecurity. All themes which were discussed at this year’s Railway Forum in Berlin.

The industry is changing, and digitalization is on the fast track to become anchored in all areas of the railway system. Improved data driven automation has enabled the industry to meet market and customer needs at a faster speed and gain new sources of competitive advantage. Intelligent data management has realized the vision of greater efficiency, improved maintenance and boosted customer satisfaction.

The future agenda of the mobility industry was the overall theme of the conference this year. Naturally, different aspects of digitalization and automation were therefore discussed, both on stage and amongst the attendees. This led to many inspiring and educational talks which challenged our own personal views on the future of rails. Furthermore, it provided us with valuable information on what direction the industry is headed.

DB on a clear path towards digitalization

Deutsche Bahn (DB), being one of the most influential organizations in the industry, was understandably so a key player at the conference. We attended many interesting and thought-provoking presentations held by representatives from DB. It was indeed a golden opportunity to achieve a better understanding of how they view the future of the industry. How DB plan to proceed in the future will, undoubtedly, have an enormous influence on the rest of the industry.

For example, DB introduced their strategy on how they prepare for a digital future. The primary focus of this strategy will most likely not come as a surprise to you: digitalization.

DB has been preparing for it for quite some time now. They adopted the strategy in 2018, and the key themes are:

  • Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Data Mining
  • Digital Twin
  • Smart Maintenance (Vehicles/Infrastructure)

They view IIoT as one of the driving forces of digitalization and find it to be of great relevance when optimizing their maintenance processes. The success of digitalization primarily depends on two things, according to DB. They are:

  • The quality of the sensors from which they collect their data, and
  • The reliability and security of the evaluation of the collected data

The future in rail will furthermore be highly dependent on new innovations. It is crucial that we remain innovative in order to keep up with the development. DB believes that new innovations in the future will stem more from startups rather than from larger industrial companies and that we should welcome new initiatives.

Store your data in the cloud – and share it!

From our fellow attendees and DB, the message was clear: Store your data in the cloud – and share it. If you want to be prepared for a digital future, there is simply no way around it.

DB aims to store 100 % of their data in the cloud and they want to become as digital as possible. They want their subcontractors to follow suit as it will speed up the process tremendously.

Sharing our data, including ownership, encourages collaboration, increases efficiency and will lead to better decision-making.

We participated in a round table discussion in which the topic of collaboration was addressed. We all acknowledged that it can be tricky to work together as competitors. Often, we put up a wall towards each other, because we want to protect our businesses. Understandably so. However, the digitalized future screams for a connected rail industry. We need to work together in creating a new type of business model which will enable us to work together while protecting our own business.

It all comes down to finding the right balance, but there are so many benefits to gain from collaboration.  And when we do, there is no doubt in our mind that the industry will be on the fast track to a successful digitalized railway.


Railway Forum Berlin (2019): Supply Chain Management

Railway Forum Berlin

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