September 13, 2022

Sustainability in Rail Manufacturing, Operations and Maintenance

Rail is at the forefront of the transition to more sustainable operations. Rail freight alone is the cleanest and most energy-efficient transportation option, emitting less than 0.5% of transport-related greenhouse gas emissions and representing only 2% of total transport energy demand.
Avatar Mike Bradford
Woman on the phone waiting for a train.

Rail is at the forefront of the transition to more sustainable operations. Rail freight alone is the cleanest and most energy-efficient transportation option, emitting less than 0.5% of transport-related greenhouse gas emissions and representing only 2% of total transport energy demand. However, the industry faces increasing freight demand and competition from other modes of transport, pushing rail operators and manufacturers to envision smarter ways of increasing efficiency and quality while keeping costs low.

Success in the future relies on how we respond to these challenges today, while also meeting our environmental commitments. The growing need for greener solutions in the transport and logistics industry presents an incredible opportunity for rail manufacturers and service providers to gain significant market share. Key to this, and to unlocking more sustainable rail operations–from train manufacturing to logistics to crew planning and scheduling–is accelerating digital transformation with advanced optimization and scheduling as well as digital or virtual twin technology.

How Scheduling and Optimization Enable Efficient Production

The rail industry’s green reputation makes it a particularly attractive prospect to those seeking to transition to low-carbon transport modes in order to meet their own sustainability KPIs. To cater to this while remaining competitive, rail operators, manufacturers and construction organizations need to evolve the efficiency of their services.

Cutting-edge optimization and scheduling can facilitate this. By matching demand and supply as well as optimizing product manufacturing operations, companies can increase the efficiency of resource utilization and the use of energy and materials through the reduction of resource consumption, scrap and waste. For example, grouping operations based on similar characteristics, like energy-intensive resources, minimizes unnecessary time and effort spent on maintenance.

On a larger scale, optimizing rail supply chains enables the set-up of a sustainable supplier network, which in turn drives a more circular economy. As identified by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, “creating new value chains and optimizing the flows of material across a company” is one of the four main opportunities in the circular economy transition. For instance, sustainable sourcing provides visibility of a product’s carbon footprint within a supply chain, and takes into account suppliers’ emissions and transport (including distance and transportation mode). This enables the optimization of emissions and financial costs, and supply plans can be compared to identify the most sustainable sourcing strategy.

Enhancing Rail Sustainability with Virtual Twins

As a next-generation digital twin, the virtual twin is dynamic, capable of modeling not only products, but facilities, factories and even entire supply chains. Taking this concept a step further, Dassault Systèmes’ Virtual Twin Experience facilitates a real-time executable virtual model of a factory, transportation network or depot by unifying modeling, simulation, optimization and real-world data to continuously update the virtual model without the need of physical testing and prototypes, hence reducing waste.

virtual twin experience with rail freight

The Virtual Twin Experience uniquely supports both sustainability and profitability through digitalization, enabling the exploration of circular production processes and facilitating sustainable innovation. Rail companies can improve both product and production by connecting product design engineering with production system design engineering to assess their environmental footprint by tracking externalities. Harnessing the power of simulation via the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, the Virtual Twin Experience helps rail manufacturers virtually validate new production lines to reduce the need for physical mockups and simulate manufacturing systems to drive greater efficiency. And thanks to the solution’s real-time monitoring capabilities, rail organizations can maximize visibility over operations and be empowered to evaluate and improve a wide array of rail business processes–also allowing them to identify opportunities to reduce environmental impact in the process.

However, the Virtual Twin Experience is not a silver bullet. A digital strategy in demand-based planning, resource optimization and systems integration is needed to provide rail organizations the agility and flexibility to respond to sustainability demands and remain profitable.

This strategy should include:

  • Advanced simulation with virtual twins to improve efficiency, strengthen capacity planning and explore alternative energy resources
  • Complete end-to-end integration for better collaboration and increased agility across rail freight planning, supply chain management, rolling stock utilization and yard management
  • Artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data for freight train automation and predictive maintenance

With the Virtual Twin Experience and our solutions for optimization, DELMIA can help you execute this strategy. Our 20 years of deep rail expertise makes us the digital partner for the complete lifecycle of train and railway operations. DELMIA solutions support the rail industry with innovative strategies to enhance efficiency, optimize cost and empower sustainable next-generation operations, providing the must-have capabilities to deal with today’s industry challenges and gain value for tomorrow.

Interested in learning more about the value of virtual twins in the future of rail operations?

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