What to do when the railroad track & trace tools aren’t enough
You are feeling pain. Gaining visibility of your growing rail shipments on multiple railroads has become cumbersome. Reports that took 5 minutes to prepare are now taking an hour or more. Management wants more detailed (aka complicated and time consuming) reports because there is more at stake. Issues that once were annoyances are now expensive problems! When you had a few shipments per month on one railroad, you, the railroad website and your spreadsheet were just fine. It was really comforting actually. But no more… You’re ready to chuck your computer and that spreadsheet through the window. What now? Read on to get actionable information on how to find, evaluate and negotiate 3rd party developed rail shipment tracking and fleet management systems.
What should I expect? What features do these systems offer?
The features provided by each vendor cover a core of needs. However, the strength and depth of each feature may vary and some vendors may offer an application for an area that no other vendor offers. I would recommend to read the article below, but also take some time to prioritize your needs. You can then narrow down your search to the vendors that have the features that meet those needs.
How much do these systems cost?
Before you contact any vendors, you should understand the ball park cost. Take a look at these two articles that will educate you on the basics:
- How much does a railcar tracking system cost?
- How much does a railcar tracking system cost (Part II)?
Don’t worry if the articles create more questions than you had before. This is the learning process and the more you know before you contact vendors, the better position you will be in to ensure that you get just the right technology for your needs, no more, no less. It will also protect you from getting hit with unexpected costs. But remember, the cost for these solutions cannot be compared to software such as Microsoft Office because the potential customer base is much smaller and the amount of expertise, design, and programming that go into these products is high.
How can I convince my company to spend money on a 3rd party system?
You may be a little light headed after reading how much these systems cost. Keep reading! If you are doing a significant amount of rail shipping / receiving, it shouldn’t be difficult to show that the system will save you more money than it costs. Simplified administrative activities, increased accuracy, better visibility, reduced demurrage, greater collaboration and optimization of assets are some of the monetary benefits that you will quickly realize. Read this article to get ideas on how to create your case to justify the cost of the system:
How can I find the vendors of these systems?
I want to share links that take you directly to the vendor’s websites, but since my company is one of those vendors, I might get in a little trouble for that. So let me give you some hints. Open up google and type these key word combinations to get a list of links that will take you to the leading vendors of these types of solutions:
- “railcar tracking”
- “railcar tracking software”
- “railcar management”
Each vendor is going to offer much of the same features, but there are significant differences in how the systems work, how they are supported, how they are bundled and the priced. I encourage you to review at least 3 systems where you can trial each with no obligation before you buy. Most of the websites provide decent information about the modules and features. I would recommend to absorb that information before reaching out to a sales person. Write down a list of questions, so that your time with the sales person is quick and to the point.
I hope that you have found this article helpful. Please comment or contact me with any questions and I’ll get back to you quickly.
All the best,