Heavy investments in technological innovations for improving safety and operations of railways is the current focus of Canadian National Railway Co., grappling with rapid disruptive industry changes. Luc Jobin- CN chief executive, in a recent investor conference held in Montreal, stated that company must benefit from technological innovations to drive improvements in supply management, engineering and safety, and increasing value propositions over time. He also emphasised on implementation of some basic applications for reducing clerical and manual work in operations of CN Railway. This will further fuel multi-faceted enhancements such as escalating supply chain performance to higher level by adopting digitalisation for increasing efficiency, visibility and reliability.
Various Technologies Planned by CN Railway for Implementation in the Near Future
In its recent two-day investor conference, CN Railway showcased various technologies planned by the company to implement in the near future, improving capacity, efficiency and safety. In collaboration with InnoTech Alberta, CN Railway is focusing on development of new ways for transporting bitumen from oilsands of Alberta. It has filed an application to acquire patent for CanaPux- turning bitumen into semi-solid, puck-like non-hazardous pellet which doesn’t sink, leak, or explode. From US$ 1.2 Bn commitment, CN Railway has already spent US$ 500 Mn for installation of PTC- positive train control technology, which is designed to stop trains automatically prior to any occurrence of accidents owing to human errors. Mandated in 2008 in the United States, PTCs aim to prevent collisions between trains, derailments resulting from excessive speed and passage of trains, when track switches are left in wrong position.
Readiband- New Technology by CN Railway to Track Fitness of Employees
Another technological innovations comprises management of fatigue associated with its unionised employees, who account for nearly 80% of the workforce. A pilot project was launched by the company recently, comprising fitness tracking device known as Readiband to record and monitor employee alertness and fatigue. With the gradual approach of the company in implementing new technology, any changes to workforce won’t be disruptive and would prevent any major discontinuity, stated Jobin. Pressures arising from implementation of new technology is expected to be alleviated by the company through retraining and displacement, coupled with attrition.
Encouraging signs have been depicted by these technological innovations’ early results, as stated by Walter Spracklin- analyst from RBC Dominion Securities. Concerns associated with NAFTA renegotiations were also dismissed by Jobin while his speech to investors, stating that Canada must benefit from this “constructive” time. He also stated that anticipation of this new technology to have significant impacts on flow of goods from Canada to the United States has not yet been done.