Case Study

New York Air Brake Optimizes Operations, Helps Customers Save Billions

Executive Summary

New York Air Brake (NYAB), a Knorr-Bremse company, is a leading supplier to the railroad industry of braking systems and components, training simulators and train control systems. NYAB division Train Dynamic Systems (TDS) is considered the industry expert in train dynamics, train control and training simulators. TDS customers needed a way to make sense of growing amounts of unstructured data generated by onboard and back office systems. Since deploying Splunk Enterprise, TDS has seen many benefits, including: 

  • New value-added revenue-generating services
  • Real-time insight into train, operator and system performance
  • Improved customer operations
    • Make sense of growing streams of unstructured data
    • Provide real-time reporting on train performance
    • Create greater value and tighter integration between onboard and back office systems
    • Gain new insight into driver behavior
Business Impact
    • Improved customer operations by mining large volumes of unstructured data
    • Moved from monthly batch analysis to flexible real-time reporting
    • Delivered value-added services
    • Minimized in-train forces
    • Optimized operational efficiency
    • Extracted and leveraged new insight from multiple train simulations
Data Sources
    • Onboard sensors on couplers, brakes and other components
    • GPS location and track topology
    • Onboard Positive Train Control (PTC) platform
    • Computer-controlled braking systems
    • Consist database (train characteristics)

Why Splunk

While railroads are considered the most efficient form of freight transport, reduced fuel consumption is still a primary objective. NYAB’s TDS division is helping many of the world’s top railroads achieve billions of dollars in savings on fuel and other operational metrics with its LEADER (Locomotive Engineer Assist/Display & Event Recorder) train management system. The system uses data from onboard train systems to help railroads achieve ‘golden runs’ where fuel economy, in-train forces and schedule compliance are optimized.

TDS continually works to provide LEADER users with even greater value and tighter integration. The system must be able to make sense of a growing stream of mostly unstructured data. Train engineers need real-time information and railroad managers need snapshots as well as long-term analysis.

TDS evaluated a number of different analytical platforms before deploying Splunk Enterprise. According to Greg Hrebek, director of engineering, TDS, “With Splunk, we have the ability to add any type of additional data without having to redesign our systems. Customers frequently send us new types of information and with Splunk we don’t need to rebuild anything. We just start piping data in and consuming it in any way we need.”

“Railroads used to rely solely on industry standards and engineer experience. Thanks to Splunk, our systems allow our customers to provide engineers with real-time feedback and use operational insight to achieve optimal runs every time.”

Greg Hrebek, Director of Engineering, Train Dynamic Systems (a division of NYAB)

Real-time reporting leads to value-added services

Before Splunk, TDS spent hours using Excel spreadsheets to prepare monthly reports for customers on system performance and resource utilization. If a customer requested a unique report, it would take up to five hours to prepare. In addition, most analyses ran in batch mode, with almost no online or dynamic interactivity.

TDS now uses Splunk Enterprise and the DataFlare™ Splunk app to provide real-time dashboards correlating information on fuel efficiency, time-to-destination, in-train force reduction and driver compliance with overall savings and other business objectives. This new capability is now mission critical for TDS customers.

These advanced visualizations have led to value-added services and a source of additional revenue for the company. The LEADER system enables customers to consider a vast number of variables and operational adjustments, such as the impact on fuel consumption if a coal train arrives a half hour later than expected. Says Hrebek, “We are using Splunk Enterprise to help customers sort out the many ‘what ifs’ and they are willing to pay for that service.” 

“Splunk software significantly enhances LEADER’s capabilities to help railroads improve safety while also uncovering massive savings. Our customers have the potential to save a combined one billion dollars a year in fuel and other costs,” said Greg Hrebek, director of engineering at NYAB’s Train Dynamic Systems Division.

Read the Press Release

Real-time operational insight helps achieve ‘golden runs’

A freight train is like a 20,000 ton Slinky, can be as long as 1.5 miles and have up to 400 feet of slack. If precise control is not maintained, particularly over hilly terrain, this free movement can lead to severe in-train forces that can lead to inefficient operation, premature wear and even decoupling.

TDS LEADER is tightly integrated with the locomotive’s on-board electronics and uses data acquisition to determine status, location, speed, in-train forces and many other metrics. The system provides engineers with real-time information and coaching.

TDS engineers use Splunk to index unstructured train data collected by the LEADER systems and turn it into meaningful Operational Intelligence for real-time alerting, analysis and long-term trending. Data flow is expected to rise dramatically with the government-mandated installation of Positive Train Control systems. “Splunk plays an important role in helping us and our customers extract critical intelligence from a growing range of data sources,” notes Hrebek.

The track ahead for TDS and Splunk

Splunk Enterprise and the DataFlare app are already providing TDS and its customers with the ability to gain new efficiencies and operational insight. TDS is beginning to use Splunk software to also incorporate new types of sensors being deployed on locomotives and train cars. Hrebek concludes, “We expect the number of sensors on trains to grow ten-fold in the coming years as railroads work to achieve greater efficiency. Splunk gives us the flexibility to handle any data our customers may send us, and the confidence to know we’ll be able to provide them with meaningful insights.”

“Splunk Enterprise gives us the flexibility to handle any data our customers may send us, and the confidence to know we’ll be able to provide them with meaningful insight from it.”

Greg Hrebek, Director of Engineering Train Dynamic Systems (a division of NYAB)