AI-Optimized Switching Operations for Rail Shippers and Storage Providers
Bourque Logistics, the leader in North American industrial logistics systems for more than 30 years, and Cedar AI, a provider of state-of-the-art artificial intelligence technology for railyard planning and switching, announced this week their joint collaboration to provide optimized switching to rail shippers and storage yards.
Cedar’s OptiSwitch™ AI-based algorithms have been developed for railroads to optimize railyard switching and train assembly. Working collaboratively, Bourque and Cedar have successfully completed integration of their systems, so they can demonstrate this important technology for non-railroad applications, namely manufacturer/shippers with a large on-site rail inventory and railcar storage providers.
By integrating railcar inventory from Bourque’s widely-used YardMaster system with Cedar’s OptiSwitch algorithms, an optimized cutting list for blocked train assembly and other railyard movements is created within seconds. The cutting list is then used in the YardMaster switch generation process with instructions transmitted to YardMaster® Mobile crew tablets provided by Bourque’s partner, Industrial Networks LLC. Or, crews can print them for field use.
Using the OptiSwitch and YardMaster collaborative technology, rail shippers and storage operators stand to benefit from shorter switch-planning efforts, fewer moves, fuel savings, and lower locomotive and track maintenance. Also, digitization of such switching expertise ensures consistency of railyard operations if such know-how is lost through switch crew retirements or attrition.
Cedar AI, based in Seattle, is a dynamic company of data scientists and railroad software experts. Over the past two years, they have worked with both Class I and shortline railroads to develop the OptiSwitch planning and operations platform. Their goal is to dramatically improve railroad operations and throughput. Bourque and Cedar realized a modified version of OptiSwitch™, integrated with YardMaster, could also serve shippers with complex load scheduling needs, large railcar inventories, as well as private railcar storage facilities. Such facilities often contain several thousand railcars and may assemble and ship blocked trains of 20-100 railcars per day.
“The YardMaster® system maintains accurate, real-time information on yard inventory, which allows our artificial-intelligence platform to provide timely switching plans that reflect changing yard conditions,” said Mario Ponticello, co-CEO and CFO of Cedar AI. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with the team at Bourque Logistics on this project. We believe that our integrated solution will add value from day one, and through machine learning, dynamically adapting to shippers’ needs to provide better and more efficient plans over time.”
Bourque Logistics’ YardMaster® system is utilized at over 230 rail shipping facilities in North America for railcar inventory, switching, inspection, loading, and unloading. A Spanish version of YardMaster® is now implemented by one terminal operator in Mexico with several more terminal deployments in progress.
“Our recent pilot with Cedar AI has proven their high-value switching function offers significant efficiencies to our shipper and storage clients,” said Steve Bourque, president of Bourque Logistics. “We want our clients to have the best in class technology. We believe there is additional opportunity for optimized order-to-railcar assignment and multi-day train scheduling.”