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Keeping Busy Railyards on Track with Intuitive Platforms

Railyards are busy hubs of activity where a constant flow of consumer goods, including new-car shipments, come in and head out to their final destinations. The sheer volume of traffic can be operationally challenging, particularly during peak times, when transportation providers are fighting to keep up with little bandwidth to optimize. REMPREX, a transportation logistics company, is working with SPR to leverage the flood of information collected by railyard tracking systems to create exciting, industry-forward platforms that equip transportation decision-makers with data-driven insights.

As consumer goods containers are transferred from trucks to train cars and vice versa, these data platforms surface information and insights about what’s going on in the yard in near real-time – to ensure maximum safety and efficiency.

SPR Enhances User Experience & Design

“A big challenge of our transportation industry is developing systems that people want to use and that are easy to navigate,” says REMPREX Chief Solutions Officer Timothy Ash. “There have been tens of millions of dollars spent on developing systems that fail in the last 10 percent of the effort – the user experience and interface. We’ve learned that technology can be great, but if it’s not integrated well into an operation, it stumbles. We embarked on this project with SPR to ensure our technology is valuable to its users.”

While the REMPREX team brought a wealth of experience in technology and railyard operations to each product, they requested SPR’s help designing simple and intuitive interfaces. SPR’s main role was to use their UX experience and expertise to make each of these data platforms as useful, attractive, and logical as possible.

Multiple Logistics Platforms Provide Unparalleled Oversight

For each engagement, SPR partnered with the REMPREX team to gather requirements and to understand the users’ needs for each use case – in order to surface the right information at the right time. Bringing past experience and usability best practices to bear, SPR helped the REMPREX team identify objectives, challenges and data requirements for each target user. SPR and REMPREX engaged in collaborative sketching to jump-start concept design and accelerate the progression from low- to high-fidelity interface designs and specs for REMPREX developers. SPR also rapidly iterated designs based on feedback from REMPREX subject matter experts and target user feedback.

SPR has provided REMPREX with UX strategy and design on a number of initiatives, including:

Visibility platform redesign – A centralized navigation point for the new cloud-based system that provides access to all REMPREX applications, tools, and content, delivering a consistent, branded experience for employees and customers. Terminal managers can monitor the overall productivity in the yard, whether drivers are getting backed up at the entrance or exit, whether they are under quota for the day, and steps they can take to mitigate. SPR’s role was to keep content simple with a focus on being a navigational hub, maximize time users spend within the REMPREX ecosystem and present content that is relevant to the user based on their job.

Dashboard surfaces high-level visualizations and metrics about the workforce and railyard activities. Primarily informational, these screens shown throughout a terminal can also show issues that may need to be addressed by managers or agents. This was the first project that SPR developed on the Visibility platform. A fresh look and feel was created based on new brand guidelines. These style guidelines served as the foundation for all the new and redesigned digital experiences – and SPR continues to extend this visual vocabulary with every engagement.

Dashboard on the previous Visibility shows a busy screen of aggregated data.

For example, a yellow light in one site indicates that there is a slowdown occurring; the data explains the timing; the live video shows the actual line at the ingate.

Taking the Time to Understand the Business

“SPR helped us connect the dots, come up with a consistent look and feel while making it simple,” says Ash. “We are tech savvy, but when it comes down to using the system, it may be a truck driver who isn’t. We need to be able to digest it and simplify it. The goal was to find the best UI that balances the technical and the functional.”

Christopher Anderson, Director of Software Development, said he appreciated how SPR took the time to understand their business. “They understood the end result and what the return on this investment really needs to look like, and where we were driving the value," Anderson says. “They were particularly good at navigating different peoples’ expertise and guiding them to success. Overall, it’s been a great working experience.”

“There’s no question that we have gained efficiencies through these new systems, though they are hard to quantify,” adds Ash. “From 2007-2018, we automated almost all of the railyard gate systems in North America. That lowered labor costs and increased safety. What we’re finding is that these systems make us a more effective operator, enabling us to monitor our technology and become a more educated workforce than our peers in the industry.”

What we’re finding is that these systems make us a more effective operator, enabling us to monitor our technology and become a more educated workforce than our peers in the industry.”

~Timothy Ash, REMPREX Chief Solutions Officer