By: Majorie van Leijen

BLOG: How does Rail OCR contribute to increased productivity of rail operations?

Rail OCR   |   Ports & Terminals   

You have probably heard of Rail OCR before. But do you know why Rail OCR is a good idea? The key word here is efficiency. Efficient rail operations are among the most commonly shared objectives within the rail industry. This is how Rail OCR contributes.

OCR is short for Optical Character Recognition, a specialized application of OCR technology tailored for the intermodal industry. By using off-the-shelf cameras to capture information and sophisticated software to interpret what is captured, the resulting data can make many processes in the rail operation more efficient. In this blog we explain the main benefits.

Loading and unloading

Each container and railcar move along the network with unique IDs. This information is best consumed when it is captured, processed and turned into data. CERTUS does this with its Rail OCR product called C-Train. This fully integrated system automatically reads and records codes as a train enters a terminal, or any other intermodal facility.

The container number, ISO code and position of the container on the railcar are automatically captured. For North America, the car number is also recognized via an RFID (AEI) tag, matched to a database of railcars and validated against a Electronic Database Interchange (EDI) received for the train. This is valuable information for the terminal operator and terminal operating system. Once this information is turned into data, the terminal operating system is provided a complete, accurate inventory of the railcars and containers, enabling immediate planning of the work.

The wait for manual recording of cars and containers is over, rather moving to an exception process. Before OCR data is sent to the terminal Operating System (TOS), the operator verifies missing data and pictures, from a single location. The completed data is then sent to the TOS. When the train exits the facility, the rail OCR system identifies and verifies the exact position of every container on the identified railcar.

Needless to say, this results in faster train loading and unloading as compared to manual labor alongside the tracks. Containers and railcars are automatically paired, container positions are laid out for you. Consequently, operating costs are reduced. Manpower can be used elsewhere. And once the data is acquired, it can be used for multiple purposes. Think of enhanced recognition performance, capacity management and traceability. The applications are endless.

Faster damage inspection

Apart from the standard parameters of a train, railcar or container entering a facility, Rail OCR also captures the abnormalities. One of the most relevant: damage. Damage leads to insurance claims, complicated liability issues and property devaluation. Thus, timely detection and reporting is paramount.

CERTUS has made damage inspection more efficient with the latest AI tools along with our linescan technology as part of its Rail OCR system. Compared to the area scan, linescan technology captures images of all sides of an object, displaying the entire object while the train drives through the portal. Furthermore, the image is precise and with a high resolution. Linescan images display, for example, an entire container on which every dent, scratch or hole can be seen.

Just think of the manual labor it takes to do the same, for every incoming train. And yes, damage is detected as such by the system as well, as the images are then sent to the AI agent, which is trained to determine what is an abnormality. In this way, damage detection is no longer a time-consuming process.

The image is a reliable source for insurance claims too. Just as with other applications, the data is easily processed, stored and shared with other parties in the supply chain. Rail OCR is only the beginning. Once data is acquired, it goes a long way in the supply chain.

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