[Webinar] Heidelberg Cement France's feedback on the digitalisation of rail freight

May 22, 2023

How can a shipper digitalise its rail flows? This is what we were able to discuss with Ciments Calcia (Heidelberg Cement France) and AUTF (Association des Utilisateurs de Transport de Fret) during a webinar, the key points of which are presented here.

The digitalisation of rail freight is a hot topic. Productivity gains and competitiveness of the transport mode are at stake. But in concrete terms, how can a shipper digitalise its rail flows? This is what we were able to discuss with Ciments Calcia and AUTF (Association des Utilisateurs de Transport de Fret) during a webinar (also available in replay), the key points of which are presented here.  

Digitalisation of rail freight - desirable or necessary?

AUTF represents 170 companies and professional organisations from all sectors of activity. Valérie Cornet is in charge of land transport. 

She gives us the background to the hype surrounding the digitalisation of rail freight: 

A National Strategy for the Development of Rail Freight was presented in September 2021, on the occasion of the European Year of Rail. It includes 72 measures aimed at doubling the share of rail freight by 2030 to a modal share of 18%. 

The rail mode is essential to our ecological transition, particularly because of its energy efficiency: this is the whole point of the recovery plan.  

Among the measures outlined, there is a great need for innovation, particularly digital innovation. How can digital technology help the railways?  

  • Digital technology creates the conditions for cooperation within the railway ecosystem. 
  • Digital technology also has a role to play in improving the productivity of the entire railway system and maintaining/restoring the competitiveness of the mode. Numerous applications can be envisaged, at the level of the network, maintenance, but also logistics, as we will see with Ciments Calcia. 
  • Digital technologyprovides the data and information that is currently sorelylacking for the expected performance improvement. 
  • Digital technology is helping to modernise the image of rail freight. 

Valerie also came back in this webinar on 2 points of attention to take into account: 

  • Data confidentiality, which will arise with the pooling of data flows 
  • Interoperability, not only within the railway ecosystem, but also in increasingly intermodal logistics chains. 

Why implement a TMS Rail? Feedback from Ciments Calcia

Ciments Calcia, a company of the HeidelbergCement group, is one of the majors of the cement industry in France. Rail is an essential part of their logistics, with 1,000 full trains loaded per year. Nicolas Plouviez works there as a logistics manager for the rail part. He is also the logistics performance controller. 

Ciments Calcia's observation: no support tool for the rail

Despite the importance of rail transport in Ciments Calcia's logistics, the observation made in 2018 was glaring. "In terms of support tools for rail, nothing had really changed despite the opening of the market to competition. We were still working in the old-fashioned way: Excel, faxes, etc." explains Nicolas Plouviez.

The problems of information gathering, collaboration and productivity mentioned by Valérie Cornet were therefore raised: 

  • Poor control of the wagon fleet
  • Disparate tools hindering the productivity of the planning process
  • No visibility on current deliveries
  • Manual collection of accessible performance data

Using a TMS Rail: what features? 

Nicolas Plouviez also describes during the webinar the main features and benefits of the Everysens TMS Rail implemented at Ciments Calcia (HeidelbergCement France). 

  1. Control of the wagon fleet, thanks to real-time geolocation and finely tuned exception alerts (e.g. retention, inventory thresholds, etc.). 
  2. Digitalisation of planning and consignment notes, thanks to a centralised collaborative tool, connected to the systems of the railway companies. 
  3. Real-time tracking of deliveries for all trains, thanks to reliable ETAs, both for full trains and single wagons. 
  4. Reporting and monitoring of performance, thanks to the cross-referencing of theoretical and actual information directly in a logistics dashboard

Implementing a TMS Rail: what ROI and benefits are observed?  

As with any project, an analysis of the ROI (Return On Investment) helps determine the success of the rail freight digitalisation project. At Ciments Calcia, Nicolas Plouviez has identified 3 ROI levers:  

  1. Productivity and time management 
  2. Productivity of the wagon fleet 
  3. Monitoring the performance of rail partners 

To discover the figures associated with each of these levers, we invite you to watch the webinar available on demand at this link.

(Link of the webinar in English)