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Digital Transformation Project – Rurtalbahn Cargo – Group 21

Rurtalbahn Cargo is a company in the rail freight industry transporting various sorts of cargo from the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam to Eastern Europe (figure 1). Rurtalbahn Cargo differentiates itself in the market by focusing on personalized contact with customers and their reliability. Currently, there is an excess of demand in the market and the market is static as no disruptive innovations have been implemented over the last decades (Zimmermann, 2015).

Figure 1. Transport routes of Rurtalbahn Cargo

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In order to enable Rurtalbahn Cargo to make use of the current excess demand and to enable them to optimally use its own generated information and that of supply chain partners, two solutions are recommended: Supply Chain Integration (SCI) and Intelligent Transportation System (ITS). The former is a solution where (optimally) all players in the supply chain of the transportation of goods share their information. This can enable them to better respond to each other and consequently make better use of their resources. ITS is a solution where whether conditions, railway signs, railway traffic (all movement on the rails), train performance and many other information variables are combined. This can result in costs reductions and a better allocation of resources. The proposed solution fits well with the current business model and IT structure of Rurtalbahn Cargo. The solution focuses solely on improving their current business model and enriches their value proposition.

Since both extensions involve relatively high costs, it is recommended to implement the extensions subsequently starting with implementing the SCI system and it supporting extensions, and secondly ITS. This order is specifically important because ITS is not possible on the short-term as all systems of competitors would need to be centralized for this. This is, for the most part, not under the direct influence of Rurtalbahn Cargo and it will require a diplomatic approach. The development of the base system and the extensions SCI and ITS will be done iteratively since this will reduce uncertainty (McConnell, 2006) and input from planners and SC partners can be used, anticipating changes that the system may have to undergo in the future (Ghiassi-Farrokhfal & Kahlen, 2015). The overall development is expected to take 1.5 year assuming that the current structure and occupancy of the IT development division remains stable.

Implementing the recommended solution will enable Rurtalbahn Cargo to optimize its value proposition and optimally utilize the excess of demand relatively to the supply within the train freight industry. Furthermore, the base system centralizing the data can potentially be the future source of more extensions and business enhancements.

References

  • Ghiassi-Farrokhfal, Y. & Kahlen, M., 2015. Introduction to design. Designing Business Applications. [online] https://bb- 29app01.ict.eur.nl/webapps/blackboard/execute/content/file?cmd=view&content_id=_49087_1&course_id= _489_1 [Accessed 9 October 2015]
  • McConnell, S. (2006) , Software Estimation: Demystifying the black art (developer best practices), first edition, MicrosoftPress
  • Zimmermannf, B. (2015, 9, 21). MSc Managing Director. (G21, Interviewer)

Big food

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There are many discussions going on in the area of food production, distribution, and consumption. For a significant part, this discussion can be divided into two sides: people advocating we should go back to traditional ways of the food industry and people promoting the interference of scientific developments. Both sides are strong supporters of a food industry that produces and distributes food in a way that is less harmful for the environment, and to develop healthier food for consumption. The group that promotes science is highly criticised because of a fear of losing the human aspect in the food system (Parasecoli, 2015). But would it really be that bad to involve technology on a greater scale in the food industry? While many industries have already faced opportunities, and challenges, from great disruptive technologies and developments, the food industry seems to have stayed behind.

When we think about disruptive technologies in the food industry, things like robot-chefs and 3D printed food comes to mind. Even though these kind of technologies are currently being developed (Davis et al, 2015) the great advantage for now might lie in less extravagant developments. Developments that we already find pretty common, like sensors, WiFi, smartphones, and drones, are actually disrupting the traditional ways of producing food (Byrnes, 2015). Not so much individually, but combined they offer great potential for one of the potential great disrupters of the food industry: Big data. You might say that this is nothing new, but for the food industry to change we have to go back to where the production of food starts, which are the farmers. And if you then consider that the broad availability of WiFi in great farmer areas, the usage of smart phones, and the development of accurate but cheap sensors, has not been around for that long it is not surprising that there have been little farmers taking advantage of the possibilities. The different data coming from these sources offer farmers the possibility to combine this information with for example weather forecasts and make better decisions. This results in better quality crops, less costs for the farmer because of for example more efficient use of fertilizers, and consequently more revenue (Byrnes, 2015).

The use of big data in the food industry can be relatively easily implemented by the farmers, no big investments are necessary and information can be readily available. It enables a more efficient use of resources, which is better for the environment and the farmers, and it leads to be a better quality of crops which is beneficial for the consumer. All without technology genetically modifying our food or removing the human aspect in our food production.

Sources

Byrnes, N., 2015. Internet of farm things. [online] Technology review. [available at] http://www.technologyreview.com/news/537596/internet-of-farm-things/ [Accessed 6 October 2015]

Davis, N., Burgen, S., & Corbyn, Z., 2015. Future of food: how we cook. [online] The Guardian. [available at] http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/sep/13/future-of-food-how-we-cook [Accessed 6 October 2015]

Parasecoli, F., 2015. Food and technology: clash or synergy? [online] Huffington post. [available at] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fabio-parasecoli/food-and-technology-clash_b_8206410.html [Accessed 6 October 2015]

The future of work

Technology is changing the way we work, and many of the exciting new developments are just around the corner. But these developments also make a lot of people worried about whether they might be let go since many companies rush to implement automated systems (Fiscutean, 2015) for the sake of efficiency and to avoid human error.

Already long before IT, the way we worked has always been changed by new developments. For example, the upcoming mass production in the industrial revolution caused many people to start working for a boss instead of for themselves. Right now, technology is affecting the type of work we do, how we do it, where we do it, and who our competition is (Choudary, 2015). Crowdsourcing is now creating a completely different competitive market, and new communication tools makes physical distance much less important. In addition, technical advances equip us with new tools to do our work, changing the way we used to do it. For example, mobile sensors and machine learning are helping people in healthcare make decisions.

The type of work is influenced by the amount of automation that is adopted by an organization. Software can, and already has, taken up repetitive jobs from workers (Fiscutean, 2015). Therefore, some jobs will surely be automated out of existence (Choudary, 2015). But new jobs are created as well, the work done by humans will increasingly shift to more innovative thinking, creativity and social skills, as machines don’t typically do these things well (Choudary, 2015).

So just like what happened before, inventions do change the way we work and will make some jobs obsolete. And logically, people fear these developments. However, again the new technology will make people shift to new jobs instead of putting them out of business (Thibodeau, 2014). And these new jobs will entail more creative processes (Fiscutean, 2015) and more implementation related tasks. The real challenge for businesses is to implement automation where it is beneficial, and to exploit the qualities of their people that software is unable to grasp.

Sources