Freight railyards are a dynamic environment in which all assets – cargo, people and vehicles – are constantly on the move. For this complicated operation to run smoothly requires reliable access to real-time data, but the rugged environment of an intermodal railyard makes constant connectivity a difficult goal to achieve.
When a Class I railroad’s intermodal yard decided to purchase additional heavy equipment to help increase speed and efficiency, management quickly realized their basic Wi-Fi solution was no longer robust enough. Vehicle locations, the dynamic nature of stacked containers, and trains coming in and out of the yard meant the yard needed higher availability than the Wi-Fi could offer. The railyard needed a new solution.
The railyard itself is a major intermodal yard, approximately one mile wide and half a mile long, covering 118 acres, with trains, trucks and other vehicles entering and exiting at all times of day, and thousands of sealed cargo container stacks being moved from trucks to trains, and vice versa, every day. The intermodal yard uses a variety of vehicles to pick and move containers, including approximately 30 hostlers and nine reach stackers.
One of the railyard’s goals was to improve container movement efficiency, so that containers only required one to two moves, versus the five to six moves (based on a three-containers-high stack) currently required to reach the correct container. With this reduction in container moves, the yard would increase efficiency; reduce wear and tear on the moving vehicles; reduce lane blockages and congestion; and speed up the truck-to-stack, stack-to-truck, train-to-stack and stack-to-train times. The last two are especially critical around the December holidays, when cargo shipping skyrockets.
To meet that goal, the railroad planned to purchase two 30-ton overhead cranes and install them in the center of the yard, straddling the container stack, to speed up container movement. The railyard also began exploring the implementation of a stack management application to track the contents of the container stack and manage all cranes, vehicles, containers and devices
Previously, in addition to the Wi-Fi, the intermodal yard utilized vehicle-mount computers and two-way radios to determine vehicle and personnel locations, and to support some of the outbuildings in the yard, but this was not enough to support the new stack management application in development. Site constraints meant that access points could not be installed in the areas that most needed them, and there was no logical place to put additional vertical infrastructure like towers. The yard needed a different type of network.
Tessco, one of the railroad’s partners, learned of the challenge the railroad was facing, and referred the railroad to one of its own partners, Future Technologies, a wireless integrator providing turnkey installs for specialized projects. Future Technologies began to examine options for a better wireless solution to accommodate the new equipment and software…
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