2020 is the year to get moving on the digitalisation of rail asset management and implementing GS1 global data standards under the auspices of Project i-TRACE.
Project i-TRACE encompasses a range of digitalisation initiatives including the standardised identification and marking of parts, components and assets in the Australian rail industry.
Rail and network operators, suppliers, manufacturers and contractors should now all be on board to ensure international best practice in supply chain management; the first phase of which is the joint initiative of the ARA and GS1 Australia, involving 11 steps, identified as stations in a visual representation of phase 1 of the Project i-TRACE journey.
“By now, everyone should have departed Station 5, otherwise they are behind schedule,” said Bonnie Ryan, director of freight, logistics and industrial sectors at GS1 Australia.
Towards achieving a national approach, at a minimum suppliers should have attended a workshop, established a business case, obtained executive sponsorship, joined GS1 and received their unique global company prefix to enable GS1 identifiers to be assigned to materials.
Station 6 encourages the attendance of a Project i-TRACE training session while Station 7 involves the actual assignment of compliant identification numbers to products/materials/assets, adding these to internal systems and informing customers of same so they can also add to their systems facilitating the beginning of data alignment between suppliers and their customers. Support is provided for Project iTRACE training through GS1.
Many suppliers have already arrived at Station 8, which is where additional data elements can be added, such as serial numbers and production dates that can be embedded in data carriers such as barcodes.
Having assigned GS1 codes and associated data elements to materials, the next step is to physically mark and/or tag objects so that they can be electronically scanned. Choosing a data capture technology is an important and crucial element (Station 9) and vital to enabling data to be captured at the point of use, whether in a depot or out on the network.
GS1’s Ryan said that Project i-TRACE provides a critical foundation for the industry to digitalise common operational processes.
“In a couple of years, i-TRACE will no longer be a project but will be a normal part of business.
“Knowing that we are all working towards end-to-end traceability as a common goal is rewarding. The benefits are many and include improved maintenance and repair operations, reducing costs by automating operational procedures and improving traceability,” Ryan said.
Early adopters achieve success
One of Australia’s largest rail networks, Sydney Trains, has been very active driving improvements in their business.
The suburban passenger rail organisation is on track to having all the parts in its Rail Equipment Centre marked with an i-TRACE compliant label. It has also been actively involved in the Project i-TRACE Material Master Data work group, focussing on the efficient exchange of Material Master Data across the rail sector; a process which is currently very manual or non-existent.
Thermit Australia, a supplier of aluminothermic welding and glued insulated joints, began the journey of implementing GS1 standards in 2018. It worked with Victoria’s regional rail network, V/Line, to help standardise the identification (codification) and barcode labelling of stock to help fast track the management of inventory at V/Line’s main warehouse in Lara and the company’s additional 33 inventory depots across Victoria.
For assistance on Project i-TRACE contact GS1 on: firstname.lastname@example.org