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"Till now approximately 23,000 wagons and 1200 coaches have been fitted with RFID tags"

S Swaminathan, COO, GS1 India, explains the crucial role his company has played for Indian Railways

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GSI India, S Swaminathan, Indian Railways

Please elaborate on the association of GS1 India with Indian Railways.

Indian Railways have roughly 2.5 lakh wagons, 60,000 coaches and 9,000 locomotives in its possession. The challenge that comes with such a big inventory is in its management and knowing what is located where. Also it is important to accurately capture data while in transit and use this for more efficient utilization of its rolling stock.

Indian Railways approached GS1 India for use of GS1 standards for AIDC purposes to overcome the above challenge. An agreement was signed on the use of GS1 EPC standards, encoded in radio frequency tags, to uniquely identify each and every rolling stock (wagon, coaches and locomotives) in the Railways.

These radio frequency tags are designed by Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS), in association with GS1 India. A unique feature about these tags is that they are as per GS1 GIAI-202 standard and have a user memory area. This allows the information in them to be read and used without any backend network connectivity. The Indian Railways has already tested their design at speeds of more than 180 km/h. These tags are also being integrated with trackside equipment for runtime detection of maintenance parameters.

Till now approximately 23,000 wagons and 1200 coaches have been fitted with radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags.

What are the various aspects where global identification standards are used by Indian Railways? And how this benefits Indian railways.

Indian Railways uses GS1 identifiers (GIAI – 202), encoded in radio frequency tags, to manage and trace its vehicles – wagons, coaches and locomotives, in near real time.

With the use of GS1 standards and RFID tags, Railways plans to improve the quality of information available for predicting maintenance work content, while also improving the overall quality of data capture in a more transparent and expeditious manner. RFID tags will be of significant importance in areas, such as freight, traction and coach maintenance as well as operations, in a foreseeable future.
Looking at the success of this project, Indian Railways is also planning to identify each component/spares using GS1 identifiers etched on parts using DPM (Direct Part Marking). This will help railways to identify parts, manage their warranties and plan repair operations better, throughout the lifetime of that part/component.

GTIN and Batch or Serial number will be encoded in GS1 Data matrix for this purpose.

Potentially, unique product identification can be used in several other areas in Indian railways. This will enable railways to maintain the lifecycle of products better besides tracking their real time 

What benefits Indian railways is deriving from adoption of GS1 standards?
With the implementation of this project, Indian railways is able to realise the benefit of real-time tracking of rail vehicles on the rail network. The complete solution also includes the integration of RFID readers with various equipment such as Train Presence Detectors (TPDs), trackside condition monitoring equipment etc. The combination of all of these allows for an early identification of rolling stock that may need maintenance. This will enable a paradigm shift on the Indian Railways in its move to improve reliability of its Rolling Stock, by moving from a predominantly time-based maintenance methodology to a condition based maintenance. The operational advantages in terms of improved availability and reliability of Rolling Stock will affect each and every customer of the Indian Railways.

What is the objective of unique identifying wagons, components and spares?
Indian railways has opted to uniquely identify wagons to accurately and automatically track rolling stock as it moves the railway network. Railways has decided to fit 3, 50,000 coaches and wagons with RFID tags by 2021. An RFID tag is basically an electronic tag that can exchange data with an RFID reader through radio waves. 

The technology will help Indian Railways track each of its coaches and wagons as a result of which, wherever necessary, the coaches and wagons is suitably deployed in a timely manner. The RFID tag provides wagon number as well as all information about it, including its past history. According to Indian Railways, the system will reduce network congestion, avoid issues of connectivity along with better utilization of assets.

With this, Indian Railways will be able to improve the reliability of its rolling stock, thereby shifting from time-based maintenance to condition-based maintenance.

Objective of identifying components/spares: To manage their warranties and plan repair operations better throughout the lifetime of that part/component.

Overall objective: To improve the reliability of its rolling stock.’

How does the unique identification help manufacturing companies / brand owners?
Since railways is one of the largest logistics provider in the country, several manufacturers uses its service for transporting goods from one part of the country to another. The unique identification of rail vehicles – wagons, coaches and locomotives, will help manufacturing companies to identify and track their stocks while they are in transit.

Additionally, there are some rail wagons owned by private organizations, mostly manufacturers and logistics providers. The unique wagon identification will help accurately track their wagons in real time to enhance their service reliability. This would also include receipt of accurate, real-time, system generated reports, which are helpful in managing operations, such as booking wagons, ensuring predictive maintenance , filing insurance claims, etc.

Some of the other benefits that manufacturers can potentially derive out of this project are:
• Ability to manage logistics better with complete visibility of what is moving here
• Improved reliability of rail transport
• Better reporting on in-transit stocks
• Ability of track wagons on rail networks, so that they can be scheduled to the nearest yard for repair, maintenance, etc.
• Maintaining smooth freight operations

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