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ARTICLE Solving problems and creating a better world with digitalisation

Release time:2019-12-12 14:04:41


       Global Railway Review spoke to Thymo van den Brug at ProRail to discover how he creates digital solutions to the company’s problems and how ProRail is taking the first steps to creating a better world. ProRail is responsible for the Dutch rail network – the busiest in Europe, enabling 1.1 million train journeys every day. It is also a front-runner when it comes to digitalisation, recently significantly accelerating its innovation efforts in the areas of digital train operation and asset management, as well as the use of new technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data. It also doesn’t shy away from trying to solve world issues with the use of digitalisation, making efforts to be sustainable and green. With so much potential afforded by digitalisation, how does it begin to narrow down which innovation to implement next?


       “The root of digitalisation is to start by looking at opportunities or problems in your business and try to really help those problems get solved,” said Thymo van den Brug, Manager of Development, Asset Management Information at ProRail, when we ask him. “It helps if you can create a showcase where other people in the business can relate to and can touch so they can know what the next step is for themselves. Improvement will come eventually, but it’s nice if you can just help somebody solve that problem by using data or using an algorithm. Then it’s more likely to be implemented, because otherwise the thing you bring along may be nice but no-one is waiting for it, or people are not as open to listening to you and then it might not get implemented.”“So it’s about creating a solution to the problem your colleague worries about before they fall asleep. If you can help in a digital way, it helps you create a mindset that digital can help the business.”


Creating a new world with data and digitalisation


As the self-proclaimed ‘Dataman’ of ProRail it’s not surprising that Thymo strongly believes in the power of data to solve the business’ problems. “Part of the job is creating a new world not based on problems, but based on possibilities. But it’s interesting to relate to the real business goals and the real business problems,” he told us. “Otherwise, you are just floating around being the guy with the nice things, but not the guy that helps me solve my problem. So what really helps is using data to create different estimates and insights that they didn’t have before, or correlations that they didn’t see earlier, or maybe calculate options that are beyond human possibilities because we have a computer that can do a million type of calculations.”“Sometimes the computer gives them insights on things that they didn’t know of and it’s interesting, you should always work together with people that know about new technologies and people that know the real business. If you combine them, it helps to create the most valuable product for them.” Data can, of course, be used to improve a variety of aspects within a rail system, but Thymo’s focus is on how it can improve assets. 


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