The road-railer service, has the potential to be a very good supply chain solution from the Indian Railways. It would remove a lot of waste- multiple handling, waiting time and damages- from the supply chain.
For the road-railer to become a true supply chain solution, it is not sufficient to just produce road-railers. The complete end to end solution and service has to be designed and executed. The road-railer is the hardware. The software is the service design and concept. The hardware and software have to be designed well for this supply chain solution to work well.
The software [ service concept and design]
On a macro level, questions that need to be answered are; Who will own the road-railers? Who will provide the road-railers? Who will provide the service-Indian Railways or LSPs/3PLs? Will the road-railers be attached to container trains? Or will they be attached to regular freight trains?
On a micro-level the service concept will have to provide answer to many questions;How will a customer place an order for a road-railer? How much in advance will a customer have to book a road-railer? How will the customer’s order for a road-railer be confirmed? What will be guaranteed lead time to destinations? How will customers be updated on where their road railer is?
To develop the service concept and design the service, The Indian Railways should form a team with 3PLs/ LSPs, potential customers , supply chain consultants and Kirloskar who is developing the road-railer.
The Indian Railways should introduce the road-railer service in a phased manner, starting with any one route, learning from it before expanding it across the Indian Railways network.
Once the service commences the service provider should get feedback from customers on how well the service is performing. This should form part of their KPIs/scorecard.
The hardware [ the road-railer]
Kirloskar’s time frame of developing the road-railer in 12 months seems very aggressive. Any railway rolling stock has to undergo extensive static and running tests before it can be put into use. Kirloskar had the mandate to develop a road-railer for 8 years but did not even produce a prototype. So, realistically the road-railer is at least 36 months away.
To summarize, the road-railer is a very promising development in multi-modal logistics in India. We have to wait and see if the promises are met!
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