Cas Indian railways

Topics: RFID, Indian Railways, Ministry of Railways Pages: 36 (6526 words) Published: October 11, 2013
Journal of Information Technology (2009) 24, 392–400

& 2009 JIT Palgrave Macmillan All rights reserved 0268-3962/09 palgrave-journals.com/jit/

Teaching Case

Competing technology options and
stakeholder interests for tracking
freight railcars in Indian Railways
Shirish C Srivastava1, Sharat S Mathur 2, Thompson SH Teo3
1

Operations Management and Information Technology Department, HEC School of Management, Paris, France; Centre for Railway Information Systems, Indian Railways, New Delhi, India; 3
School of Business, National University of Singapore, Singapore 2

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Correspondence:
SC Srivastava, Operations Management and Information Technology Department, HEC School of Management, Paris, ´
1 Rue de la Liberation, Jouy-en-Josas Cedex, 78351, France.
Tel: þ 33 1 39 67 95 66;
Fax: þ 33 1 39 67 94 15;
E-mail: srivastava@hec.fr

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Abstract
This teaching case examines the implementation of a new technology for tracking individual freight railcars (wagons) by Indian Railways. After exploring multiple ‘technological options,’ the Indian Railways decided to undertake a pilot project based on timetested Automatic Equipment Identification system using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. However, a number of other technological options are now available, which include EPC Gen2-based RFID systems, Global Positioning System solutions, Optical Character Recognition (OCR)-based systems, and manual hand-held data collection devices integrated with the current Freight Operations System. Each of these systems has its own advantages and limitations. Although Indian Railways officials are going ahead with the pilot project, they are uncertain as to the appropriate technological choice, given the wide range of available technology options. Further, they are faced with competing interests from different stakeholder groups (departments), who favor different technologies.

Journal of Information Technology (2009) 24, 392–400. doi:10.1057/jit.2009.9 Published online 8 September 2009
Keywords: RFID; GPS; technology choice; options; railroad; India

Introduction
anbir Singh was concerned. He had become the head
of the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS)
in 2007, after spending more than 33 years handling
various operational assignments for the Indian Railways.1
His last assignment had been as the Head of Operations of
one of the Railway Zones2 of the Indian Railways; he had
worked as a senior IT executive in the Indian Railways’
Corporate Office a few years before and prior to that he had headed the computerized ticketing system in one of the
Zones. So it was with a sense of familiarity that he had
taken up the assignment in CRIS 8 months previously.
In recent years, CRIS had been entrusted with over 20
large new projects pertaining to almost all technology-related aspects of railway working by the Indian Railway Board. As
India’s GDP grew by over 9% annually between 2005 and
2008, operational efficiency through IT assumed ever greater

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importance in the Indian Railways, which had committed
itself to capital expenditure on Information Technology of
over INR3 52 billion (USD 1.3 billion) between 2007 and
2012, most of it channeled through CRIS.4
Amidst the burst of frenetic activity that resulted, it was
easy to lose sight of strategic issues. But Ranbir Singh
realized from the beginning that one innocuous project – a pilot project to track a small sample of Indian Railways’
fleet of 200,000 wagons (freight railcars) using Radio
Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, estimated to
cost a mere INR 10 million (USD 250,000) – had the
potential to change the way in which its freight operations
could work in the future. Handled well, the technology
could boost the efficiency of freight operations, yielding
revenue gains of up to INR 30 billion (USD 750 million)
annually. Handled improperly, the resulting chaos could

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