Canadian National Railway (CN), the Montreal-based railroad that has worked in recent years to improve productivity and shorten transit times, is extending that approach to its seaport partners through a series of new "service level agreements."
In addition to establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) and measurement tools, the agreements formalize the tracking, electronic sharing, and application of the resulting data, CN said.
The aim of the service agreements is to increase coordination among the railroad, ports, terminal operators, and ocean carriers, according to Jean-Jacques Ruest, CN's chief marketing officer. Ruest delivered the keynote address at the recent American Association or Port Authorities (AAPA) 99th Annual Convention in Halifax, N.S. Some 700 port professionals from throughout the Western Hemiäphere attended the event.
Under the agreement, participants will collect and share data about the time spent at each handling point, including offloading the vessel, dwell time at the terminal, and rail transit times to destination. Terminal dwell times are a particular focus; data provided by the terminals will help CN identify what Ruest called "glowing boxes"—containers that have been on the ground too long and need special attention.
The data will be jointly analyzed and used to improve service and productivity, said Ruest. The details of data sharing and analysis are still being worked out and tested, but CN expects to exchange some types of data daily, he said in a press conference following his address.
The Port of Halifax and terminal operators Halterm and Ceres were the first to sign the service-level agreement; so far, CN has made similar deals with terminal operators in Vancouver, Prince Rupert, Montreal, and New Jersey.
The service-level agreements are one component of CN's growing focus on supply chain services. Toward that end, the railroad has opened a network of multimodal logistics parks that now do or will include warehousing, transloading, and free trade zones in Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, and Memphis. CN will open an additional logistics park in Calgary in 2013.