AcceleRail Advisors is a young consultancy with an excellent standing on the market. They are experts in digitalisation for rail freight and intermodal transport, with focus on digitalization strategies, project management, requirements engineering, change and rollout management.

Interview with Olivier Genkin, Co-Founder & Managing Director of AcceleRail Advisors GmbH.

Easy Engineering: A brief description of the company and its activities.

Olivier Genkin: Bringing more traffic onto the railways through digitalization – this is the overarching goal of our commitment.

We know the business of the industry and its challenges and see ourselves as Partner and Service Provider of our clients – working with passion and full commitment.

Our target groups are shippers with their own sidings, (rail) forwarders, operators and rail transport companies.

We provide our clients with high-quality, methodical and technically solid consulting services. They are thus accompanied on their way towards future viability and digitalization.

In contrast to our competitors, our employees not only have strong methodological skills and digitalization know-how, but also the necessary expertise in rail freight and intermodal transport. This ensures that our consulting services are highly efficient and provided at eye level and in the language of the client.

E.E: What are the main areas of activity of the company?

O.G: First of all, we set up digitalization strategies for our clients. Here we give inspiration regarding what benefits can be expected by digitalization and the future trends. As analyze processes, derive business requirements, and set up the target IT landscape with a roadmap for stepwise implementation. Finally, we calculate business cases and prepare decision papers to help to convince the management teams to take the most beneficial decision. 

We also accompany our clients with the selection of the best possible service providers. For this, we help setting up a short list of vendors and guide the client through the RFP process and demo sessions. All these activities lead to a decision proposal for setting up the implementation project. 

One of our key activities is to enable a successful project implementation with an effective project management. Our experience is that it is crucial for the success of an IT project to have a strong business team to steer the IT implementation partners. With our specific and long-lasting experiences, we can support our customers when it comes to requirements’ management, but also with change management and ensuring the orchestration of all kinds of rollout activities. If a project is not running well, we execute an audit and ensure a proper re-alignment. 

Besides this, we also help our customers to set up transport concepts for efficient and robust rail and intermodal logistics, especially when it comes to shifting traffics from road to rail. This is highly successful thanks to our experience in scheduling for both infrastructure managers and railway companies, but also thanks to our network across the partners in the industry.

E.E: What’s the news about new products/services?

O.G: There are many IT software providers, but just a few are really specializing on rail and intermodal logistics. In this context, a few platform and Software-as-a-Service solutions are being developed and finally reach a certain level of maturity. This is a good moment for the players in the transport industry to drive a modernization of their IT landscape, towards a more future-proof, cost-efficient and sustainable level. This is especially relevant as many legacy systems need to be replaced in the next couple of years. 

Many projects are still long-lasting, partly even never-ending. It is sad to see how many projects do not get accomplished and how much energy of both managers and users is wasted. The trend to more agility and real innovation is getting more and more present, but there still is a long way to go. We are happy to help our customers to take the right decisions, get projects done and/or set up correctly. 

One of the current focus points is the improvement of the connection between the partners, by implementing portal solutions, APIs and implementing new standards such as TAF-TSI or the measurement of CO2 emissions. This field offers room to more collaboration which can only be beneficial to the entire industry. However, this also means that the players will need to review their market positioning and their current and future USP’s.

Following the trend of “Internet of Things”, many locomotive and wagon keepers have equipped their assets with telematics and sensors. Thanks to “digital twins”, these “intelligent assets” allow positive effects such as real-time tracking, more efficient resource utilization and better customer service. Here, we see huge benefits that have already been implemented. However, there still is much room for improvement, when it comes to implementing condition-based maintenance, calculations of ETA (estimated time of arrival), and many more business intelligence-based use cases. 

Olivier Genkin, co-founder and managing director of AcceleRail Advisors GmbH: “With 25 years in project management, almost 20 years in the railway business, and over 15 years in various strategic and operative leadership functions, Olivier knows the railway business very well. Working at DB for over 15 years, he was responsible for various digitalization projects and was often working with external partners. Those partners usually did not have sufficient expertise in the rail business and its processes. So Olivier was missing the effectiveness of the support and understood that there was no consultancy specialized in the digitalization of the rail freight industry. This is why he founded AcceleRail in 2021, to help the rail industry in its digital transformation. “

The next focus to come is the “intelligent train” with digital automatic coupling (DAC) and autonomous operations (train driving, shunting etc.). This field implies huge financial investments, but also efforts in further harmonization and collaboration. We are curious to see how and when the migration and implementation of these trends will be governed in the next couple of years. 

Last but not least, the industry will need to implement AI solutions (artificial intelligence) to foster efficiency and become more competitive in terms of cost. We can already observe the first few projects in this respect. This helps us to get a small idea of the huge possible benefits that these technologies can offer…

E.E: What is the state of the market where you are currently active?

O.G: There are multiple challenges the rail transport industry is currently facing. Across our customers, the key topics here are low margins and the lack of competitiveness. The infrastructure is in a critical state, as a result of the investments that were too low in the past decades. Since the liberalization of the market, the volumes shifted, and we observe a decline of volumes when it comes to single wagon load transports (where a customer needs a few wagons only for transporting his goods and not an entire train).

Still, the trend towards more sustainability will give a push to the rail industry. Moreover, subsidies are expected to support the rail business and reduce the competitive disadvantages the rail industry had in the past years. Last but not least, various new transport concepts such as multimodal wagon load corridors will enable growth in rail transport. 

When it comes to digitalization, the industry understands the need for modernization of legacy IT systems, and also sees the big business and efficiency gains that are possible by taking the right decisions. In the near future, a successful digital transformation will be a critical success factor for developing and/or maintaining a company’s USP.

E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?

O.G: The logistics market as a whole will continue to grow significantly. The desired shift of traffic to rail means a huge increase of the rail transport volumes in the short and long run. 

To realize this growth, the market participants need support in increasing economic efficiency, competitiveness, and accessibility to infrastructure and to intermodal rail transport. Particularly in the case of digitalization, the players often face a lack of own experts to implement the necessary changes sustainably and promptly in parallel with their day-to-day business.

E.E: What estimations do you have for the beginning of 2024?

O.G: Digital transformation is on the agenda of each relevant market player. The major question in 2024 is whether this topic will be one of the top priorities or whether other initiatives will take more attention and investment capacity. In a nutshell, the question is who sees digital transformation as critical success factor for implementing competitive advantages in the market. 

Most players see the need to set up a proper digitalization strategy, and to develop a target picture with a stepwise implementation approach. More and more companies see the need to have experts like AcceleRail accompanying them on this journey. Nobody wants to miss out the benefits that digitalization will bring them. 

Besides having external experts for setting up a digitalization strategy, most companies lack internal people for running the following implementation projects. We know that the business side of IT projects usually takes even more effort than the pure IT side. At the same time, the key persons of a company usually are involved in their daily business to 100%. This is where we as AcceleRail are happy to help with our expertise and experience.