Canadian National Railway CIO’s First 100 Days Setting The Path To The Internet Of Things

June 01, 2015
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by Peter High, published on Forbes


Serge Leduc has been the chief information officer of Canadian National Railway for roughly a year and a half. In that time, he has engaged in a transformation of the function, and has facilitated the implementation of the technology to enable the Internet of Things at the railway. This is one of several changes he is enacting that he discusses in the interview below that describe how he and his team are making the railway more reliable and safer.

Among other insights of note, he highlights his time as a consultant to developing an analytical mindset and problem solver’s mentality.  He has attempted to instill this same thinking in his team.

(To listen to an unabridged version of this interview, please click this link. This 22nd article in the CIO’s First 100 Days series. To read the prior 21, please visit this link. To read future articles in the series, please click the “Follow” link above.)

Peter High: Serge, please describe your role and your plans for the foreseeable future at Canadian National.

Serge Leduc: As CIO I am responsible for IT operations of the company.  This is a 24-by-7 operation because CN is not a passenger transport, it’s just freight.  We have a network across North America, covering Canada from East to West, and covering the United States from North to South.  We are moving $250 billion worth of goods across North America, and our operations rely heavily on information systems for the back-office operation, as well as the front-office functions including the Internet of Things.  CN has invested in technology over the years to make sure that we have a safe operation.  There has been a lot of investment in business intelligence, operational systems, and investment to support our growth.  Our business model has evolved significantly over the years, moving to a greater customer service focus in order to improve the first and last line of our operations.  A lot of investment has been made in our company in order to support this.

High: You mentioned the network you have put together across Canada and within the US.  That network must include various trucking companies for the first mile and last mile, some of whom are also competitors of yours – a bit of “coopetition” that is inherent to your industry.  As you think about the systems integration and the data integration that is necessary to make sure that you are serving customers well, it seems like quite a complex web in order to get that right.  Can you talk a bit about your approach to sorting out the tracking of goods and ensuring that the data is shared across this ecosystem that you’ve built?

Leduc: That’s a very good question.  The company has invested a lot in real-time tracking systems in order to track where our locomotives are, and the overall state of the network.  Now we’re trying to extend that to our entire mode of business, including our partners in the trucking business.  All the investment over the last 20 to 25 years in the industry targeted the rail portion of the business, but now with the growth that we are seeing in inter-modal and supply chain solutions, which include all the services that we can provide to our customers in order to have an end-to-end service offering, we will need to invest even more in that space in order to cover the full integration of the services that we are providing to our customers.

To read the full article, please visit Forbes

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