November 17, 2016 Alumnus’ company keeping Rio’s mass transit on track

MetroRio - Nogueira

Imagine the complexity of monitoring the maintenance requirements of a city’s mass transit system. Several trains with multiple rail cars and each car, with its numerous components, requiring regular service. And each time a train is taken offline for unplanned maintenance, service delays result.  

That was the challenge facing MetroRio, the mass transit subway system in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which has 37 miles of track and 41 stations: How can mass transit system operators reduce unnecessary maintenance delays while ensuring safety and efficiency?

Enter students from Fisher’s Masters of Business Logistics Engineering (MBLE) program.

The MBLE is an interdisciplinary graduate program where students are simultaneously trained in logistics management at Fisher and in logistics engineering in the College of Engineering. As a capstone to the program, students work in teams to provide free logistics consulting to corporations under the direction of Professor Walter Zinn.

In 2013 for the Metro Rio project, students worked with the transit system’s management on a case study to analyze its railcar maintenance process. The team’s recommendation: implement radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to monitor rail components and their maintenance schedules.

To bring the MBLE team’s recommendation to life, Fisher alumnus Alexandre Nogueira (MBLE ’09), a native of Brazil and co-owner of IntertechRail, a rail technology company based in Miami, Florida, worked with the students and provided information about available RFID technologies and automatic equipment identification systems. The students found Nogueira through a Fisher MBLE LinkedIn group he established when he was a student in the program.

Because of the harsh conditions inherent in rail systems, such as extreme vibrations and temperature fluctuations, the team discovered that installing traditional RFID technology—like the systems used in warehouses—has limitations that prevent its use. To overcome this challenge, Nogueira’s company partnered with TransCore, a leading provider of RFID technology applications for transportation, and recently implemented the solution that will help keep MetroRio on track by providing operating efficiencies and cost savings.

Now, the MetroRio system monitors all rail cars as they are taken offline for maintenance. RFID tags are affixed to each rail car and its critical components. When a car enters the railroad’s maintenance yard and service is performed on a component, such as the air conditioning or a traction motor, the system automatically identifies it and sends its information to MetroRio’s servers. The system is used to optimize each rail car part by calculating the correct time to perform preventive maintenance and identify how long the part is used, which creates costs savings for MetroRio by avoiding service disruptions.

And the solution was a win-win for the students, who had the hands-on experience of working with MetroRio, and for Nogueira’s company, which ultimately landed the contract from the masstransit operator.

“It was a great experience for me to interact with the MBLE students after I finished my master’s degree at Fisher,” Nogueira said. “The students did a great job preparing a case study for MetroRio, which decided to implement the project with IntertechRail and TransCore because of our knowledge about the project, connection with the Fisher team, product quality and our experience.”

Nogueira’s education and his in-depth technical knowledge, combined with his global perspective and appreciation for the education he received from his alma mater, helped him provide a robust learning experience for the Fisher MBLE students who participated in the MetroRio project. That same type of hands-on perspective at a major player in the transportation and logistics industry was part of what made Nogueira’s Fisher MBLE experience rewarding for him.

Nogueira said his most memorable experience involved a group project for Columbus-based shoe retailer DSW. The project entailed a complete review and analysis of DSW’s transportation and warehouse/distribution structure. Most significant for Nogueira was that his team achieved the same results as an experienced company that was hired to do the same job at the same time.

Additionally, Nogueira’s MBLE experience prepared him to own his own business, because the program helped him understand the connection between engineering and business. After earning his MBLE, his company grew because he was able to visualize how his clients could improve their logistics performance with the use of technology.

Nogueira, who holds a Bachelor’s in engineering and an MBA with a concentration in international business, said that when he was considering pursuing his MBLE he chose Fisher because the program had the right mix of logistics engineering and business.

“Before, IntertechRail used to sell technology as is,” Nogueira said. “After Fisher, we restructured our business model and we started to analyze the business logistics and transportation structure of each customer/railroad before selling any technology. This change allowed us to add way more value to our products and services.”