Earlier this year the Dutch Railways (NS) approached their supplier and long-time partner Siscog, specialized in software solutions for optimized resource planning and management in transportation companies, with a challenge: optimize the daily work assignments of their Service & Security (S&S) personnel.
Siscog, accepted the challenge and, together with NS, started a seven-month research project named TUTIS: “Teams: Universalized Tasks Involving Security”, which involved not only assigning work to S&S personnel but also performing information-driven deployment of these workers. The project resulted, among other things, in a prototype that produces an optimised duty work plan for the S&S personnel.
The S&S personnel included in the study belong to a group of 700 people spread across 13 regions throughout The Netherlands. They work 24/7 in teams of two or more people and their job is to patrol NS’s stations and trains, guaranteeing safety for both passengers and other NS personnel, and controlling fare evasion. During rush-hours they may also be found providing information and guidance to passengers.
The fact that teams are constantly increasing and decreasing during the day to adapt dynamically to activity requirements is an aspect that makes the planning even more difficult.
The project addressed the generation of tasks and duties for the S&S personnel, in a context where the workers are clearly not enough to perform all tasks. The underlying challenge was to choose the best work assignments for these workers, that is, the work assignments that minimize the overall risk of undesired incidents, such as lack of security or fare evasion. Work assignments include patrolling specific train trips and checking tickets at specific platforms at particular days and times. The place and time where risk is higher changes from day to day, as it depends on historical information and on special events that might occur in certain days. Therefore, the structure of the problem is dynamic as a good work assignment today is different from a good work assignment tomorrow.
Other challenging aspects of the problem include: the need to combine work that must be performed with work that can be performed; the need to combine workload-based scheduling with task-based scheduling; the need to cope with the choice, for each time of the day, to either assign all the workload or to assign none, because assigning it partially does not decrease the risk or prevent fare evasion; and also the need to assure that, at any time of the day, there is always someone present in the range of any place in the network where an emergency situation can occur.
The Dutch Railways’ Head of Intelligence, Hans Munk, pointed out yet another challenge of the project: "The Service and Security personnel processes are still evolving internally at NS, making it even harder, at this time, to specify and develop a good supporting tool for this process”, and added that “through years of cooperation with NS, Siscog has built a good knowledge about NS’s processes and has proven to be a reliable partner. This makes them a good study partner when it comes to new developments at NS. We are very pleased to see that this is reflected in this study, and it has resulted in a very good prototype”.
The prototype spawn under TUTIS proved to be capable of handling all the specificities of the S&S personnel’s work in an optimized and timely manner, and has been concluded and deemed a success this November.
Ernesto Morgado, Siscog’s Chairman, said “we couldn’t be more pleased with the tremendous accomplishment on this project with NS. Achieving the goal that we aimed for, the optimization of these very specific types of duties, is quite rewarding. Also, it is always very gratifying to work with NS, a long time, reliable, professional and result-driven partner”.
TUTIS, which also means “secure, safe and protected” in Latin, was based on Siscog’s Crews Duty Scheduler, and is the fifth project developed under the protocol “Research Projects for Intelligent Automated Support for Planning of Rail Resources” signed in 2007 between Siscog and NS.