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Railroad System Employs Faxes That Work All the Livelong Day.

Railroad System Employs Faxes That Work All the Livelong Day

By upgrading its facsimile network with 110 digital desktop terminals, Chessie System Railroads is reducing leasing costs, boosting clerical efficiency and increasing data transmission speed. At the same time, the transportation company is maintaining compatibility with its existing facsimile devices.

According to C. J. Hanna, manager of Chessie's communication services, the company has already replaced 35 analog "faxes' with Xerox Telecopier 295 facsimile transceivers since January 1984. Another 75 of the compace, high-speed units will be on the job by mid-1985.

Because the 295's monthly leasing rate is $100 less than that of the older Telecopier 485, which is being phased out, the conversion is already saving Chessie $3,500 a month--a figure that will increase to $11,000 when the conversion is complete.

"But just as important as the cost savings that the newer units offer are the reliability and serviceability that we've gotten generally with our facsimile machines,' says Hanna. "During the two decades we've been using Xerox facsimile products, problems have been few and far between. When they have occurred, we've received prompt on-site service-- even in our remote locations in West Virginia, where driving 30 miles can take two hours.'

Hanna adds that the 295's speed is another important benefit. Defined as a Group III facsimile device by the CCITT (Consultative Committee on International Telegraph and Telephone), the unit can transmit or receive a page in as little as 20 seconds. Moreover, by utilizing a "white-line skipping' technique, Chessie's analog devices are effectively transmitting to the 295 at speeds up to 35 seconds per page. Normally, these Group II CCITT devices require three minutes to transmit a page.

The Chessie System is made up of the Chesapeake & Ohio and Baltimore & Ohio railroads and affiliated lines. A wholly owned subsidiary of CSX Corporation, it covers 13 states east of the Mississippi and employs 36,000 people. With headquarters offices in Baltimore, Cleveland, and Juntington, West Virginia, the system depends on an estimated 2,000 to 2,500 facsimile transmittals a day.

Chessie was one of the nation's first railroads to use facsimile machines. Its initial network of three facsimile devices in 1961 grew to 75 machines in less than a decade. Today's network of 150 facsimile terminals is expected to increase nominally in the future. These faxes are used in Chessie's legal and finance departments, in engineering, transportation and accounting offices, and in field yeards.

Transmitting Routing Data

Of the many applications that the Xerox 295 is being used for at Chessie, the main one is transmitting routing information to and from the railroad's customers and its subsidiary companies.

According to James Paladino, Chessie's manager of intermodal operations in Baltimore, routing information sent by facsimile helps to speed the piggyback trailers on flatbed cars to their final destination. The 295 automatically answers the telephone, receives the message on a 328-foot roll of paper, cuts received copies to the size of the originals, and disconnects from the line.

"Previously, routing our trailers required lengthy telephone contact between a clerk and customer,' says Paladino. "Now, we save not only our own clerical effort--far less time on the telephone --but also that of our customers.'

Paladino adds that the 295 also aids communication from Chessie's major hub cities to system headquarters in Baltimore by carrying load-operations reports, which are too cumbersome to put on a computer. These reports record the freight that a railroad terminal loads each day, and they're transmitted automatically at night. Early the next morning, they are incorporated into an operations summary report.

"The facsimile allows us to handle this loading information much more efficiently than we could by having clerks read it to one another over the phone,' says Paladino. "As a result, we're assured of having a report ready by 8 am that pinpoints any delays in our operations.'

Reporting on Train Operations

Another heavy fax user within Chessie is the company's Western Division office in Cincinnati. By 6 am each day, the division's business unit manager receives facsimiles of the presious day's train operations reports--about 24 pages from various locations in Indiana and Ohio that show whether trains are on schedule or delayed.

With these reports in hand, the manager holds a conference call at 7:45 am with personnel in the field to get train status updates. At 8 am, the manager participates in a conference call with other divisional business unit managers to discuss the status of all trains throughout Chessie.

"Our facsimiles enable us to transmit detailed train operations reports in their entirety as soon as they are compiled,' says Curt Webber, the Western Division's superintendent of administration. "We're able to keep track of our trains far more readily than we could if this information had to be called in from the field.'

Besides its daily interstate communications, Chessie has a facsimile application that is less far-flung, but just as important financially: the transceivers are used for local communication between the Cincinnati terminal service center and a railroad yard about three miles away. Inspectors measuring the dimensions of railroad cars send the results by facsimile from the yard to the terminal service center sporadically, 24 hours a day. The information ensures that the size of a train's cars does not exceed any of the bridge and tunnel clearances on the train's scheduled run.

"Without the fax, we'd require four messengers to deliver these measurements to the service center, around the clock, seven days a week,' says Webber. "So counting wages, benefits and vehicle costs, the facsimile machines are saving us over $200,000 a year at this one site alone.'

Cutting Substantial Costs

According to Communication Services Manager Hanna, the role of facsimile in cutting costs is so pervasive throughout Chessie that savings are difficult to quantify system-wide. He notes, however, a common theme of clerical savings in having personnel freed from lengthy phone work.

Webber agrees, citing as an example the clerical time saved in handling manpower usage reports from Chessie's busy terminal in East St. Louis, Illinois. These reports are routed via facsimile into the Western Division's centralized payroll office in Washington, Indiana.

The manpower reports show which people worked what jobs, their status as either full-time or extra help, their hours, and other details about the previous day's labor utilization. Using a 295 unit, a clerk in East St. Louis simply places a stack of completed manpower report forms on the self-feeding input tray. Previously, sending these reports required two clerks on the telephone--one on each end--up to an hour a day, five days a week.

Performing Emergency Duty

Besides performing its many regular tasks throughout Chessie, facsimile has distinguished itself in an emergency backup capacity. When a fire recently disabled the electrical service to the computer in the company's Baltimore headquarters, facsimile devices were used to transmit crucial information to Cincinnati to be manually entered into another computer. This information permitted the company's train terminals to sort cars out of arriving trains and place them correctly into outgoing trains.

"By pressing the facsimile units into service, we gained several hours' lead time,' recalls Webber. "Without this deft handling of information, we would have been forced to shut down operations for at least 12 hours.'

Connecting to Other Devices

As for the future of its facsimile operations, Chessie plans to take advantage of the 295's advanced digital capabilities. Unlike the older analog facsimile units in its network, this newer transceiver can be connected to personal computers, word processors and mainframe computer systems. In this capacity, the machine can serve as a draft-quality graphics printer, as well as a modem for communications with other facsimile/computer configurations. The resulting communications environment will support a far-reaching electronic-mail system by linking field facsimile units with computers throughout the company.

"Within the next year, we'll hook microcomputers up to our faxes to achieve automated, multi-document transmissions to several faxes simultaneously,' says Hanna. "When that happens, the facsimile units will begin to play an altogether new role in our effort to boost communications efficiency.'

Photo: C. J. Hanna, manager of communication services at the Chessie System's Baltimore headquarters, examines a faxed memo.

Photo: Legal Department Secretary Florence Best sends out a contract via facsimile.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Communications News
Date:Jan 1, 1985
Words:1371
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