NetControl Positions Union Pacific as Technology Trailblazer

Written by Rahul Jalali, Union Pacific Executive Vice President & Chief Information Officer
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Rahul Jalali, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer
Union Pacific

OMAHA –– Union Pacific made history on Jan. 6, 2024, when we became the first Class I railroad to modernize the “big three” core operating platforms: Positive Train Control (PTC), Computer-Aided Dispatch (CADx) and Transportation Management (NetControl).

I’ve heard the cutover likened to a heart transplant, and it’s a fitting description. NetControl – a modern, secure platform that supports plug-and-play integration capabilities with thousands of APIs – replaced an antiquated mainframe responsible for our core logistics for more than half a century.

Every day, NetControl intakes millions of messages from customers, other railroads and our own Union Pacific systems. It then applies business logic that triggers downstream activities driving 75 key internal and external reporting measures.

NetControl processes everything from rail car inventory and scheduling to waybill processing and train, locomotive and terminal management. For our customers, NetControl provides shipment tracking of every rail car within our terminals and helps safely assign each car to a train as it advances to its destination.

These activities, the core of what NetControl DOES, are critically important to operating safely – very much the beating heart of our railroad. But it’s the future unlock, what NetControl COULD DO, that’s most exciting.

Today in our rail yards, hundreds of employees make thousands of decisions daily to determine how to best execute our transportation plan. Platforms like NetControl – which are ripe for co-pilot technology – unlock a new era of railroading where rich, real-time data drives near real-time insights that can be leveraged to optimize performance. No more looking in the rearview mirror to make decisions.

The NetControl milestone also enables future investment by Union Pacific to build mathematically-derived and optimized transportation plans focused on efficiently using our critical resources. These data-driven insights will help determine the best routes and train schedules; reduce the number of times we handle a car; model resource allocation; and plan for growth as we consider rail corridor expansions and infrastructure investments.

Union Pacific employees monitor the railroad’s new NetControl platform, which launched Jan. 6.

Take for example Terminal Command Center, a new technology solution built on the heels of NetControl that will revolutionize how we manage and operate our rail yards. It provides a real-time visualization of terminal inventory and capacities with “look ahead” capabilities to detect constraints. Soon, intelligent planners will be incorporated into the platform to assist with complex decisioning. Terminal Command Center leverages dozens of APIs to directly tap into NetControl’s data-rich environment and existing functionality.

All of this potential unlock is just the beginning, and it couldn’t arrive at a more pivotal time. Our entire team is focused on delivering our strategy of Safety, Service and Operational Excellence = Growth, and NetControl provides the visibility needed to be fluid and agile as we respond to changing conditions.

I’ve been a part of some monumental projects in my career, but implementing NetControl tops the list – the future of railroading is here. 

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