In terms of pure logistical activities: restricting variance creates efficiencies that add value. Use of standard wagons, for example, allows automated unloading. In non-automated scenarios, operations involving standard wagons are safer and quicker due to compatibility and familiarity. Restricted variance in handling practice and rolling stock contributes to value/service quality. Flexibility in scheduling and wagon availability maybe attractive offerings, but reduced variance in practice and equipment decreases risk.
In the non-rail activities of railfreight, usable, intuitive customer interface points and proactive communications by customer services are value-adding activities.
Rail logistics incorporates numerous material- and labour-intensive activities, including the classification of wagons, the coupling of wagons into trains, scheduling of routes, allocation of drivers, management of fuel, and the maintenance of rail and road vehicles and all necessary supporting equipment and infrastructure. Technologies that reduce fuel consumption are particularly highly sought, since any reduction in waste represents a reduction in cost. Reductions in cost can be translated into lowered prices or enable the reallocation of capital into expanding other customer value-adding activities. Waste is a significant dimension in the CSR portfolio of many companies.
In the context of logistics, “kaizen” (continuous improvement) relates typically to the efforts that companies take to foster innovations that promote time/cost-saving efficiencies, and, increasingly, that reduce the impact of transport (vehicles and infrastructure) on the environment, with particular focus on carbon emission reduction. Firms that have developed a culture of kaizen are seen as ambitious and adaptive, and thus make prestigious partners.