Modernising rail freight in the UK

The back story

DB Cargo is the UK’s largest rail freight company, providing quality services and logistic solutions to a wide range of customers – from automotive to construction. DB Cargo’s mission is to be the first choice for rail freight in the UK. Their parent company, Deutsche Bahn AG, is the second largest transport and logistics company in the world.

Two people standing around a man on a computer pointing at his screen

The problem

As logistics is a complex, interconnected chain, disruptions at any link of the network can cause considerable delay and cost to the end customer.

Several years ago, DB Cargo approached us (Jade) to create two systems to help facilitate a big part of this chain: a customer-ordering system and a consolidated planning tool. With their quest for continual improvement, DB Cargo challenged us to see how we could improve their order to cash processes (previously run through spreadsheets and manual processes) and raise their operational efficiencies to a new level.

DB Cargo also wanted a mobile customer portal application that would meet customer needs and to show that they can innovate. They wanted to continually improve the portal with small regular feature releases. We accepted the challenge.

The solution

Jade’s UX design team came on site and ran a design sprint. We completed the initial research with the DB Cargo sales, marketing, and ops teams and then identified key customers that we wanted to involve. We visited these customers and facilitated on-site video interviews with them. We then fed that information back to DB Cargo, some of which came as a shock.

Our design team created a working prototype of the portal to show to the customers. Creating the prototype took about a day, the bulk of the work was validating that we were building the right thing.

Once the order to cash and customer portal ideas were validated, our design and engineering teams began work on building the minimal viable product (MVP). The portal MVP was hosted by Jade in Azure and connects back to the core JADE DB Cargo system. We also added the new order to cash functionality to the existing JADE customer-ordering system.

While both build projects were underway, our Managed Services team migrated all the existing DB Cargo JADE production and tests systems from their on-prem physical servers to an AWS and Azure-based cloud model, which is fully managed by Jade on behalf of DB Cargo.

All three projects were completed in parallel within the space of around eight months, ahead of time and on budget.

The outcome

Our ongoing partnership with DB Cargo has so far included:

  • Undertaking the UX, design, and delivery of the redesigned portal with improved usability and increased customer engagement.

  • A machine-learning engine to provide ETA for running trains via the customer portal (still in beta).

  • Full cloud migration of managed services and reduced dependency on physical infrastructure.

  • The generation of fresh customer insights through UX techniques, which help inform DB Cargo’s future decisions.

  • The creation of a five-year digital innovation roadmap that maximises cost savings and increases customer engagement, while improving customer experience.

It has been an adventurous journey that DB Cargo UK and Jade have been on so far. Yet with the innovation and roadmap before us, it feels like this journey has just got underway.