One of the nimblest big data innovators to date is an American corporate titan in an industry that’s more often associated in popular imagination with the 19th-century Industrial Revolution, rather than the Industrial Internet.

Union Pacific Railroad, the largest railroad company in the U.S., has turned to big data to optimize its operations — from reducing train derailments and boosting shipping speeds to reducing emissions. According to a recent article by BigData-Startups, Union Pacific has taken the following steps and achieved the following benefits:

  • Predictive analytics help Union Pacific topredictcertain derailments days or even weeks before they are likely to occur. Using thermometers, acoustic, and visual sensors on the underside of each of its rail carriages, the company can detect and analyze imminent problems with tracks and wheels…These sensors have led to areductionin bearing-related derailments by 75% — a noteworthy success since a major derailment can cost as much as $40 million.
  • Union Pacific uses sensors in rails, switches, brakes, bearings, power plants, or RFID interminals and GPS units on trains in combination with weather data to ensure the safety of its trains…Data from employee clock-in and out is mapped against the actual schedule to see its effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Union Pacific had a carbon disclosurescoreof 98 out of 100 and is in the top 10% of all companies in the Global 500. Not a bad achievement for a companythat moves 260 million tons of coal annually…Overall Union Pacific was able to eliminate an estimated 33.5 million tons of greenhouse gases in 2012 using the latest technologies and data analytics.

Interest in the Industrial Internet and its potential to boost efficiency and productivity has steadily risen across all verticals. At the same time, companies are asking for concrete examples of where the Industrial Internet’s benefits are being realized — and quantified. Case studies like this one are critical to advancing adoption and innovation.