Tuesday 19 December 2023

UIC Talent Expertise & HR Development seminar explores the impact of AI on railway jobs

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On 6 December 2023, the UIC Talent Expertise Development Unit held a seminar entitled “ How will artificial intelligence impact jobs in railway operations? ” at the UIC Headquarters in Paris and online.

The seminar delved into the practical implications of artificial intelligence (AI) in railway operations, focusing on its impact on jobs. As the railway industry embraces AI, this is causing a profound shift in the nature of work, talent management, and training.

The day began at 9:00 with an introduction from Miguel Viana, Chair of the Talent and Expertise Development platform, and Meryem Belhaj-Clot, Deputy HR Director, and Head of the Talent Expertise & HR Development Unit. The programme included five sessions covering various aspects of AI in railway operations, talent management, and skill development.

In the opening session, McKinsey’s Raphaëlle Chapuis and Leonid Melnikov presented the trends in adopting AI within the rail sector. Drawing on their expertise, they showed the transformative potential of AI and shed light on the emerging trends which are shaping the rail industry. It was a comprehensive discussion on the evolving role of AI and its implications for rail operations. They identified 3 use case models: internal research groups, dedicated entities staffed with analytics talents, and those powered by external solutions and talents.

Guillaume Gach, Senior Advisor in the UIC Telecom & Signalling Unit, took the stage to highlight the practical aspects of AI for railways, as well as UIC’s 3-year Artificial Intelligence Project for Predictive Maintenance. Gach explained what the potential business benefits were to railway operations, such as improved asset use, increased safety, reduced maintenance costs, increased efficiency and resource allocation, and finally improved customer satisfaction. He also identified the key challenges, including the governance, availability, and quality of data, as well as quantifying benefits vs costs, and the absence of a legal framework.

Returning for the second session, Chapuis and Melnikov explained how and why AI will have a broad impact across the job market and spur growth in key occupational categories. Their presentation demonstrated that AI’s emergence will reshape talent pools by requiring different abilities and the re-skilling of part of the current workforce.

Ricardo Parreira, CEO of PHC Software, introduced Generative AI and how it will have a transformative role in HR practices for the year 2024. It was a thought-provoking exploration of how Generative AI is poised to revolutionise talent management and HR strategies in the coming years.

In the third session, Virginie Papillault, UIC Head of Safety Culture and Organisational Factors, and Tjaša Govedič, Professional Associate at the Slovenian Railways Training Centre, gave a presentation on MIND4CHANGE, a UIC project aiming to prepare railway staff for changes in work culture linked to digital and technical innovation. The objective is to facilitate cultural change by influencing behaviour at all levels of an organisation, in order to enhance safety performance and improve operational excellence by taking digital and technical innovations into account.

Barbara Grau, Head of European and International HR Affairs at SNCF, shared SNCF’s experience with AI and how it helps to manage talent and careers. This presentation provided an insight into the system employed by SNCF, its skills analysis, and how the career opportunities being given to SNCF employees are more objective, non-discriminatory, richer, and more relevant.

Romain Letailleur, Head of Digital Learning and Educational Innovation at SNCF, shared insights into the practical implementation of AI in training SNCF’s employees. He explained how SNCF incorporates AI into its educational programmes, facilitating the seamless integration of AI tools into the day-to-day professional lives of railway personnel.

After lunch, Parinaz Bazeghi, Senior Advisor for Digital Projects at UIC’s Freight Department, shared the results of the innovative Translate4Rail project. The digital tool is designed to enhance communication between train drivers and signallers, showcasing the practical application of AI in facilitating seamless interaction and helping to overcome interoperability and language challenges within the rail industry.

Prof. Richard Pywell, Head of Biodiversity Science at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and Lorenzo Franzoni, UIC Junior Sustainability Advisor, gave a presentation on AI-driven biodiversity monitoring. The presentation focused on how AI technologies are deployed to monitor and enhance biodiversity in railway ecosystems. With a focus on sustainability, it also demonstrated the positive environmental impact AI could have in railway operations.

Denis Sabatier, Safety Expert at Clearsy, gave an introduction on the UIC New Methods for Safety Demonstrations (NMSD) project, which is a safety paradigm using machine learning with verification. The presentation explained how AI, combined with rigorous verification processes, could enhance safety in railway operations. He also underlined the impact of machine learning on job roles within the safety landscape.

Julien Boucault, Head of Openness to Competition and Innovation at EPSF, gave a presentation from the perspective of a national safety authority (NSA) on railway safety and AI. He discussed how regulatory bodies view and navigate AI’s integration into the railway sector, emphasising safety and innovation. He also identified and explained the competencies railway operators and NSAs need in terms of 3 main aspects: certifiable, auditable and reproducible.

Marie-Hélène Bonneau, Head of the UIC Security Division, and Laura Petersen, UIC Senior Security Research Advisor, examined the ways in which AI could support rail security. The presentation offered a comprehensive view of the security implications and benefits associated with integrating AI technologies, as well as the current challenges, providing a roadmap for bolstering rail security measures.

Philippe De Laharpe, R&D Project Leader at SNCF Voyageurs, gave a presentation entitled “AI in the back-office at SNCF Voyageurs: improving maintenance & operations”. He demonstrated how SNCF Voyageurs has leveraged AI and machine learning to streamline maintenance processes and improve overall operational efficiency.

The Q&A sessions that followed each presentation allowed the participants to actively engage with the speakers, fostering a dynamic exchange of ideas and experiences. The discussions not only highlighted the significant strides the railway sector has taken to embrace AI but also underscored the imperative for ongoing cooperation, innovation, and adaptability.

Meryem Belhaj-Clot closed the seminar by expressing her gratitude to all of the speakers and participants. She concluded by saying that throughout the day, in-depth discussions, knowledge-sharing, and exploration had taken place. AI is impacting jobs, skill development, and operational strategies in all railway sectors, including in sustainable development, safety, security, maintenance & operations. She invited the members to stay connected, as the Talent & Expertise Development Platform (TEDP) aims to nurture a community dedicated to advancing HR practices in the age of AI.

For more information, please contact Meryem Belhaj-Clot at belhaj-clot@uic.org

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Session 1 Opening Keynotes(Session 1 Opening Keynotes
Session 1 Opening Keynotes
Chapuis Mc Kinsey(Chapuis Mc Kinsey
Chapuis Mc Kinsey
Guillaume Gash UIC(Guillaume Gash UIC
Guillaume Gash UIC
Barbara Grau SNCF(Barbara Grau SNCF
Barbara Grau SNCF
Romain Letailleur SNCF(Romain Letailleur SNCF
Romain Letailleur SNCF
Session first part use cases(Session first part use cases
Session first part use cases
Julien Boucault EPSF(Julien Boucault EPSF
Julien Boucault EPSF
Philippe De Laharpe SNCF Voyageurs(Philippe De Laharpe SNCF Voyageurs
Philippe De Laharpe SNCF Voyageurs