Innovation and technology

Innovation is one of the supporting pillars of MRS.  The Company encourages its employees to seek solutions enabling the transport of the millions of tons that pass through its rail tracks with incrased safety, efficiency and sustainability, in addition to being concerned with the experience of its customers. In order to ensure that employees are the key players in innovation, MRS started in 2020 a structured process for Innovation Management. Through Committees, each department will foster Innovation in the business areas and will have the opportunity to practice experimentation and prototyping of innovative projects.

As a way of disseminating the culture of innovation, MRS also implemented the CIG Program (Continuous Improvement Groups). It is aimed at encouraging the participation of all operational employees in the constant search for better results through innovation and continuous improvement. The groups are composed voluntarily and are focused on problem solving. In its first cycle, 80 work groups were formed with four hundred and eighty employees.

In addition, MRS is developing a Lean Culture Plan with a focus on changing the level of results in search of operational excellence through the dissemination of Lean Manufacturing philosophy at all levels of the company. The Plan aims to simplify the concepts so as to provide a broad understanding of the methodology. One of the pillars is the Training and Development of MRS employees. The expected result is the empowerment of areas to seek process improvements and waste elimination. All work will be done in a way that ensures harmony between safety, reliability, productivity, and cost.

Ideas in Action

Also noteworthy is the Ideas in Action (IA) Program, focused on encouraging the generation of individual or collective innovative ideas, which has been seeking solutions since 2001 to ensure productivity and the improvement of internal processes. Year after year, the program has been improved and today it has become a tool for proactive innovation and leadership. The results below show the progress of I.A. both in terms of the number of ideas implemented and the time taken to complete the initiative. In 2020, 94 ideas were implemented, representing a 19% growth as compared to 2019 and over 100% when compared to 2018.

Conclusion of ideas (%)

Conception time, prototyping, test, validation and escalation (median in days)

Implemented ideas (quantity)

An example of an idea implemented through the I.A. is the Automation of Chemical Weeding, in which the employee now sprays the pesticides from inside the cab of the railroad vehicle. The gains captured through this idea are linked to the fulfillment of the requirements of the regulatory agency for the activity, reduction of the environmental impact and 100% increase in employee’s productivity. Learn more with the video:

Innovative solutions

After the rupture of Dam at the Córrego do Feijão mine, in Brumadinho (MG), MRS was faced with a major challenge: other dams were interdicted, generating a Self-Rescue Zone (ZAS acronym in Portuguese), making it impossible for MRS to operate at the Andaime Terminal in Itabirito (MG). In a quick and innovative response, developed internally in record time by the MRS team, a technology emerged capable of guaranteeing the railway operation at ZAS, through an unmanned train. 

Named SLOA (Autonomously Operated Locomotive System), the solution was conceived on a platform based on microcontrollers (ESP32), and once validated, it received high-performance and robust equipment, the Programmable Logic Controllers. Based on geographic coordinates (GPS position), the system performs commands on the locomotive from relays and electromechanical actuators, which guarantee the circulation of the standard iron ore transport train, with 136 gondola cars (model GDT or GDU). 

Several resources ensure the safety of this operation, which has internationally certified industrial automation equipment for railways; CBTC signaling system; redundant systems for stopping the train, such as the Track Circuit (CDV acronym in Portuguese), portable radio and the locomotive emergency device (DEL acronym in Portuguese). If necessary, it is possible to control the train remotely through an industrial tablet, which communicates directly with the locomotive and can also be used via the LTE network. 

Having innovation as an imperative pillar of MRS’ business ensured a quick response to the challenge posed by the Brumadinho dam break, and, as a result, the maintenance of a safe and efficient transportation flow in the ZAS. The blocking of people movement in the area impacts not only the transit of the train, but also the necessary maintenance on the stretch, which has given rise to another challenge for MRS: how to ensure the remote maintenance of the network? Once again MRS developed in-house an innovative solution, in which Railvac traveled the section performing the necessary maintenance, whereby the command was performed by an operator on a locomotive outside ZAS, through a smartphone application.

Learn more about the operation of unmanned train.

MRS has been recognized as a pioneer railroad in Brazil by enabling remote-controlled maneuvers. The system ensures accurate control of speed and brakes, smooth and fast couplings and immediate response of the equipment to the operator and thus, the safe and agile driving of the locomotive for up to 1.6 Km.

The system allows two remote operators, in different locations, to switch the command of the same locomotive. Several safety devices assure the interruption of the operation in case of risk, such as the operator’s fall sensor, the monitoring of losses and signal health and the confirmation of system inactivity.

The IoT device is based on 4G technology and ensures online monitoring of the activities, parameters and location of locomotives and operators. This innovative system changed the level of operational performance of MRS maneuvers in yards and terminals. Learn more in

The energy efficiency indicator measures fuel consumption (diesel) to transport 1,000 tonnes per km (liters per thousand TKB). MRS has achieved 18.2% improvement in the energy efficiency of its operation over the past 10 years with the development and implementation of technologies embedded in locomotives. Systems such as AESS (Auto Engine Start Stop), which automatically shuts off the diesel engine when it is not required, and RIS (Remote Isolator Switch), which allows controlling the power delivery between the train’s locomotives and thus optimizing diesel consumption, have enabled efficiency and cost reduction in MRS operation.

 

MRS developed a system that integrated the information on its scales with the information of Heavy Haul customers. The weighing information of the trains is processed and sent by the system, which identifies the existence of any anomaly in the loading and unloading and and triggers alarms that allow for correction in a timely manner. The system indicates the adjustment to be performed, creates the necessary activity and ensures the information in real time and agility in corrections. Find out more about the railway scale in

Using RPA concepts (Robotic Process Automation), MRS implemented the Yard Control Center to optimize the management of iron ore terminals in Minas Gerais. Voice communication systems were expanded, routines were automated and processes were redesigned. The collection of data from the operational team via mobile allowed to increase the assertiveness of programming. The new model brought gains in energy efficiency, quality in customer service and productivity for terminals.

As innovation at MRS is an ongoing process, the Company continues to work on new challenges. One of them is to increase the train size based on embedded technologies. The results will be increased transport capacity, increased operational efficiency, reduced fuel consumption, and less interference in the urban centers crossed by MRS railroad. 

Another project in progress is the use of videoanalytics in the process of identifying load anomalies in trains in transit. The results in the pilot project were encouraging and MRS expects that, after the technology implementation, a great advance will be achieved in the management and safety of the transported cargo.

In 2020, MRS took another step towards its digital transformation with the Conecta (Connect) Project, which will allow the unification of technology systems, improving processes and flows. To this end, the SAP platform will be deployed, enabling the standardization of the information generated and the unification of the systems in all plants in Brazil. It is expected that Conecta Project will be fully delivered by 2022. As a result, MRS will benefit from accelerators based on industry best practices; integrated platform, with transactional and analytical view in real time; transforming manual tasks into business analysis; ensuring data governance and reliability; in addition to innovative features for MRS.

Learn more in MRS Channel

Cyber risks are increasingly relevant, leading to the need to adopt a careful and accurate view to ensure availability, confidentiality and integrity of information from MRS operations.  MRS’s Information Security Policy defines and standardizes protection and privacy of information, and was based on rules of international standard ISO/IEC 27000, which is a guide to the best security management practices.

The entire Information Security operation is supported by a robust technological structure that encompasses the whole architecture of information systems composed by modern market solutions and, also, by specific development solutions to meet the specific features of a railway. The high performance datacenter and telecom infrastructure and the security and availability that connect the entire MRS stand out, providing communication, collaboration and productivity for all employees, in addition to connectivity for IoT and cloud solutions. 

In 2020, the Company continued to invest in the development and implementation of information security solutions, which include connectivity redundancy, infrastructure protection, vulnerability management, storage and processing. For the coming years, even higher investments are planned, with the implementation of new technologies, digital transformation, improvement of IT processes, adaptation to new Brazilian legislation, data protection, and continued acculturation through corporate awareness campaigns.

Assessment of risks related to Information Security is carried out together with internal areas, business partners and the Information Technology team. Violations of security controls or failure to comply with the policy or rules and procedures are considered serious violations.  Its inestigation is made by the Information Security Management Committee.

As regards the general data protection law (Law 13.709/18), there is a project in progress involving all sectors of the company, aimed at identifying gaps, existing controls and mainly development of corrective actions and amendments, that must be adopted in operations so that MRS remainst in compliance with the law.  Senior leadership supports and is sponsoring the privacy program, led by the Legal and Information Technology area, ensuring the investments required for the IT governance plan.

Innovation as part of DNA

In 1998, MRS made its first significant investment in a pioneering project, a Train Simulator that, 23 years later, has trained over 5,000 employees. From then on, it has never stopped. In addition to the innovations highlighted in 2020, MRS maintains a number of other pioneering initiatives in the railway sector. In 2012, it took the first step to eliminate bottlenecks in rail access to the Port of Santos, relieving the highways, by joining the Swiss manufacturer Stadler to create locomotives for the company’s operation in Serra do Mar, in São Paulo, so-called “Cremalheiras”.

Ensuring the operational safety in terrains with aslope of up to 10% (upwards or downwards), locomotives are driven with a toothed wheel geared to a third rail, also toothed, placed between the two regular cargo rails. These locomotives were created especially for this project and are 60% more efficient than the old ones.

Other example is that MRS is the first freight railway company worldwide to implement the communication-based control system for trains: the CBTC (Communication-Based Train Control). The system allows lower traffic intervals due to an accurate electronic monitoring.  So, the company widens its cargo capacity and ensures higher safety, preventing one train composition from entering other’s perimeter. Other significant benefit is the reduction of voice communication, providing higher operations efficiency.

The proactive pursuit for new technologies and automation systems is permanent in the routine of all areas of MRS. The increasing use of automation and new technologies ensures, year after year, an increasingly reliable, competitive, innovative and safe railway operation for employees and neighboring communities, creating value for customers and shareholders. With intense use of automation, MRS ensures quality railway operation without giving up the operational safety of employees and neighboring communities. For the support systems to the railway operation, new solutions are being studied with a focus on productivity, mobility and automation of tasks. Such implementations will be the foundation for the forthcoming transformation initiatives.

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Complements of GRI indicators