CREWS: standard software
The core of our systems
The core of our systems is a standard software tool, CREWS, for developing crew-scheduling applications. Our solutions provide the advantage of using a robust, standard software package, combined with full customisation to bring it into line with the individual needs and realities facing the customer.
CREWS is in constant improvement, powered by internal research and by the ongoing developments requested by customers: it is a "live" system that keeps on improving over time. New offspring products generated based upon CREWS for scheduling equipment resources both in transportation and in the industries are being developed.
CREWS is a sophisticated tool providing considerable functionality. Its architecture is modular and integrated, oriented towards the future, and it provides great flexibility in adaptation to countless realities and operating environments.
Using CREWS, customising a system for a particular customer requires about 10% to 15% of the overall effort required by the complete system.
This means that between 85% and 90% of the effort is ready, tested, and with proven applications in the field. This offers SISCOG a potential for expansion and response speed not available elsewhere.
CREWS uses a "white-box" approach in which users can see what is going on inside the system, can provide suggestions and request explanations, supported by as much automation as needed (the system works as a digital assistant). This is only possible with the use of techniques that enable a system to reason in ways similar to those followed by its users and to adopt a control structure allowing several levels of automation to be fully integrated.
CREWS: “Optimizing the resources of the world”
CREWS provides the most powerful optimizer available in the market. Through an ideal combination of Artificial Intelligence and Operational Research techniques, the optimizer available in CREWS has been proved, through appropriate benchmarking, to show that it beats any optimizer of the competition. The combination of the optimizer with manual operations provides full optimization power coupled with flexibility to handle exceptions and preferences.
The ideal combination of AI and OR techniques
Artificial Intelligence techniques
Artificial Intelligence techniques use a “white-box” approach, in which users can see what is going on inside the system, can provide suggestions and request explanations, supported by as much automation as needed (the system works as a digital assistant).
These techniques enable a system to reason in ways similar to those followed by its users and to adopt a control structure allowing several levels of automation to be fully integrated.
Operational Research techniques
Operational Research techniques have been successful in solving large-scale optimisation problems in several domains, including personnel planning. Although modelling a problem in terms of variables and constraints, these techniques take advantage of the problem structure and global constraints, enabling a more global view of the problem solution. This method is able to produce solutions that are better than those produced by human planners.
The reasoning process based upon Operational Research techniques is more difficult to understand, making explanations to the planners almost impossible. Since planners cannot directly follow this line of reasoning this is called a “black-box” approach.
Nevertheless the disadvantages of the black-box approach are minimised in CREWS since Operational Research techniques are integrated with the manual mode, enabling a planner to integrate exceptions and preferences in the plans produced by the system.
CREWS-based systems: customised to client reality
The systems built up from CREWS are customised to the needs of our customers, including functionality that defines the railway network of the company, the type of activities, the tasks and resources that can be used / scheduled, the constraints (domain and labour rules) that apply, and the strategies used to produce good schedules.
All data and graphic interfaces, as well as the reports, are also customised to suit the needs and requests of each particular customer.
Our customer systems are ready to evolve in line with the constant change to rules, constraints, and data that occur in railways. CREWS-based systems can be modified either by SISCOG (under a maintenance contract) or by our customers themselves.
The system provides a degree of modification that is greater than just changing parameters, allowing the constraints (rules) and scheduling strategies to be altered.
Any data underlying the system (network, station operating characteristics, personnel skills, etc.) can be directly changed by the customer using an intuitive graphic interface.
We bring real innovation to the field of resource planning and management in railway companies, by using a highly effective, functional decision-support tool provided with an impressive number of functions.
Modular, flexible, and integrated
CREWS addresses every stage of resource planning and management: long-term planning, allocation of specific resources to the plan, short-term planning, dispatching and recording and reporting the work that has been done.
This is achieved by a set of interconnected modules that can work in an independent but integrated way, each one dealing with a given stage of the operation. The system allows the assembly of only those modules actually required by each company.
Each module is flexible enough to allow changes across companies and within the same company. It implements the multiple realities of any of the diverse railway companies, not only at the level of concepts but also at the level of functions.
Module integration is undertaken at several levels: information and knowledge, communication between modules, communication with users, and software environment.
The work of the planner is supported by several levels of automation, through the use of several integrated modes of operation: manual mode; assisted-manual mode; semi-automatic-mode; automatic mode; or any combination of these.
By dividing these tasks into independent modules, SISCOG offers a step-by-step approach to the introduction of automation to the company, starting with a basic manual mode and enabling the company to move all the way to the fully automatic mode.