As rail companies across the UK get set for their digital transformation, here are five key rail processes we’ve seen businesses digitise with great success using Nutshell.

Digitisation is becoming more and more popular in rail supply chain companies. This can be attributed to many factors, including improvements to health and safety, and less time spent on admin work. Digitising processes within rail will also lead to easier audits, because of improved accountability and traceability in the event of a problem.

Network Rail are leading the charge for rail digitisation, as they have seen the importance and benefits of digitising first hand. They have created the P4D initiative, with a deadline of 2021, which encourages the whole rail supply chain to digitise systems for improved safety and communication. This might sound intimidating, but don’t worry, you can read on to learn about the most common rail processes being digitised industry-wide, and why you should consider going paperless in 2021.

Site Briefing

A briefing is pretty self-explanatory. Everyone on site needs to prove they’ve had a briefing for the work that they are about to commence. The briefing will be given by a Supervisor or PIC (Person in Charge), and is used to tell the workers what is going to happen throughout the day. It will also cover the possible risks for that particular work. After the brief is delivered, both workers and the Person in Charge need to sign off the briefing to confirm that they’ve received it.

There are multiple steps to this process, which can be streamlined through going paperless. Having a digital briefing app on hand saves time and provides an easy-to-access audit trail, with all relevant data in one place. A digital sign-off is also quicker, and reduces the amount of paperwork that needs to be filed or carried around on site by those working on it. Delivering and signing off a briefing digitally eliminates the need for multiple sheets of paper, which again massively reduces the time spent completing forms. 

Planning Processes

Thorough planning holds the key to a safe and efficient project, but there’s a multitude of individual planning processes that need to be taken into consideration. For example, a rail lift plan is completed before any work begins on the line involving a crane, and has to be completed by a qualified person. The Lift Plan will outline the equipment used, what it’s condition is, the weather at the time of work, the details of the load, and most importantly, the risks associated with the work. It also identifies who is operating the equipment.

Using a digital lift plan, as opposed to a it’s paper based counterpart, streamlines the process and gets the work started quicker. It also means that every detail is uploaded straight to the database, so if something was to occur, then all relevant information is in one place. Audits for a digital lift plan are also completed far quicker, due to all necessary data being available at the touch of a button.

Safety Reporting

One of the most important safety critical reports are Close Call reports. A Close Call is defined by Network Rail as anything that has the potential to cause harm or damage. It’s something that could have resulted in an injury, accident, or damage to property, but didn’t. Operational Close Calls are unplanned or uncontrolled events that occur on the operational railway. 

Digitising and moving to a Close Call reporting app has a massive impact on health and safety, and provides the ability to instantly report a close call without going through admin. There is also a huge improvement to accountability due to all data being stored in a single database, alongside a record who has filed the close call.


Rail supply chain companies are embracing digital transformation to:

  • Improve safety and auditing
  • Streamline planning and delivery
  • Unify data and communication

Download our guide to embracing digital transformation in rail for insights into how digitisation helps keep frontline workers safe, and how other rail supply chain companies are approaching going digital.


Time to Talk

Mental health and fatigue management are some of the most important parts of work, in the rail industry and other physical industries. It is especially prevalent in the current situation, where workers are socially distanced.

Generally, it is rarely talked about, which is why Network Rail uses time to talk, with the motto “Small talk saves lives”. Time to Talk can apply to both members of the public and rail workers, who may be feeling fatigued, overwhelmed or down, and don’t mention it to anybody.

A digitised version of Time to Talk allows the company to flag up and see any employees who may be at risk, and act swiftly to get them the help they need. It also provides a record and audit of workers who may be feeling fatigued, which allows other people in the business to give them a helping hand. A digital Time to Talk app may be more favourable for people to fill in, rather than speak to someone face to face or have to write down their thoughts on paper, as they can take time to word their response, think about what they are saying, and not feel judged.

General Inspections

Inspections happen every single day, multiple times per day, on every rail line, piece of equipment and site. This is because safety is paramount, and without all of the inspections that take place, accidents would occur on a far more frequent basis. The number of paper-based inspection forms completed results in piles of paper forms by the end of the day, which all need to then be sent off and signed off, before being stored correctly for auditing later on.

Completely digitising Inspection forms means that the completion time can be cut down massively when compared to paper-based forms, and the inspections can then be signed off immediately after completion. Line work can also then proceed faster as a result, due to checks being completed at a much faster pace, and then signed off, giving the go ahead to start. On top of this, digital inspections reduce admin time, and cuts down on the amount of forms that need stored, which reduces paper waste, and creates a more reliable audit trail with less chance of forms going missing or being damaged.

Prefer to see it for yourself?

Schedule a demo with Nutshell to see our rail apps in action, and to discuss how we can help you in your digital transformation journey.