Bettina Bernhard

Commercial ERP systems vs. railway-specific ERP systems

Post from 13. March 2023
Which system is right for your company?

The digitalization train is already rolling inexorably and is gaining speed steadily. Some companies are already well advanced in their digitalization initiatives, while others are still rather at the beginning. For these companies, in order to remain competitive in the future, it is important to jump on the train before it is too late. There is also great potential in the area of digitalization in the rail industry – which is why there are more and more startups dedicated to the topic and supporting companies in their digitalization projects.

Putting one’s eye toward rail-specific processes, the controversial question is often which system should be used by transport companies to digitalize these processes. Of course, every company would like to have the perfect solution – the all-in-one solution suitable for every purpose – but let’s face it, such systems do not yet exist – and the emphasis is on “yet”. In most cases, however, the question does not relate to specific systems, but rather begins with the question of whether a commercial ERP system covers the requirements of the specific industry, or whether an industry-specific ERP system should be used.

In the RailVoice issue of February 2023, process digitalization expert & consultant Helmut Hohenbichler dedicated himself to this particular topic and investigated the question “What are the differences between railway-specific maintenance management systems and commercial ERP systems?” In this article, we recap the most important aspects for you.


Would you like to see the entire webinar? Then contact our editorial team via You will then receive the link immediately by e-mail.

The core functionalities of commercial ERP systems are found in the economic context

As the name indicates, a commercial ERP system focuses on commercial business aspects. Questions such as “How do we deal with financial and human resources?” can be clarified.
A commercial ERP system maps commercial and operational support processes. This includes finance, resource allocation, controlling, HR allocation, material management, etc. – support processes that exist to some degree in every company. However, the rail industry, like any other industry, has specific processes that cannot be covered by a cross-industry standard solution.

“Core processes in the rail business must be mapped in an industry-specific system.”

Primarily, the rail system is about safe rail operations. Of course, productivity and continuous commercial optimization are also important. For example, it is crucial for companies to reduce operational risk and ensure legal compliance. In this context, there are laws, regulations and specifications that companies must comply with (TSI, EN, …).
In addition to these challenges, however, there are other railway-specific circumstances that must be overcome through digitalization measures. These include:

  • Integration and management of mass data coming in via IoT devices..
  • Automated processing of technical data (business-to-business information) – in the cargo sector, for example, this includes automatic order placement via VPI, AVV,…
  • Management of telemetry data (TSI) of the vehicles, with the aim of detecting system failures as early as possible.
  • Continuous and rapid development of the ERP system, for example, in the event of changes in legislation or technical requirements. Modification management involves the further development of vehicles and components. After all, you want to make sure that you know the configuration status of the vehicles.
  • Support for the ERA certification process.
  • Rapid adaptations and changes must be possible, as safety-critical issues require a rapid response and comprehensible documentation.

The development of a railway-specific ERP system requires a high skill level – starting with the creation of the specifications. In addition to profound IT know-how coupled with data science expertise, extensive and deep knowledge of the ” railroad system”, as well as the associated domain knowledge, are an obligatory prerequisite for mastering these challenges. Above all, this competence must be ensured over the entire lifecycle of the system, because continuous further development and maintenance also require these extensive skills.

Companies in the rail system should always place the aspect of rail safety at the center of their considerations. If something should happen during operation – and things do happen – then procedures and processes must be mapped completely and without gaps in order to be able to identify the cause.

As a conclusion to his presentation, Mr. Hohenbichler presented a catalog of questions that can serve as a guideline for you to decide whether it makes sense for your purposes to adapt a commercial ERP system to railway-specific processes. His tip: If you can answer at least 5 questions with “yes”, then development is legitimate, but if this is not the case, then a largely standardized railway-specific ERP system would be advisable.

  1. Is your core competence in the development of commercial ERP IT systems?
  2. Is your corporate purpose to develop railroad systems?
  3. Do you have sufficient resources to capture the full requirements for such a solution?
  4. Do you have adequate resources to implement large IT projects for the railroad industry?
  5. Do you have sufficient resources to maintain and update the system over time to keep it running?
  6. Do you have adequate evidence that this will give you a USP in the market – in other words, that you can only achieve an appropriate market position with your solution?
  7. Do you have the decision-making authority to set the priorities as you need them in your solution?
  8. Do you have sufficient time, resources, skills and competencies to ensure legal compliance in the ERP system?
  9. Do you have a corresponding valid update strategy to be able to implement the individual and customer-specific solutions along the time? This also means technologically.
  10. Is your organization stable enough to ensure this in the long run?

We hope that this article has provided you with relevant views that will support you in your decision for an IT system. You can listen to all of Mr. Hohenbichler’s arguments on this topic in the the recording of the webinar. You can request the recording via
Mr. Hohenbichler is also available for an individual consultation. Feel free to send him a message using


Join us for the next RailVoice webinar, when different experts will exchange views on the topic of Entity in Charge of Maintenance and discuss how digitalization can support companies in compliance. You will receive the invitation in time.
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