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CN (Canadian National Railway) is the largest railway in Canada and a leader in the North American rail industry. In the bids and bulletins evaluation process, 7,500 CN employees submit their job preferences as bids and are assigned jobs in a manner to ensure that all positions are filled. Each week, CN posts bulletins describing the available jobs and their requirements. On the basis of the bulletins, employees submit a bid card that identifies and ranks the jobs in which they're most interested. The bidding period runs for seven days. Forty-eight hours after the bidding period closes, job assignments are posted and become effective. A legacy software system, coded in Cobol, assigns the jobs, but regional schedulers must manage exceptions and infeasibilities. Typically, to achieve a publishable schedule, the software must be run several times, with manual overrides. Because the legacy system is slow, schedulers sometimes resort to personalized spreadsheets to assist decision making. CN is pursuing a phased implementation of SAP enterprise systems. As the company phases out legacy software, it's looking for new ways to leverage information technology to improve operations and increase employee satisfaction.
Date of Publication: Sept.-Oct. 2008