Capstone – Project

Predictive Workload and Operations Scheduling

A Collaboration Between

Project Synopsis

We operate a number of heavy repair facilities for performing maintenance and upgrades to our rail car fleet. When maintenance is needed and the car arrives at a shop, the extent of labor required is not known until the car is thoroughly inspected and an estimate is written. Rail car type, miles traveled, loads/unloads, commodity properties, customer handling, due compliance programs, etc. all can influence the amount of repair work required. Being able to better predict maintenance would improve scheduling of rail cars and allocation at different shops. We have a rudimentary system in place based on random forests built in Python (pandas, scikit-learn, Orange) / Excel, but it needs refinement. Blue sky objective would be to build this insight into a tool that helps direct shop loading decisions (e.g., can we justify sending this car 500 miles further away to a shop with more available capacity?).

Project Topics

Data Management


Company Information

StageLarge Enterprise
Hiring PotentialFormal Internship, Entry Level Full-Time, Upper Level Full-Time

Company Overview

GATX Rail North America operates an extensive network of maintenance facilities in the United States and Canada dedicated to performing safe, timely, efficient, and high quality railcar maintenance services for customers.

Experiential Learning Program Details

SchoolUniversity of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business
Engagement FormatCapstone - Small Team Consulting Project - Students work in consulting teams of 3-5 directly with faculty and client liaisons on developing real solutions to real-world challenges.
Students EnrolledN/A
Meeting Day & TimeN/A
Student Time Commitment4-7 Hours Per Week
Company Time Commitment2 Hours
Duration13.29 Weeks

Program Timeline

Touchpoints & Assignments Due Date Type

Key Project Milestones

  • February 7, 2020 - Define

    Introduction to GATX’s business with focus on rail car repair operations. The current process and preliminary data will be shared with students for initial exploration.The goal of the project is to predict expected labor hours required in several categories of repair (cleaning / commodity flare, mechanical, interior blast, interior lining, exterior paint) using known characteristics of the car. Accurate labor predictions will inform future loads on labor and can predict expected cycle times of repair events.

    Suggested Deliverable:

    Define data scope (time period, data items)Finalize milestones and project charter

  • February 28, 2020 - Measure/Analyze

    The data provided will be from production databases and will be shared in its raw, unclean state. It will need be cleaned/wrangled into something that is suitable for input into a machine learning algorithm.Once in a manageable state, the team will need to decide which data is relevant to the problem at hand. Feature selection can be justified with statistics or by knowing the relationship between the feature and the target.

    Suggested Deliverable:

    Feature selectionRegression model selection

  • March 27, 2020 - Improve

    The team will develop a method for applying predictive analytics and evaluate the effectiveness of their method.This method will be used by the business user(s) on an on-going basis to evaluate current loads and inform daily operational loading decisions. As such, the method must be well-defined and programmatic. Required inputs and generated outputs must be documented for repeatability.

    Suggested Deliverable:

    Specification of training input file (time scope, file format, column names, data types, etc.)Specification of prediction input fileSpecification of output fileTraining program / scriptFinal prediction program / scriptEvaluation of model (cross-validation scores [R², RMSE, MAE, etc.] and known issues)

  • April 17, 2020 - Control

    Define how the technical output can be utilized by the business for sustained effectiveness.Identify any known gaps in the final model and suggest solutions for these gaps.

    Suggested Deliverable:

    Mockups / suggestions for front-end user interface for use by the operations scheduler and shop managementFinal report out (slide deck, white paper, or similar) targeted toward management–Audience for report should be assumed to be technical (familiar with stats) but not experts in ML or predictive analytics–Target ~15 minute presentation or ~5 minute read

Project Resources

There are no resources currently available

Industry Mentors

Company Admin


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Academic Mentors


Alice Obermiller

[email protected]



[email protected]

Assigned Students

There are currently no students assigned.