Nationale Maatschappij der Belgische Spoorwegen (NMBS), also known as Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Belges (SNCB) in French, is the National Railway Company of Belgium and the second-oldest in Europe. It operates, organizes and commercializes train traffic across the country and is also responsible for train maintenance & renovation. The operator has about 4.000 train drivers and transports over 250 million passengers each year.
Every year, thousands of passengers lose one of their belongings on the train or in stations while traveling. It is NMBS/SNCB’s duty to help these persons retrieve their belongings and thus improve customer service.
The Lost and Found project was initiated to create a solution that would help the business to increase the return rate of lost objects to their owners. Additionally, the tool had to be user-friendly and efficient to manage all the details of the objects found in trains or stations on one hand, and the owners’ declaration of their lost object.
In a joint effort with other Ypto (IT for NMBS/SNCB) colleagues, we came up with and designed a brand-new SAP Fiori application, with SAP CRM as a back-end system, which helps employees returning found objects to their respective owners, by automatically proposing matching lost declarations of passengers with objects founds.
The application is used by counter clerks on desktops and by train personnel on mobile devices. Passengers can register their declarations of lost objects via the NMBS/SCNB website, which will automatically be transferred to the Lost and Found tool.
The requirements were to be able to store data about Lost and Found objects, such as a categorization and description of the object, details about where and when the object was lost or found, images giving a visual representation of the objects as well as the flexibility to design a logic to automate the matching process. All this using a fancy user interface.
An analysis covering multiple existing solutions/applications and non-existing custom applications had been made to find the perfect solution. As SAP CRM was already widely used across different departments at NMBS/SNCB and that it ticked all the boxes, we decided to use it as a back-end platform for the solution.
But the SAP CRM user interface, being an older on-premise system, did not offer the requested user-friendliness that is expected from a contemporary and modern application. Hence, we decided to build a front-end application using SAP Fiori (UI5). From the Fiori Launchpad, the user can select the tile to execute the required functionality. The Lost and Found application consists of 3 tiles, one to manage, create and modify lost and found objects, and two others to display lists of objects requiring certain actions or depending on their status.
The front-end application is completely connected to the SAP CRM back-end, having a real-time representation of the data. The application is deployed on the SAP Gateway, using oDATA APIs to post and retrieve information to SAP CRM. The Gateway platform is also used to connect other databases and systems, such as the ITRIS-devices of the train personnel. This allows the re-use the same APIs across multiple connected systems.
To allow passengers to declare they have lost one of their possessions, a webform has been designed on the NMBS/SNBC website. These declarations are directly flowing to SAP CRM, through SAP PI/PO which does the necessary mapping and conversions of data structures between the source and target system.
As mentioned before, one of the most important objectives was and is to increase the return rate of objects found in stations and trains to their owners. To achieve that, we had to implement a custom matching logic, which would bring together found objects and the matching declarations by the passenger. Using a scoring technique, based on multiple characteristics of both the found and lost object, the right match is proposed to the user of the application, who can then take the necessary steps to contact the owner and to have the object returned.
The new L&F tool makes it much easier for our staff to match the thousands of lost objects every month around the NMBS perimeters, directly with the online application filled in by our passengers. This automatization increases our return rate and therefore – even more important – the satisfaction of our clients.
The return rate improved drastically, because of the updated Lost & Found application. As a result, the customer satisfaction rate improved accordingly. Higher customer satisfaction is essential with a view to the liberalization and competition of NMBS/SNCB. This application supports the “customer central” approach to better serve their clients now and in the future.