Inside Auckland Transport's $25 million asset transformation

Inside Auckland Transport's $25 million asset transformation

After four-year journey to define needs and select a vendor, it's implementation time

Roger Jones (Auckland Transport)

Roger Jones (Auckland Transport)

Credit: Reseller News

Auckland Transport's executive general manager of technology, Roger Jones, is banking on IoT, mobility and predictive maintenance transform the customer experience.

After close to a four-year journey to define the transport infrastructure, the company's needs and select an asset management system vendor, it is now all now about execution.

AT owns or manages transport infrastructure including road assets, bridges and more and also contracts public transport services for Aucklanders. That covers 7,000 bus stops, 1,400 buses, heavy rail, ferries and it is now also looking at building light rail.

AT is a road company, an asset maintenance company and a construction company and in that it is "a bit unique around the world", Jones told press and analysts at Infor's Inforum conference in New Orleans last week.

AT manages $1.6 billion in assets. Historically this was done using spreadsheets, with roads on an old, bespoke software system called RAMM.

Now the Auckland Council-owned company is targeting technology for a single view of its  and its partners activities using IoT sensors, analytics, and workforce mobility to help it coordinate not just its own staff and projects but those of external service providers as well.

SaaS software from Infor was selected as the core asset management platform and to deliver data and insights to AT's mobile workforce.

Jones said a big part of the project will be replacing PDF files now used for building information. Historically, there has been no way to manage them and users end up printing them and "drawing lines on them".

"We want to swap all that around and leverage technology for transformation, not just for us but for our service, design companies and support companies - the Becas and Aecoms of the world," Jones explained.

Compliance is a big driver as well. Legally AT needs to deliver 10-year consolidated asset plans, but can't do that today. 

"We need to know what levers to pull -- being able to model that is something we are looking to do as well," Jones said.

The first asset class to go onto the new system will be bridges, which are expected to be live in nine months time. AT owns hundreds of bridges and the time it takes to check every bridge was "enormous".

"When you get a system like this can start thinking about sensors," Jones said. "We have earthquakes in NZ so sensors can help, tell you too look at this bridge before that bridge."

Through sensors and data, AT wants to shift its efforts towards predictive maintenance, particularly for rail which will move from 18 hours a day of maintenance at the moment to 24x7. 

"Taking things down has a big impact and upsets customers," Jones said. "Being able to predict that and component failure will be big for us," Jones said.

"We have got a huge portfolio. We don't want to be in a situation where things break first. We want to be ahead of the game."

KiwiRail owns the railroad tracks so AT is looking at bringing its sensor data into the Infor system to help predict wear on tracks and wheels. Sound sensors are already deployed on the rail system and AT also wants predictive maintenance on systems overhead wires as well. 

The ferry network too needs to be addressed as the ferries are getting "pretty old", he said.

"We don't own them but have a vested interest that they don't break down."

Buses already deliver real time info every nine seconds, but the communications modules currently used are going to be replaced. AT will be able to interface with that and use the data to help gauge the condition of the roads. 

"We want to use buses as a huge collection point for data on the state of the road network," he said.

Infor's Cloud Suite for asset management is expected to interface with some legacy systems to help deliver that vision of real-time monitoring and predictive capabilities. 

Savings are as yet not known, but a "huge improvement" in the customer experience was expected. 

Over last three years AT had built a customer engagement centre called Customer Central and embarked on co -design with stakeholders.

Two change managers were also coming onto the project to help and to bring staff on the journey.

AT's analytics for streaming data sits on a Vertica platform, formerly owned by Hewlett_Packard but now by Micro Focus, for streaming sensor data. 

AT has a mandate from its CEO to build an insights data team over the next 14 months, timed to come on-stream with sensor data.

Jones said five responses were received to its tender with two companies before Infor was selected. 

"It has some good transportation history, especially around rail and use cases for roading in Australia similar to ours," Jones said.

Infor is directly implementing the project. 

"With what we trying do in terms of scale it's the only way we would ever do it," Jones said. "We do the same with Microsoft and HP. 

"We need the company with the backing and expertise to bring it together. New Zealand is too small to have that capability."

Asked if he had any requests for his provider, Jones responded: "Make it work on time, on budget. It's everybody's dream isn't it."

Right now, that budget is $25 million over five years.This comprises implementation costs of $17.4 million and software licences of $7.6 million with a 20 per cent contingency on both.

Jones said AT has pretty good costings over the first first eighteen months but after that it gets harder to gauge.

A nine month  piece of work to define future costs is under way using an Agile approach tracking internal and partner costs. 

Bridges come first and costs can then be extrapolated over other asset classes.

Internal KPIs such as reduced cost to serve will help define success as will net promoter score, which is now being rolled out.

AT hopes to be able to notify customers of work in their streets and prove that it has been done, Jones said.

"People will always complain, it's just how much they complain. We want the volume of complaints to come down and some of them might be happy."

AT also appears to be a user of local government software called Pathway, also from Infor, which bought the software's developer (GEAC) in 2006 for US$1 billion. AT uses Pathway for transport infringement fine management.

SAP appears to provide AT's financial management information systems.

Disclosure: Rob O'Neill attended the Inforum conference as a guest of Infor.

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