Our land transport under Industry 4.0

Based on a RIMS presentation by Myles Lind, Senior Project manager Complex Projects, NZ Transport Agency, who is leading the agency’s digital engineering programme.

Myles Lind, Senior Project manager Complex Projects, NZ Transport Agency

If you have ever watched ‘Star Trek’, you would remember the Starfleet officers posing questions to the on-board computer on almost any engineering topic and receiving meaningful answers with no delay.

We don’t need to wait for the 24th century to see that happen. Imagine our country in 2035. A road engineer, named Lauren, is on-site. She has just turned on her ‘augmented reality’ goggles to scan the section of the road. Lauren needs historical data, so she activates Siri with her voice command: ‘Hey, Siri – please tell me about this road’.

The virtual assistant wakes up: ‘Hello, Lauren. This road was first constructed in the 1880s with a significant widening project in the 1950s when it was made four-laned. There are seven bridges, all over 80 years in age. There are 108 retaining structures, as the area is known for land instability issues. It was historically a high crash area until the speed limit was lowered to 80 km/h and safe barriers introduced in 2020. This is a key journey with 30,000 vehicle movements a day, peaking in summer at around 45,000 vehicle movements’. 

Lauren is part of a ‘response team’ assembled to develop a plan to restore the road post-event, which is essential to the local community.

Fast and furious

The speed of social and technological changes is unprecedented. Globalisation and connectivity, climate change and population growth, new technologies like Mobility-as-a-Service, millennials and their expectations are reshaping the fabric and narrative of our society.

As an essential public service provider, land transport here needs to be ready to respond to global changes to better serve our communities. It must adapt or face the risk of being left behind. Let us look at this adaptation for a minute.

Industry 4.0

We live in an era of disruption named Industry 4.0, or the fourth Industrial Revolution. Like the earlier three, this fourth revolution offers vast new opportunities. Dynamic and innovative new approaches can boost productivity and efficiency in sectors and countries that embrace them successfully.

What does Industry 4.0 look like in land transport? What does it mean in terms of optimising decision-making for us? It is increasingly clear that Industry 4.0 is going to seriously disrupt our existing business models, our customers’ expectations, and ultimately the way our sector’s value chain works.

We are seeing from other sectors when it comes to Industry 4.0, that we are going to have more customer engagement. They can already share information on our network performance through apps on their smart phones in real time.

There will also be significant changes in how we make decisions about roading infrastructure. In the future, evidence-based decision-making will be the only sustainable way for our sector to keep delivering public value and ensuring public confidence in an increasingly technology-savvy world.

Logically, this is leading us to a series of activities geared around reinventing the core of how we do asset management for land transport. This core-reinvention has already been demonstrated in other sectors such as manufacturing, where factories doing exactly the same thing benefit from a standardised approach to their infrastructure, data capture and reporting. This means that if one factory finds a better way of doing something, the others get this productivity improvement for free.

In our roading sector there are almost 70 Road Controlling Authorities (RCAs), a few major contractors and technical consulting organisations. If we can help everybody do the core things in the same way, we will achieve enormous benefits for our sector and customers.

Digital transformation is the essence of Industry 4.0. ‘Digital’ is the radical reshaping of processes and behaviours, across business and throughout social interactions by exploiting advanced technologies and data analytics.

We believe that our response to the imminent challenge should be to enable digital engineering across the whole sector. This should be underpinned by a standard, common ‘language’ for describing infrastructure assets and advanced analytics for optimised, evidence-based decision-making.

“‘Digital’ is the radical reshaping of processes and behaviours, across business and throughout social interactions by exploiting advanced technologies and data analytics.”

A ‘standard’ story

Data standardisation isn’t new. The finance sector has been doing it for a long time. Contrary to some popular beliefs that standardisation may stifle innovation, the truth is exactly the opposite. Think of the internet protocols, which enabled the global connectivity or the standardisation of shipping containers, which made the modern version of the global trade possible.

This is why the National Infrastructure Plan stated that ‘national, shared data standards’ are needed. This is why the New Zealand Transport Agency is working with sector partners to establish the Asset Management Data Standard (AMDS) for land transport.

Back in 2017, pilot standards were developed across pipes, roads, and buildings. The Transport Agency is now working with Local Government New Zealand through the REG programme to get the roading standards completed and operational.

A lot of roading authorities also manage drainage pipes. Also, from the customer service perspective effective drainage is part of a road. This is why the AMDS initiative has also teamed up with the National Technical Standards Committee to ensure alignment on how the horizontal infrastructure, pipes and roads are described.

The AMDS will be appropriate for use on both complex metro networks that support active transport choice and geographically diverse rural roads. AMDS spans the entire lifecycle of asset management and all aspects of information from as-builds, maintenance manuals and schedules, spatial information, condition, demand, risk, performance and works information.

The first tranche of the new version of the roading standard for New Zealand is on target for release from June 2019. It is being developed by a group of sector subject matter experts.

 Why good data matters

There are numerous benefits to having common shared asset data across the land transport sector.

First, to ensure we have optimised decision-making we need data standardisation and opportunity benchmarking. Some people do not like it, but in my experience, benchmarking is really useful. It will tell you things you don’t know.

Second, accurate, consistent and shared data enables best allocation of national funding. Not long ago an investor was looking at benchmarks of some Road Controlling Authorities up and down the country. It transpired that one particular RCA was outside the curve and spending far too much money on their roads.

The maintenance and vehicle travel benchmark didn’t stack up and budgets were going to need to be cut, which meant a lot of disruption, discussions, planning, and soul searching at the RCA on how to achieve that.

It turned out that the data was wrong – traffic counts had not been updated for a while. Correcting it made the spending in order. If there had been a national data standard that wouldn’t have happened. Our decision makers need to have the best information possible and there are currently tools available to us that we need to use.

Third, a resilient transport system is one of the core priorities of the current government. Complete and accurate data that is readily accessed and shared is key to making our public works service safe, efficient and resilient to whatever comes next.

Consider another recent example of managing ‘critical infrastructure’. A sewerage pump station at a popular city beach was ‘serviced’ by two asset managers – a local council and a power company. The council risk-rated the facility as a critical asset and spent over $1 million to reinforce resilience in case of an emergency event. Meanwhile the power company risk-rated the same facility, as non-essential. This meant it topped the list of facilities to cut off if the power company needed to reduce network demand in an emergency.

This case highlights why the National Infrastructure Plan made a ‘call for action’. In the absence of national, shared data standards, the pumping station connection was only made by a chance meeting between staff.   

When the rubber hits the road

Learning from other sectors, the hardest part of enabling digital optimised decision-making is the implementing of standardisation. Standardisation needs to go hand-in-hand with investment in technology, information needs, business processes and training. This means, coordination of timing, resources and tools is critical to making the rollout successful.

If we want to be successful, we need to follow some principles in designing and delivering the AMDS rollout programme:

• three-year cycle: local and regional financial planning processes are in ‘lockdown’ every three years between November and June. Any changes we want to implement as part of AMDS need to be reflected there and then;

• shared platform for data standard: we have been working with a few local councils and others in the sector to create an ‘asset repository’ which transfers the standards into the common systems that you have. This also means we can maintain and grow the asset standard as the sector requires. We are currently running user experience testing of the new ‘portal’ with parts of the sector;

• joint roadmap: engaging with local government will be critical to understanding how the business change may impact on local government processes. To be successful we believe we will need a jointly developed, detailed implementation roadmap for each RCA and highway contracts. Naturally, there will be ‘early adopters’ and those who will choose to be part of the ‘second wave’;

• sector outreach: while the Transport Agency has the funding and a dedicated team to do some ‘ground work’, ultimately AMDS is a sector wide initiative and change. We are working through REG and directly with the sector to build awareness and invite others to participate and contribute;

• innovation arising from standardisation: the Transport Agency does not have a monopoly on innovation and great ideas to making the Standard work well. Success will require true sector collaboration and ingenuity. Think of the smartphone industry with app development. One company supplies your phone, but many intellects provide the functionality. Your phone can now tune and teach you to play your guitar, let you watch TV, order food and fly a drone. The AMDS is just a beginning – opening the door to countless opportunities.

The road ahead

We are aiming to publish the first ‘tranche’ of the AMDS in June 2019 and have the draft AMDS implementation plan in December 2019. It will target first generation rollout within 2021 local governments’ long-term plans.

By September 2020, we want to have that plan ‘refined’ through our engagement with RCAs and other partners. All going well, we want to begin first generation of the national rollout from July 2021, which will run for about 18 months.

This would give us a foundation for first generation benchmarking of evidence-based investment programmes. The second-generation rollout would then occur from July 2024.

Our aspiration is to get rid of ‘eyeball asset management’ and have digitally sourced ‘facts’ supporting our infrastructure decision-making by 2027.

Curtain falls

Digital optimised decision-making is key to us delivering the safest, most productive transport corridors – now and into the future. New technology will allow the transport sector and our partners to optimise our decision-making through the best collection and management of asset data digitally.

Industry 3.0 saw a step change in land transport with the mass production of the car. Industry 4.0 is about to significantly change our world again.

Embedding the national asset data standard is essential for our sector as a whole. It will improve information access, optimise and open up business decision-making and deliver radically changing customer outcomes.

Together, as a sector, we need to be ready to embrace it, leverage it and shape it.

To learn more about the AMDS initiative please visit us at nzta.govt.nz/roads-and-rail/asset-management-data-standard.

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