David Simpson has worked on the 30 year M25 DBFO (Design, Build, Finance, Operate) contract with Highways England since mobilisation in 2009. Below, he explains the idea behind acquiring the AgileAssets enterprise asset management system for managing the assets of the M25 motorway and the aspirations of Connect Plus and Connect Plus Services for integrating software in the businesses moving forwards.
“The contract between Connect Plus and the Highways England encompasses a portfolio of 13 different asset types with age ranges from new build to over 30 years old. These assets are all deteriorating at different rates and are subject to intervention and change as the network evolves over the 30 year concession period – we have our own big data problem trying to manage and use a large amount of changing asset data. A comprehensive and easy to use database was required to maintain our inventory, understand asset data and performance and manage key aspects of the asset lifecycle (particularly inspections, maintenance, and renewals)”.
“The long-term contract is also driven by asset condition and a complex handback mechanism at the end of the 30-year concession. Detailed asset condition reporting is required at the element level to understand the live impact of asset deterioration and the benefit realised by our treatments. We also need to project the long-term implications of our asset strategies to understand if they will support in year performance requirements as well as handback tests in 2039 and beyond”
The initial mobilisation period was spent understanding current asset performance and using engineering analysis to determine asset management plans focused on mitigating risks on individual assets. “AgileAssets software supports a shift in focus to the long term. Engineers are now able to understand short-term risks but also run scenarios in the Decision Support Tool that take account of longer-term performance requirements across all the assets in the same stock. This level of analysis was not practical before due to the 30-year time frame, number of assets, complexity of requirements and number of intervention options”.
David and the teams at Connect Plus and Connect Plus Services have adopted a progressive approach to implementing AgileAssets, using the annual investment cycle and Asset Management Forward Plan to capture improvements that have been made to reporting and forecasting elements of AgileAssets. Focus during the initial implementation has been on forecasting the impact of investment decisions on asset condition over a 5 year period and comparing investment options through ratios that compare aspects such as condition benefit with cost.
Development of the system will continue, with a clear vision in place over the next few years. “We have secured some 30-year plans from the system that have been designed based on our objectives and constraints and we are currently understanding the implications of these plans. When we have validated outputs in place then we will focus in on understanding key areas of risk and opportunity. We hope to be able to use the outputs to help shape our wider business strategy in areas such as procurement, understanding the impact of maintenance and focusing in on key areas of research and development”.
The project has a number of key stakeholders including the Highways England client, the Connect Plus and Connect Plus Services Boards and Lenders (represented by the Lenders Technical Adviser). “We hope to be able to capture the implications of our updated 30-year plans in a series of metrics that will give confidence to key stakeholders that the project is on the right glide path for long-term hand-back”.
“As the project advances I’m looking forward to see how we can continue to develop AgileAssets and integrate the intelligence it provides into everyday business decision making, so that it is not seen as a tool used by certain members of the team, but an integral piece of our entire business. This business integration has started and will require more impetus as we move into 2016 to ensure we can realise the benefits that a longer-term perspective provides”, David concludes.
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Connect Plus Services (CPS) has a 30-year contract with Connect Plus on behalf of Highways England to maintain and operate the M25 motorway network, including all adjoining trunk and slip roads, which commenced in 2009. The M25 is one of the busiest sections of road in the UK and is undoubtedly one of the most significant.