Department of Fire & Emergency Services – DFES Continuous Improvement Model

  1. Summary of the project, product, framework

Effective asset management is critical for meeting organisational objectives. An independent assessment of DFES maturity levels of current asset management practices, against industry recognised frameworks, identified gaps and the following areas of improvement:

  • Strategic Planning Framework
  • Communication, Culture & Governance
  • Training & Development
  • Asset Information & Systems

To address the gaps and support the Strategic Asset Management Framework, the Operational Research and Development (ORD) branch developed and implemented a Continuous Improvement Model (CIM) (Figure 1). The CIM has been piloted successfully to develop and improve the DFES operational fleet, it will also be utilised for new / improving operational assets.

Figure1 The Continuous Improvement Framework/Model

  • Description of project or framework addressing the assessment criteria
  • Use of Best Practice Asset Management Principles

The CIM involves five areas that align to the ‘Act | Plan | Do | Check’ asset design cycle:

  1. Research
  2. The initiation/decision making process
  3. The Asset Design and Delivery Model
  4. New to service trials
  5. Opportunities and issue identification

A key component of the CIM is the new DFES Asset Design and Delivery Model (ADDM), used for the continuous improvement of assets currently under development. It focuses on the initiation process and the processes activated once an asset has transitioned to ‘in service’.

The Asset Design and Delivery Model (ADDM) applies to the plan/design and the acquire/build components. The CIM encompasses the whole asset design cycle.

The CIM considers the initiation process, where change requests and ideas for new concepts and improvements are assessed and processed in a structured and governed way. Requests are assessed and prioritised based on risk and benefit, and the appropriate level of governance is determined. Requests may be tracked to identify trends and grouped to achieve economies. The ADDM commences following this initiation process.

The CIM also considers the processes arising once an asset has transitioned to in service, including commissioning, handover and training and feedback channels. As part of this, the Operational Fleet Project developed the ‘New to Service Evaluation Process’, designed to enable end users to evaluate new builds over an extended period, with their feedback being captured and fed into the CIM for consideration in future build programs.

The overarching guiding principles describe the intended level of quality and suitability of the final asset. The asset needs to be well equipped and well suited for its designated role or purpose. It implies that ‘one size does not fit all’. Minor configurations to a base design will result in assets that are reflective of local environments and needs, to better protect the community.

The Guiding Principles of the CIM include:

End User Involvement through Project Advisory Teams (PATs), to leverage and harness the wealth of knowledge and experience across our vast end user community, across all services in the state, including our 26,000 volunteers. End user input is crucial to fleet design and evaluation and provides opportunities for innovation.

Collaboration and Consultation. The CIM is characterised by embedded collaboration and consultation with end users, and cross-functionally within DFES. Two-way communication and information sharing to improve planning and outcomes. 

Enhanced Visibility and Transparency, clearly identifying and defining roles, responsibilities and activities, managing stakeholder expectations throughout the process. An online Fleet Catalogue has been developed for the DFES website, to improve public access to information.

Evidence-based Decision Making. Decision gates at key points through the CIM ensures agreement and completion of actions before proceeding; issues and risks are flagged early; structured documentation processes ensures all feedback is captured for inclusion / consideration.

Simple – Sustainable – Flexible. This CIM is designed to be robust yet simple, driving consistency and sustainability. Flexibility enables its application to various situations and asset types.

  • Degree of originality and ingenuity of solution

Past projects were progressed without using a standardised process, involving end user analysis or prototype evaluation resulting in asset specification, tender responses and outcomes not meeting State or end user requirements.

To achieve the objectives and outcomes required to manufacture fit for purpose operational assets, DFES endorsed the ADDM and Project Advisory Team’s (PATs) were established to facilitate and guide the design and delivery, to deliver the best outcomes for end users.

  • Program and project management

The ADDM has been piloted and streamlined to deliver the design, specifications, first of type and ongoing build over $500m worth of contracts for DFES operational fleet. The subsequent delivery of a ‘Fit for Purpose’ response fleet will better equip all fire and emergency services. 

Whilst the ADDM was piloted with ‘Operational Fleet’, broader application across all DFES assets has occurred including equipment, personal protective clothing, uniforms, ICT communications and facilities, utilising the three key phases of Concept Design, Acquisition and Asset Acceptance. (Figure 2)

Figure 2 The Asset Design and Delivery Model

Key Features of the ADDM:

  • a roadmap for consistent design and delivery of all assets.
  • ensures agreement from all before moving to acquisition phase
  • opportunity to confirm we’ve achieved what was agreed during concept design through functional specification, tender responses, evaluation and validation
  • includes development of learning resources to ensure preparedness
  • involvement of end users at multiple steps is fundamental

Contract owners, asset owners and cross-functional teams, including PATs, Project Coordinators, Contract Category Mangers, Service Delivery Managers and ORD Coordinators (Figure 3) all have key responsibilities to manage business improvement projects. Projects vary in size, cost and complexity dictating which ADDM activities are necessary and the depth of planning/reporting that needs to occur within each stage. The ORD branch is responsible for facilitating these projects through the ADDM, as well as project coordinating for key areas of research projects.

Figure 3 Key functional Teams

There are several points through the ADDM where PAT members are engaged to assist with concept design, functional specification development, evaluation of submissions from the tender process, validation of First of Type build and, finally, asset acceptance.

Figure4 PAT touch points

The enduring nature of a PAT is maintained throughout the continuous improvement cycle of the asset type, representing end users in annual (or as required) meetings. They act as the reference point for reassessment or whether enhancements to the design and future builds are required, to ensure the continued evolution and Fitness for Purpose of the asset.

  • Benefit / Value of the project or service to the community or organisation

The CIM and ADDM ensure DFES have operational assets that are fit for purpose. End users will have input, accept the outcomes and have opportunity to trial replacement models.

Minister for Emergency Services Fran Logan MLA and Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm AFSM recently unveiled eight new firefighting appliances at the WA Fire and Emergency Services Academy. The new additions include enhanced safety features, increased water capacity and improved off-road capabilities for urban and rural brigades, groups and units.

The Operational Fleet Project has been described as:

“DFES has worked with volunteers and career officers to redesign WA’s emergency services fleet to improve community safety and provide the appliances that work best for each situation. As part of the locally built new generation vehicles, volunteers also now have more truck chassis to choose from. This option was introduced after extensive consultation with volunteers across the State who all expressed different needs.”

(Minister for Emergency Services Francis Logan)

“WA now has a fleet designed by emergency services, through a collaborative project involving career firefighters, personnel and volunteers”

 (DFES Commissioner Darren Klemm AFSM)

The biggest project DFES has done in relation to impact on/involvement with volunteers. If it falls over, we lose the opportunity to bring the volunteers along and keep them engaged forever.”

(Jodie Neuzerling, Executive Officer Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services Association of WA (VFRSAWA)

Media statements – A new emergency services fleet to take Western Australia forward

  • Opinion as to specific contribution made by the nominated individual / team / organisation

The ORD branch has been pivotal in establishing new supply contracts for Operational Assets. This re-defined, streamlined approach has now transitioned into the business by way of the Asset Management Policy.

ORD have achieved this through developing a structured, collaborative process focussed on end users, producing excellent outcomes. ORD developed the asset CIM, which was endorsed and now imbedded into Policy and adopted across the business. To support the CIM and ADDM, ORD have established some key components to create an accountable culture and ensure projects are on track and visible, including:


A governance structure to consider the total business impact. This structure includes capturing ideas from various sources, screening and recommending these ideas to either Don’t, Do, Plan (through the ADDM) or defer projects. This is key to ensuring appropriate approval, progression and monitoring of continuous improvement initiatives.

Change Decision Tool

This tool was implemented to use both within and outside of the ADDM, to enable consistent evidenced based decisions to determine priority and direct next steps.

Opportunity Capture

To capture continuous improvement ideas effectively and efficiently, DFES have re-developed its online platform to ensure a more streamlined process, providing greater visibility for idea initiators. The platform has also been reconfigured to allow future adoption by other business areas, providing a one-stop-shop to submit an idea and be involved in its development.


ORD has begun the adoption of online planning and reporting of asset developments. This has included creating dashboards for projects involving Fleet, Equipment and Apparel. This identifies the active developments, aligns their status to the ADDM and comments on status and next steps. This has been adopted by the Asset Management portfolio to develop an accountable culture which has improved organisational performance.

Figure 5 ORD business planning model

4. General comments you may wish to add

This has changed the way DFES delivers assets to end users. The thinking has changed from “this is what you need” to “what do you need?” and “let’s work together”.

A ‘birds-eye’ view of the 4.4 Broadacre Tanker Workshop held at the ORD workshop in Kardinya.  Locations for PAT workshops are wide and varied, including DFES facilities at Belmont, Cockburn and Forrestfield Academy. Bushland in Whiteman Park offering sandy terrain and marine environments on the Swan River.

New Trucks on the Block. WA now has a fleet designed by emergency services, through a collaborative project involving career firefighters, personnel and volunteers. More than 170 emergency services volunteers and career personnel have been closely involved in the design and delivery of new vehicles, undertaking innovation workshops, user testing and providing feedback.  
Scott Horlin, VFRS Northam & Matt Stoltenbarg, VFRS Australind carrying out user trials for the Urban Pumper Type 2.  Terri Kowal, BFS Bunbury carrying out user trials for the Light Tanker.
Jim Armanasco, VFRS Kalamunda & Jarrod Luscombe, CFRS Malaga carrying out user trials for the Urban Pumper Type 1 with Jon Kirk, DFES ORD Coordinator.Colin Nicholson, SES South West, Lincoln Heading, SES Kimberley and John Saffrey, DFES Kimberley carrying out user trials for the Flood Rescue Boat.
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