Department of Transport Victoria & Assetic – The Moonshot Vision: Re-imagining Victoria’s Public Transport Network

1. Summary of the project

The Department of Transport (DoT) is the custodian of over ten million discrete transport assets, currently valued in excess of $100b, with a further $50b in advanced planning or delivery through the “Big Build”. Regulatory instruments such as the Transport Integration Act, Asset Management Accountability Framework, and DoT Strategic Plan each call for customer-centric, outcome-focussed asset management, integrated across all modes.

DoT and Assetic partnered solve this challenge with the internally-named “Moonshot” – because, like President Kennedy’s “Moonshot challenge” in 1961 which challenged the whole country to unite in sending a person to the moon and back before the end of the decade, it hasn’t yet been achieved nor has how it will be achieved been defined.

Figure 1 – Building on experience, capability and innovation, Assetic and the DoT partnered to achieve the Moonshot

2. Description of the project

At the outset it was clear DoT required an evidence base with:

  • Linkages of asset interventions and customer outcomes
  • A method to optimise integrated outcomes across all modes

DoT was aware it had sub-optimal decision making due to:

  • Limited understanding of asset condition and performance, with subsequent negative impact on network performance, service levels and user outcomes
  • Legacy silos across information, systems and process

DoT and Assetic (‘the Collaboration’) came together to tackle these challenges in a systemic way, achieving Moonshot via a risk managed test and scale approach. The decision was to prove the methodology through a pilot project, leveraging data structures, output algorithms, optimisation challenges, cross-mode analysis methods and linkage algorithms (impact on intangibles) on a small area with representative samples of each mode of transport. This provided confidence that the project was feasible, and able to be extrapolated to a corridor and subsequently a region, fully acknowledging that the scale of the problem as well as the number of input/output variables scale up exponentially. (Figure 2: Example outputs).

Figure 2 – Example Output from Stage 1 Pilot showing asset Cost, Performance and Risk optimisation under
differing asset investment options

The pilot demonstrated the value of:

  1. Works packaging optimisation (Figure 2 & 3)
  2. Scrutinising various funding scenarios over time and by asset class (Figure 4)
  3. Asset class prioritisation and subsequent implications
  4. Eventual multi-modal analysis, not yet possible but deemed achievable

Figure 3 – Pilot project output showing capital works planning over multiple years and opportunity for optimisation

Figure 4 – Performance, Risk and Cost scenarios for different funding profiles over time and by asset class

Use of Best Practice Asset Management Principles

Application of best practice asset management principles through the DoT-Assetic collaboration’s Sydney Road pilot phase established the case for optimisation from an evidence base, and its contribution to the eventual Moonshot (Figure 5). 

Figure 5 – The Moonshot vision takes service-driven asset management to the next level – truly user-driven

For asset management to become strategically relevant to DoT, it has to be integrated into planning of service delivery and user outcomes, not just stop at technical asset management outputs. Historically assets were managed for their own sake, not directly for service or customer outcomes. The shift from yesterday’s asset management landscape of straight-line depreciation and budget-driven asset provision to a service driven framework (Figure 6) is a fundamental pillar of Assetic’s expertise. Over 12+ years Assetic has helped over 150 asset-intense agencies flip their approach and actualise optimisation of asset provision in line with users’ service requirements.

Figure 6 – the flip from budget- to service-driven asset management is a pillar of Assetic’s work

Further, there was an opportunity to apply DoT’s expertise combined with Assetic’s asset optimisation science to ensure the best service from current assets at the optimal investment level – multiplied across all modes. The need to renew existing infrastructure is acute and doing so is expensive. Once an asset degrades and service provision declines substantially, there’s a subsequent increase in cost to repair (Figure 7). Intervening at the optimal time in the optimal manner extends asset life at the optimal cost.

Figure 7 – As an asset enters the “Failure Zone” renewal and maintenance costs rise quickly
(credit: McKinsey & Company, Voices on Infrastructure)

Degree of originality and ingenuity of the solution

The project delivered breakthrough outcomes in decision making, demanding a different way of thinking from inception to delivery. To achieve this, three lenses were applied from the outset, shaping actions and results, and adding additional insight and value:

  • Systems Lens: how components interrelate, how the ecosystem works over time, and how it works within the larger context of other ecosystems
  • Value Engineering Lens: unlocking potential of the ‘unknown’ and where opportunities with this accord of science and strategy exist beyond transport
  • Gender Lens: understanding gender bias impacts and removing future bias by design

This project is breaking new ground with:

  • Embodiment of Transport Integration Act objectives; efficient and effective multi-modal services to meet the needs of a growing population, scientifically driven by user outcomes
  • An evidence-based investment decision making logic (Figure 8) that compares:
    • All transport modes
    • Various service delivery and user scenarios
    • All asset management options

Figure 8 – Defining the logic pathways between asset interventions and user outcomes

Successful delivery of this project required not just expertise and innovation in mindset, but also in analytical optimisation tools. Assetic Predictor comprises comprehensive algorithms which accurately model asset behaviour into the future against various budget and service-driven criteria, but not yet at the Moonshot level of true user-centricity. DoT’s asset management vision and leadership, combined with Assetic’s data science expertise, brings the Moonshot vision of this project closer to reality. 

Program and project management

The project has been staged in delivery to mitigate risk and ensure effectiveness:

  1. Market capability study of analytics
  2. Pilot (Sydney Road precinct)
  3. Market testing of entire ecosystem through early contractor involvement
  4. Framework design and delivery strategy

Each step has refined thinking for the Collaboration, clarifying solutions to be developed, as well as demonstrating maturity of existing options to deliver required outcomes. Guided by a true ‘plan-do-check-act’ mindset, the project direction has been adjusted and progressed in understanding with key learnings:

  1. Capability in the market
  2. Project boundaries: How Assetic and various parts of DoT (Planning, Operations, Agencies and project teams within Transport) must interface
  3. Asset management needs: Questions other strategic elements of the DoT have of assets and how to best meet those needs

The next stage will begin to leverage modelling capability to realise benefits at scale on assets, projects and operations.

Overall this agile, flexible, systems engineering approach has provided risk management to both limit exposure of large investments (negative risk) and enable increased opportunities as exposure and learnings evolve (positive risk).

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

DoT is an asset intensive State Transport Agency, managing $100b transport assets with a further $50b coming online in the next decade. An objective, defendable and future proofed approach to asset management decisions will deliver significant benefit and value to a multitude of stakeholders.

The Moonshot project has helped the DoT operate more cohesively and collaboratively, providing a consistent language and scientific evidence base from which to discuss asset management with customer and community outcomes front of mind. It will help Assetic further advance its prediction modelling platform, taking it from delivering service-driven strategies and models to the next level of true user-driven outcomes. We can then not only see our asset future, but one that services the communities of the future and their specific needs. This tool will then be available to the asset management fraternity as a whole.

It is estimated that the average asset portfolio degrades at average 3-4% per annum. By optimising interventions in line with strategic asset management best practice (Figure 7) this consumption rate can be reduced by a conservatively estimated 0.5%. Given the scale of DoT’s overall asset portfolio this could realise savings of up to $0.5b per annum by applying the analytical tools developed through this project.

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

The bringing together of a public sector organisation, such as DoT, and a private sector organisation, such as Assetic, is an example of true synergy – where the union is more valuable than the sum of its parts.

DoT set out to partner with an appropriately innovative business to help drive this project. Assetic was selected for its proven specialist skills, and demonstrable asset optimisation and decision support methodologies to enable the State in realising greater value from its assets.

The two have come together with a collective, innovative mindset that comes from visionary DoT asset-focussed leadership, supported by Assetic’s appetite and comfort for tackling the unknown. Where DoT brings systems, processes and scale of opportunity, Assetic adds unparalleled strategic asset management domain knowledge and analytical tools.

This Collaboration is working to link the asset manager to other transport functions like operational managers, service planners and strategic planners, then ultimately to the external transport user. It’s modelling assets and the transport systems in a way that helps planners better understand the impact of asset performance and degradation – because nothing is new forever. It’s helping asset managers make evidence-based decisions on the optimal treatment for the asset base – because no one has infinite resources. It’s delivering a better outcome for transport users by enabling these asset decisions to be made with their needs and outcomes understood, ultimately achieving, testing and adjusting the most optimal balance between total cost of asset ownership, performance (both asset and service), and tolerable level of risk.

United by the Moonshot vision of delivering Victoria a truly user-centric multimodal transport network, the Collaboration is working to ensure every asset management dollar is spent according to evidence-based data-driven strategies that optimise asset lives into the future.

4. General comments

DoT and Assetic partnered in a forward-thinking journey to better manage Victoria’s highest value asset, solving the challenge of:

  • Linking asset interventions to customer outcomes
  • Optimising asset outcomes
  • Defining the evidenced base for decision making

For example, how to best allocate $50m in future spend for new, renewal, upgrade and maintenance and in such a way where ‘best’ means most optimal, and ‘most optimal’ means providing taxpayers with greatest value at lowest cost – to both the hip pocket, and environmental and social well-being.

For further example (Figure 9), would it put more back into the economy over the next 20 years if we used:

  • Strategy A: which provides greater gender equity and lower risk, but higher environmental impact, or
  • Strategy B: which ensures risk of failure, condition and network vulnerability are optimised

Figure 9: The project enabled efficient analysis of multiple future scenarios and associated costs, paving the way for assessment of service provision at the user-centric level

These questions require billions of permutations, across million of assets, with multiple decision trees to be analysed. And this analysis must happen within minutes and provide a live control room view of what our future city would look like if we made different decisions today.

The power of analytics provides that view and once the evidence base is in use, it improves every time it is used, tested and adjusted. That evidence base can also provide information in multiple formats (Figure 10, 11 and 12) depending on the audience, the challenge at hand and the decision making variables. This elevates what was previously a technical conversation to actual community outcomes where funding agencies, asset managers, operators and community can transparently share the opportunities, risks and decisions in industry changing, powerful ways.

Figure 10 – Comparing multiple asset intervention options across customer satisfaction, asset performance and cost

Figure 11 – Understanding community outcomes of project, program and portfolio options

Figure 12 – Modelling long-term economics of an asset base

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