Sydney Trains – Asset Management at Sydney Trains: Moving Beyond Certification


1.  Summary of project, product, framework

ISO9001 & ISO55001 Alignment and Business System Integration

Sydney Trains’ journey towards becoming a world-class asset management organisation kicked off with the achievement of ISO55001 certification. The immediate question the followed for this 100-plus year old public sector organisation was – what’s next? How to move forward to maturity, excellence and institutionalising asset management? Through active stakeholder engagement, structured gap analysis and collective decision making, an aligned way-forward to asset management maturity and excellence has been agreed that now forms a comprehensive action plan aimed at institutionalising asset management at an organisational scale and setting an example for complex organisations to move beyond the achievement of improvement goals.

2.  Description of project or framework addressing the assessment criteria:  

Asset Management Principles

Sydney Trains is a complex organisation with an asset value of $40-billion and approximately $1.5-billion annual asset management requirement. A workforce of 11,000 is employed to manage assets across all stages of the asset lifecycle, managing a multitude of assets spread across the network throughout New South Wales. To manage such a complex asset portfolio with a diverse range of stakeholders often poses a risk of losing the line of sight of key objectives. Maturity and excellence warrants coordinated actions with stakeholders working in tandem to deliver the asset performance which is balanced with the cost of managing the assets and the mitigation of the risks. The asset management principle that is now adopted as the key theme to all our actions at Sydney Trains is “Alignment”, which is to align all the functions/directorates/divisions/groups to optimise the asset performance cost and risk in order to maximise the value of assets.

Sydney Trains’ Solution     

Having achieved the prestigious ISO55001 certification for our asset management system in 2017 we decided that the best way forward was to involve all stakeholders across the organisation to lead the way through brainstorming, analysing and identifying areas of improvement to minimise gaps between the intended process and the prevalent field practice.

Sydney Trains is a complex organisation with entrenched ways of working, often within silos, so in order to break the silos and bridge the information gaps, our approach was to simplify the message.

Gauging the organisational behaviour, we selected the theme of “Common Sense”. Asset management, in essence is nothing but common sense, so instead of bombarding stakeholders with asset management jargon, we decided to employ a simple approach of making the stakeholders analyse their inputs and outputs and matching them with the requirements of the next stage in the process or of their internal customers. We asked them the simple questions below:

  • To deliver the required outcomes, are you happy with the information/inputs that you receive?
  • In line with your understanding of your delivery, are you happy with your delivery?

Wherever, the answer for the above questions was ‘no’, that stage/process/instance automatically indicated the gap in the system. The stakeholders were then engaged to identify the requirements that will help to convert their answers to ‘yes’, which in turn minimises the gap between what was happening on the ground and what should happen.

With this approach we were able to actively engage 200-plus decision-making stakeholders who in turn are managing our 11,000 workforce. The organisational discourse shifted from a “tick box” approach, wherein the delivery function are responding only to the extent of compliance, to the active common sense conversation, such as how can we brainstorm and resolve the varied and conflicting expectations and requirements.

Moreover, given the coverage of the entire organisation and all the related processes, it is not easy to make a direct practical connection/correlation between the long-term view and the short term, here and now perspective given the time lag between the plans projections, the time of work delivery and numerous changes happening within this period.

While the organisational strategy may project lofty and sometimes misinterpreted objectives, day to day activities may not change and continue in isolation to the organisational objectives. For example, we demonstrated the direct impact of asset management plan proposals on the short term demand forecast for inventory purchase using the simple “common sense asset management”.

We were able to establish direct line of site between asset management planning and all the downstream delivery related functions including procurement, scheduling, and delivery on site and steer the stakeholders to analyse their inputs and outputs without getting bogged down with complexity of the entire process. At the same time, the simple common sense approach was able to provide the big picture and the demonstration of how the actions of each stakeholder will impact the asset management process as a whole.

Sydney Trains is attempting to join all the dots and tie all aspects of asset management with a common thread. We are aligning almost all asset management decision making points regardless of functions or organisational structure, ranging from objectives, strategies, data standards, maintenance delivery, supply chain, network access, asset data hand over, asset funding, competency and many others. Our approach comes from assessment through internal and external stakeholders’ brainstorming, and many rounds of discussion to chart out the collectively agreed way-forward that clarifies and defines the output of each and every stage of the asset management process.

 On a high level, our approach involved: 

  1. Stakeholder assessment (stakeholders’ position on Sydney Trains asset management map)
  2. Briefing sessions with key stakeholders (to let them know tour plans)
  3. Brainstorming with stakeholders involved in planning/delivery of asset management plans
  4. Cross functional workshops to achieve ‘buy-in’ and agreement for the identified improvement actions (agreeing to the priority of actions, timelines to complete and benefits)

Our goal was to confirm and validate current end-to-end asset management practice and identify what is needed for a future state of mature and sustainable asset management. We also needed to identify and confirm gap areas of improvement, action required to address the gaps and agree on the way forward.

Approach to action

Stakeholders’ assessment

Stakeholder assessment involved mapping and understanding the link between all the activities that are or have the potential to influence the management of the assets throughout their life cycles. Sydney Trains has teams spread across all its directorates, located at numerous locations, handling disparate responsibilities and making decisions that impact the management of assets (refer Figure 1). Stakeholders make decisions that may impact the state of assets in the short, medium and long-term – anywhere from the present day to 10-plus years in the future. It is, therefore, imperative to understand not only the decision-making impact in time, but also all the facets of asset life and corresponding functions that will be impacted by the decisions made.

With this understanding, we ensured stakeholders were mapped with asset lifecycle stages for management of assets that guide the day-to-day interaction between the stakeholders (customer-centric approach) for short to medium and long-term decisions (refer Figure 2). And also the asset management system framework that governs the flow of dissemination of decisions, from strategic (leadership) to operational level (top down) and escalation of issues and performance information (bottom up), from operational level to strategic (leadership) level. Overall, Stage 1 involved 51 briefing sessions and 29 structured brainstorming workshops to engage 200-plus stakeholders across seven directorates, 29 divisions/groups and TfNSW.

Gap Analysis

Bottlenecks in the asset management process are often caused by the gaps/areas of improvement and this leads to issues such as the flow of information being impeded from one process stage to another, or one function to another. It also impacts the dissemination of decisions from strategic to operational level. By systematically capturing the gaps using structured analysis we were able to prioritise the gaps by categorising them based on asset management function areas and asset management process attributes. Figure 3 indicates that three areas viz. asset management planning, work programs planning & delivery and technical maintenance plans contribute to 53 per cent of the areas of improvement, hence, clearly paving the way for our actions and priority to address the gaps.

On closer scrutiny, we observed that all three functions are the core functions of asset management planning, decision making and delivery, wherein the organisation has reasonable internal information and expertise. This not only prioritised our actions but also gave us the confidence to ascertain the actions to address, expected benefits and the timeline to address the gaps. Categorisation of the gaps based on functional areas also helped us to distribute the responsibility to address them and initiate the improvement actions simultaneously, thereby realising the targeted benefits in a relatively short period of time.

The other way of categorising the gaps is to prioritise them based on the process attributes, to ascertain whether they are at a strategic, tactical or operational level. The above figures show that 85% of the gaps are pertaining to communication/coordination and process inefficiencies. This indicates that these gaps are mainly at a tactical and operational level and can be best addressed by line management (mid-level leaders) level. On the other hand 15% gaps pertains to roles/responsibilities and functional/operating model and are therefore a strategic level – putting the onus on the top management (senior leadership) of the organisation.

Action Plan

A comprehensive action plan has been prepared that includes the 12 key functional areas as below (refer Figure 4):

  1. Asset Management Objectives
  2. Asset Management Planning
  3. Works Program Planning
  4. Configuration Management
  5. Asset Information
  6. Asset Assurance
  7. Asset Interface
  8. Asset Management Roles & Responsibilities
  9. Asset Funding & Delivery
  10. Rail Network Access
  11. Routine & Preventive Maintenance
  12. Asset Management Competency

Action plan governance

Effective and efficient monitoring of the delivery of the actions is of paramount importance to ensure the expected benefits are realised. Regular performance assessment will help the organisation to ascertain if there is improvement in maturity and if the organisation is moving towards business excellence. In order to achieve this, governance guidelines have been established to ensure an institutionalised approach to monitor the asset management improvement action plan. Actions are proposed under major asset management functional areas assigned to one responsibility centre (AM Leader) who will be accountable to coordinate and manage the delivery of all the actions including laying out the benefit monitoring criteria and mechanisms post completion of the action.

Cross functional workshops are being organised by the ‘AM leaders’ to seek agreement with stakeholders for the actions, modify and improve the actions to incorporate the existing and proposed actions, seek the agreement with the stakeholders for the ‘target date of completion’ for the actions, finalise the responsibility, accountability for the actions; and, seek the agreement with the stakeholders for the targeted tangible and intangible benefits for effective benefit analysis of asset management improvement. Once the actions and timelines are agreed and confirmed by stakeholders, the status of delivery and benefit realisation should be reported and monitored in the respective Visual Management Cells (VMCs) such as the status of actions to be reported in respective level VMCs who are assigned the responsibility of the actions, AM functional improvement initiatives to be reported in Division level VMC by the AM Leaders, Overall AM Improvement plan progress and status to be reported by DED-AMD in ED-EMD VMC; and, ED-EMD to present the status to EMC through AM Working Group submission.

Delivery timeline and status

The delivery of the asset management improvement plan is being meticulously worked out through detailed discussions, analysis and brainstorming with all stakeholders to identify the realistic timeline that aligns with the delivery of business as usual tasks. Taking the cognizance of the existing initiatives, funds required and impact on the day to day service delivery to minimise the inconvenience to the end customer, all actions of the asset management improvement plan are expected to be delivered by the end of December 2020 with clear definition of the expected benefits.

There are 48 specific actions identified that, individually, aim to achieve relatively small incremental changes within practical limits to afford the change. The actions range from inventory management to streamlining the asset management objectives, comprehensive overhaul of organisational roles and responsibilities etc. and even influencing the processes and framework of Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW) in the way they manage all the transport agencies within New South Wales (NSW). Currently we are in the process of assigning the sponsors and responsibility centres to all the actions and facilitating and monitoring the action plan delivery centrally, through the office of Deputy Executive Director of Asset Management who in turn provides the updates to Executive Management Committee (EMC) comprising of Chief Executive and Executive Directors. There are already a number of actions, especially related to the technology, that are underway due to recent upgrades in our Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) system through implementation of SAP.

Benefits / objectives

The expected benefits of Sydney Trains’ asset management improvement action plan are –

  1. Aligned asset management objectives duly cascaded to all functions of asset management with corresponding key performance indicators to track the achievement of objectives
  2. Optimised asset management planning and analysis proposing coherent asset strategies that balance the asset performance with the cost and mitigating the risk (so far as reasonably practical)
  3. Efficient and effective work programing through appropriate translation of asset strategies and asset management plans into actionable work programs with clearly defined priority and pipeline of works
  4. Improving the utilisation of rail network access that is aligned with the work programs thus optimising the asset maintenance with least possible impact on services
  5. Robust and integrated configuration management to manage the changes in the configuration of the network and delivering consistent approach to manage any change in the system thereby reducing wastage & rework.
  6. Effective asset assurance supported with the asset strategies and plans to ensure compliance to performance, standards, regulatory and legislative compliance. Asset investment option aligned with assurance requirements.
  7. Clearly defined asset data standards for asset information systems to capture at point and moment of truth for effective asset management decision making
  8. Routine and preventive maintenance aligned with the asset strategies, asset performance and the optimising cost
  9. Clearly defined asset management roles and responsibilities across the organisation to avoid conflicting and overlapping responsibilities for effective decision making, delivery and managing effective interface with external agencies such as TfNSW, Sydney Metro etc. Reduction of wastage and rework.
  10. Robust and fit for purpose asset management competency framework and training regime aligned with the needs of asset management planning, decision making. Trained asset managers taking informed decisions to optimise cost risk and asset performance.
  11. Overall improved and informed decision making that will be increasingly based on the facts and the needs of the assets

Sydney Trains’ contribution

The asset management improvement action plan is a huge shift in Sydney Trains’ approach, taking the organisation to a level of maturity that enables asset management sustainability in real terms for the rail transport. The action plan will help ensure a smooth transition to the new paradigm in which all stakeholders operate in tandem with coordinated and corresponding decision making in order to optimally manage the lifecycle(s) of not just single assets, but large groups of assets – all with vast variations in asset life, performance, condition and needs – and ultimately the entire portfolio of Sydney Trains’ assets. Resulting benefits will affect not only Sydney Trains, but also NSW state government, the tax payer and our customers through optimisation of the funds needed to manage the assets, asset performance in terms of reliability and punctuality; and optimising the asset level and enterprise level risks.

Through asset management maturity and excellence, Sydney Trains aims to optimise the asset management funding requirement to three to five percent of the total funding requirement, which will set an unprecedented example of how to progress and move forward after achieving the highest level of international recognition for asset management. Through the asset management improvement action plan, we continuously strive to ensure the highest value for the community and the tax payers, thus leading the way in prudent, effective and sustainable asset management, reinforcing the pivotal role of rail transport in the progress and economy of vibrant Sydney city.

3.  General

Figure 1: Spread of all the functions influencing management of assets across all Sydney Trains directorates

Figure 2: Sydney Trains functions mapped to the organisational asset management process

Figure 3: Asset management function areas gaps

Figure 4: Key functional areas of improvement for Sydney Trains Asset Management Maturity

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