A $20 billion investment has been made by Federal and State Governments in Australia’s rail infrastructure and networks, and now attention should turn to how the sector can extract 100 per cent value out of these assets once they have been built. The answer to this lies in data analytics to provide decision-quality information that can provide solid engineering, maintenance and supply support to the new and existing infrastructure.

With such a major investment there needs to be processes in place to ensure that when the assets move from construction into operation, they are safe, regulatory compliant, and provide a return on investment in line with the original expectations.

The key to providing efficient rail operations and unlocking value from assets is having an integrated support network across engineering, maintenance and supply that is backed by rigorous data collection and analytics.

Consolidated whole-of-life approach

Jim Frith, Managing Director at McConnell Dowell said the best way to make sure the industry is getting value from these investments is to use data collection and analysis to aid better decision making.

“We need to provide support for the current investments in rail infrastructure and rolling stock assets by building asset support systems that ensure return on investment, operational excellence, and ensure a smooth transition from the project delivery phase to the operational phase,” Mr Frith said.

To achieve a coordinated effort, a systematic approach to applying engineering, maintenance and supply functions across the asset base, supported by the collection of data from operational sources, the assets themselves, and factors external to but affecting the assets, is important.

What really counts in the end is making sense of the information collected and understanding what it is telling us and then having an engineering office that can formally apply good asset management practices to the on-ground maintenance teams and the supply chain.

Data analytics is also vital for reporting to government bodies and performance assessment.

After investing a major amount of funding, governments need to know how the infrastructure is working and if it is providing a return on investment.

In order to achieve a smooth transition to the operations phase, Mr Frith said the data needs to be collected and analysed as early as possible and all the supporting elements need to have been put in place well before any passengers get on board.

Ideally this should occur during the project phase.

Use data, don’t just collect it

In addition to its traditional rail construction and rail plant services businesses, McConnell Dowell is implementing this coordinated and systemised approach in its operations to provide a service that encompasses the entire spectrum of asset construction and management requirements for rail infrastructure.

They will be able to achieve this because they’re thinking not just about collecting data and information about assets, but how that data will be used to make decisions in a purposefully built support office.

They have a structured flow of Engineering, Maintenance, and Supply function inputs and outputs supported by extensive data collection and data analytics.

“We could manage the entire logistic support function for the primary operator, or parts as required, to provide an independent position of serviceable assets, backed by transparent analysis of engineering, maintenance and supply requirements for these government owned assets of high public value,” Mr Frith said.

This provides high value for rail operators as it means there is just a single provider carrying out activities to support the provision of engineering, maintenance and supply functions in a coordinated and integrated manner.

These integrated data and asset support functions have worked before in other sectors, from aviation to Defence, and McConnell Dowell believe that if it’s embraced by the rail industry it will help ensure full asset operational excellence.

McConnell Dowell is currently delivering the Murray Basin Rail Upgrade Project in Victoria, the largest freight rail upgrade project in Australia; in addition to a program of level crossing removals in Melbourne.

This partner content is brought to you by McConnell Dowell. For more information, visit www.mcconnelldowell.com/capability/rail

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