With Victoria set to break ground on some of the biggest infrastructure projects in the state’s history, a new digital asset strategy seeks to improve the delivery and whole-of-life management of Victoria’s projects and assets.
As building, construction and project management technologies evolve, every new infrastructure project carries with it extremely valuable data and resources that, if accessible, would be of enormous benefit to a range of stakeholders in the future.
Now, more than ever, it is imperative to harness data and resources through a digital asset strategy.
Victoria, as the fastest growing state in Australia, recognises the important role of data and information in effectively delivering world-class infrastructure and services to meet the demands of its population. That is where the Victorian Digital Asset Strategy (VDAS) comes into play.
The VDAS is led by Victorian Chief Engineer, Dr Collette Burke, and the Office of Projects Victoria, whose role is to inform and advise on the successful delivery of major infrastructure projects in Victoria. The development of VDAS is the result of a large collaborative process involving a wide range of experts and practitioners, including government, industry and educators.
The VDAS is designed to support the effective and consistent coordination of digital information across a physical asset’s life cycle for a range of stakeholders.
At the heart of the VDAS is the recognition that asset data and information is valuable and that remaking, and recapturing data and/or information is inefficient.
The VDAS aims to streamline the many sources and types of information and data used in delivery and whole-of-life management of Victoria’s complex infrastructure assets. This information ranges from engineering drawings, computer-aided designs, 3D models, project schedules, and cost estimates all the way through to asset registers.
Dr Burke said that Digital engineering (DE) is at the core of the VDAS approach. She suggests DE is a convergence of data-driven processes, such as building information modelling (BIM), geographic information systems (GIS) and other related systems for deriving better business, project and asset management outcomes.
The most important tenet of digital engineering is providing a collaborative ‘way of working’, using more efficient digital information management processes.
These digital information management processes enhance integration and coordination, while driving more productive methods of planning, designing, constructing, operating and maintaining assets throughout their lifecycle.
The digital information management processes are fully enhanced when asset stakeholders recognise the value of information and data. A prime example of ‘valuable information and data’ may be the quantities and components as part of a building’s structure. This information is needed early in the project’s life for cost estimates, scheduling, materials availability, options analysis, and sustainability assessments.
That same information, albeit in greater detail, is also needed during detailed engineering and construction for lifting studies, casting, and logistics. The end of the project wouldn’t be the end of use for that same information. That same information can also be utilised during the building’s operation for asset performance, inspection, condition and fatigue analysis and compliance assessments.
Towards future Smart Cities
The above example is limited to one bit of information on one asset. Expanding and fast-forwarding this example to assets across Victoria, the VDAS quickly becomes the launchpad for Victoria as the home for ‘future cities’. Future cities utilise digital city and regional planning with truly integrated services, enhances transparency to the circular economy, improves accessibility and connectivity, and ensures resources utilisation is more efficient.
Indeed, all of this will not eventuate overnight. The VDAS leverages supporting process-enablers, such as technical tools, specifications, practice and procedures. Technical tools and specifications include standardised asset classification systems, open data formats, object-based models, spatially located data, and common data environments. The VDAS-enabling practices and procedures include procurement, governance, validation, people upskilling, change management and collaboration. All of these things will take time to align, but Dr Burke believes we need to start right now.
Dr Burke is a strong advocate of not creating bespoke processes. “It is for this reason the VDAS has been developed in collaboration with existing local and international policies, procedures, lessons learned, and best practices,” she said.
“These include, but are not limited to, procedures such as the Commonwealth Government’s national digital engineering policy principles, international best practices, internationally-recognised asset classifications, and Victorian Government-specific policies, such as the Victorian Government’s Asset Management Accountability, and Value Creation and Capture frameworks, and front-end engineering and design (FEED).
“The goal of the VDAS is to enhance public confidence, achieve greater value-for-money outcomes and facilitate more effective and efficient decision-making.”
Combined, this yields a better and more efficient asset for all Victorians. This is what an engineer should be striving toward.
Informed and consulted stakeholders
Anyone who has led a major change management exercise will know stakeholder engagement and management is a key objective. As a result, the VDAS stakeholder philosophy is to go far, go wide, and go deep into detail – listening to as many stakeholders as possible.
This philosophy has paid off. The VDAS Strategic Framework has reached hundreds of organisations and stakeholders locally, nationally, and globally. There was resounding common feedback: get on with it!
Apart from the wide consultation and stakeholder engagement piece, Dr Burke highlights that buy-in to the VDAS Strategic Framework was positive as people are beginning to understand the benefits that DE and BIM can provide.
“A whole range of stakeholders are likely to reap benefits including cost estimators, facilities managers, schedulers, project managers, senior governmental decision-makers, environmental leads through to safety managers,” Dr Burke said.