From paving the way for initial adoption to incorporating Artificial Intelligence, how one small company is changing the face of requirements management in the Australian transport infrastructure sector.

As modern infrastructure projects grow in size and complexity, there has been an increasing need to move away from traditional spreadsheets and find more efficient and reliable methods of managing large volumes of requirements. 

This is particularly true when it comes to ‘mega projects’, where requirements can number in the 100,000s. All of which must be managed and traced across multiple stakeholders, work packages and interfaces in a complex, high-pressure environment where errors, changes and delays can cost millions of dollars.

Doing things differently 

In 2012, Sue Milner, Katherine Eastaughffe and Graeme Cutler came together with the idea of establishing an engineering services provider with a difference.

Each a respected authority in their own field, they saw an opportunity to combine their decades of experience and expertise to form a company that could offer clients better value through a uniquely integrated systems engineering approach. So it was that Acmena was born. 

Operating the business from a veranda in the leafy Brisbane suburb of Ashgrove, the directors were joined by James Tomlinson – a former colleague who had been part of the Integrate Systems Engineering team leading the charge in modernising requirements management by customising and deploying IBM’s digital requirements tool ‘DOORS’ for UK rail projects. 

Seeing an opportunity to provide advanced requirements management services in Australia, Acmena joined forces with IBM as a Business Partner in 2014.

With all the pieces in place, Acmena not only became one of the first service providers to use DOORS on a major rail project but was among the first to push for its use to become standard practice at a point where the industry was still heavily reliant on spreadsheets. 

“DOORS was being used on some rail projects at the time, but it was on an ad hoc basis,” remembers Nicolas Teulier, Acmena State Manager and Principal Systems Engineering Consultant. 

“Most projects were still using spreadsheets and there was a lot of resistance to using DOORS. People were happy to use spreadsheets because it was what they knew, but there were a lot of problems with managing requirements data that way – especially when dealing with thousands of requirements.

“Using spreadsheets also made it hard to collaborate or know that what you were working on was the latest version of a requirement.

“Quite often, the latest version was sitting on someone else’s desktop. Without having a single source of truth to work from, you inevitably got problems cropping up down the line.” 

Making the case for change

Winning the contract for the second phase of Transport for New South Wales’ (TfNSW) Requirements Improvement Solution (RIS) program – which was a strategic effort to move projects away from spreadsheets towards using more advanced requirements management methods – Acmena played a key role in changing opinion and making DOORS standard across NSW rail projects. 

In 2014, Acmena was engaged to provide systems engineering and assurance support for Sydney Metro. Featuring 31 stations, 66km of new line and twin 15.5km tunnels under Sydney Harbour, the $12b development is the biggest rail project in Australia.

Using IBM DOORS, Acmena established a requirements framework capable of managing the project’s massive number of requirements. 

By creating a centralised repository, and configuring it to meet the project’s needs, Acmena was able to integrate key engineering programs and provide progressive assurance, in addition to critical visibility and traceability across the project.

In 2020, Acmena and TfNSW reached the impressive milestone of achieving 100% traceability across all 153,287 project requirements. 

An industry first 

After featuring prominently in the push to have DOORS more widely accepted across the rail industry, Acmena became one of the first companies in the world to use the cloud-based IBM DOORS Next platform on a major rail project when it was engaged to provide requirements management support for the $11b Metro Tunnel Melbourne program. 

“Up until that point, DOORS Next was mostly used for software development,” says Teulier. “But we worked with IBM to accelerate the cloud solution and helped them to understand the client’s technical constraints, their needs, and what had to be done with information stored in the cloud.

“We also supported IBM in terms of how to manage the migration of data from the client to the cloud with minimal disruption.”

Representing the first time a centralised solution had been used on a major Victorian rail project, DOORS Next was able to support concurrent use by multiple stakeholders, allowing the smooth integration of infrastructure and systems being built under different contracts.

So successful was its deployment that both DOORS Next and Acmena’s methods were made standard practice for future Public Transport Victoria rail projects. 

Similarly, Acmena’s use of DOORS Next on the Caulfield to Dandenong Level Crossing Removal Project has resulted in its methods being adopted by the Level Crossing Removal Agency (LXRA) and used across similar projects in Victoria.

DOORS Next also played a key role in Acmena’s integrated support for the $5.4 Cross River Rail project in Brisbane, where it was engaged to provide systems engineering, assurance and human factors services across the Tunnels and Stations Development and Rail, Infrastructure and Systems packages. 

Since Acmena’s ground-breaking work on the Metro Tunnel project, DOORS Next has become more widely used, not only in the rail industry, but elsewhere too, with TfNSW using it to support the construction of the Western Sydney Airport and various road projects, and in Western Australia on the Perth Metronet program. 

Using A.I and V.R to push the boundaries 

Always innovating and pushing boundaries, Acmena became just the second company in the world to use IBM’s Artificial Intelligence-based Requirements Quality Assistant software to analyse requirements on TfNSW’s Digital Systems Program – System Integrator.

The company has also interfaced the IBM Engineering Lifecycle Management suite with Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) tools to enable more effective integration of requirements, safety hazards, human factors issues and interfaces across seven different suppliers and the various stakeholders involved in the project.

Meanwhile, Acmena is attempting to expand the use of A.I, while also exploring ways virtual reality can be used to improve requirements management processes. 

“We started the evolution of getting more people to use DOORS to support a broader scope of their projects by incorporating safety, human factors and interface management,” says Teulier.

“Now we have reached a stage where we need to use DOORS Next to help clients be more efficient. Artificial Intelligence can help us deal with large quantities of data and enable us to spend as little time as possible managing requirements, while still producing high quality results. 

“Similarly, by linking requirements artefacts in DOORS Next to virtual reality, we can help people actually see what the system or product will look like on the track or in a station.

“By representing this data in the real world, it becomes tangible for people, and they get a better understanding of how things are used and why it matters. Acmena is working hard to make this a reality, but if it enables us to deliver better support to our clients and helps them build better, safer transport systems for the public, then it is worth the effort.” 

Acmena is presenting at AusRAIL Plus 2021. For more details, visit ausrail.com.au

This sponsored editorial was brought to you by Acmena. For more information, visit www.acmena.com.au/. 

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