Tuesday 27th Oct, 2020

Agility for rail: Delivering on data

Agility
Manchester has utilised Agility to manage its maintenance and rollingstock management.

SSG Insight is delivering Agility, a modern CMMS with unique functionalities designed for the complexities of transportation.

Computerised maintenance management systems (CMMS), which record an organisation’s maintenance and asset management regimes have a history of over three decades. While the digitalisation of railways and transportation networks may have emerged as a talking point in the last 10 years, the digital management of maintenance procedures and asset history is much longer.

One company that has been on this journey since the early days is SSG Insight, which began 35 years ago offering its CMMS platform, Agility to the transportation and facilities management sectors.

James MacPherson, CEO of Asia Pacific and Canada for SSG Insight, describes how the company’s software has evolved.

“We started out providing a pure CMMS system, but over the years that’s morphed into a smarter integrated workplace management system. We provide maintenance management systems, performance management systems, and enterprise workplace management systems around the globe and specifically to the rail industry.”

As CMMS systems have grown, they have become much more than a log of maintenance requests and a record of actions undertaken. Today, the systems can be used to drive condition-based monitoring schemes, by interpreting asset data. This enables the platform itself to schedule work orders, provide condition assessments over an asset’s lifecycle, and monitor inventory levels and purchasing.

While these functionalities are common to many industries, including manufacturing, distribution, and utilities, for the rail sector, Agility takes the insights from the CMMS software and matches these to contract outcomes for transportation service provides.

“What we offer on top of a standard CMMS is performance management,” said MacPherson. “We can configure the system to self-manage the contracts.”

For transportation networks run by a private company under a contract with a municipal or regional transport authority, maintaining accurate and transparent maintenance logs is a key contract requirement. What Agility enables the providers to do, is automatically calculate maintenance or asset events against key performance indicators such as kilometres served or trips completed.

“In those scenarios the onus is on evidence and transparency, so those calculations around lost kilometres and trips, as an example, enable the contractor who’s running the transport network to be able to evidence why they may have lost kilometres on trips. This is specific for the rail industry, and it’s been developed especially for rail clients,” said MacPherson.

Agility provides real time dashboards that match a client’s needs.

OVERCOMING THE CONSTRAINTS OF LEGACY SYSTEMS
For the rail industry, implementing a smart CMMS system requires access to data being produced by an array of legacy systems. With experience deploying Agility on both brand- new systems opened as recently as 2019, and historical systems that were first horse-drawn and have been operating since the 19th century, SSG Insight knows how to collate data from a diversity of sources.

The different histories of different transport systems mean that data is not always organised in a way that is immediately interpretable and actionable.

“Specifically in the rail industry, we will sit down and discuss the legacy systems that operators have, the constraints that they have in terms of data and where servers are located, all of those types of things, because there’s a real mixed bag of rail systems out there.

One of the key offers to the rail industry is a consultative, outcomes-based approach,” said MacPherson.

With data often siloed into different areas, the effectiveness of a smart asset management solution is dependent upon getting disparate systems to talk to one another. In addition, distinct areas of operations may have their own, existing maintenance management systems, which will not be integrated across a network’s operations to be able to provide transparent information. SSG Insight has overcome this with its product Agility Connect, which can take data from any system, interpret it, and create an action.

“One of our recent examples is looking at creating a data-lake from lots of different systems and then analysing that data-lake and bringing those actionable insights back to the client from multiple systems,” said MacPherson. “That SCADA system there may not talk to anything, or if does talk to something, it’s got to go to a server behind 10 firewalls and it’s got to be housed in a room full of lead. But now, with a true software as a service (SaaS) deployment in secure Microsoft Azure, you have a huge amount of flexibility.”

Just like each area of operations may have its own data and control systems, in a complex transportation network there are multiple subcontractors or parties contributing to a network. By bringing data from these parties together without needing to replace each system, SSG Insight can provide a comprehensive look at a network’s assets and operations.

“We’re working on one project at the moment where there’s five CMMS systems, which clearly is untenable. So, what we do is we’ll assist with the service companies and the subcontractors with the issue of having multiple systems by creating a flexible and fully interpretable system,” said MacPherson. “If the individual CMMSs can’t go anywhere then we’ll just become the master of information and the master of the contract, so we’ll just integrate with them and pass the information back.”

In Nottingham, Agility is used by over 100 users.

IMPLEMENTATION
Knowing that no two transportation systems are the same, SSG Insight has developed Agility to be flexible to the needs and requirements of each mobility network, without the need to create a bespoke product each time.

“We don’t have to go to our development team and say, ‘Can you produce this for us?’ We have it all built into the configuration of the system so you can take the unique contract and build it in without having to change the commercial off the shelf (COTS) product,” said MacPherson.

“The system is designed by the users, for the users. All of the screens within the system ensure that the workflow is efficient and reduces repetitive entry, and then from that triggers the right set of actions for groups of individuals or the board or whoever, to be able to look at trends, analysis, whatever it might be.”

Agility has recently been deployed by Edinburgh Trams, a 14 kilometre, 16-stop network between Edinburgh Airport and the city centre. Here, an incumbent CMMS system had to remain in place, so Agility was overlaid on the system to take work orders and completion details created in the incumbent system and measure and track these actions in Agility against the operator’s contract.

“What will happen is we’ll take the asset register from the existing CMMS and then place the contract against it. Then we will feed that information back to the existing CMMS once the job is completed,” said MacPherson.

Automating the reporting of these tasks has a direct outcome by reducing paperwork and multiple handling, a tangible outcome for the client. By building KPI measurements to system requests, tasks are directly and automatically associated with reporting requirements, often replacing several manual processes.

“The system is built around the client,” said MacPherson. “We will sit with them and ask what is the process at the moment, and we’ll map that out and see that 70 per cent of that you can get rid of, because we can fully automate it. We can put it against the contract, and we can make it transparent, and we can make it auditable and you can see it in real time on the dashboard. Once we go through that process, we find that there’s a tangible sense of ‘Can you get it done tomorrow?’”

In Nottingham, where Agility has been deployed on the tram network for almost
10 years, the system is used by 135 users on 24/7 shifts. The platform collects passenger feedback, is used by service teams on mobile devices, and is the central control room log, making it the reference point for all operational event.

“We’ve gone from being a CMMS, to doing passenger feedback and then adding on to managing service-level agreements (SLA) and seeing which workflows can be improved or changed. The thing about Agility is that once a workflow is in the system it’s not fixed. If you suddenly realise that actually you could improve it then a customer can do it. They can change the question sets, they can change the notifications, they can change the steps that occur and if the contract changes, they can adjust in the performance measurement straight away,” said MacPherson.

Having the backing of a history of developing CMMS systems with the ability to continually innovate, Agility enables transportation to reap the benefits of the ever-expanding collection of data.

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