Rail industry news (Australia, New Zealand), Industry Infrastructure, Technology and IT, Rail Express features

TBH the puzzle-solver for complex rail projects

tbh problem-solver

Specialising in high-risk, large-scale and challenging projects since 1965, TBH has partnered with both the public and private sector to provide practical solutions to their most complex problems. 

As one of Australia’s largest privately owned, independent consultancy with an international footprint, TBH provides specialist project management services including planning and scheduling, cost and risk management, project management and strategic delivery advice. 

Ali Dibaj.

TBH principal Ali Dibaj spoke with Rail Express about how an Integrated Target Schedule (ITS) works. 

“Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity of working on the delivery of a diverse range of complex rail projects in various countries and states within Australia, including my home state of NSW,” he said.  

“Imagine that a rail project is like a complex jigsaw puzzle, with numerous pieces that need to fit together perfectly to create the final picture.  

“The puzzle solver is a tool that helps to meticulously examine each piece, identify its unique characteristics, and strategically place it in the right position to gradually reveal the complete and coherent image. 

“The development of an ITS follows a systematic approach that begins with defining configuration states. These configuration states serve as key milestones, dividing the project into distinct phases, each with specific objectives and deliverables.”  

Alongside the configuration states, so-called stage gates are established to support and monitor progress throughout the project.  

At each stage gate, precise entry and exit criteria are defined, outlining the essential requirements that must be met to progress from one Gate to the next.  

The number of stage gates required can be determined based on each configuration state and the specific products involved.  

“This comprehensive framework, coupled with progressive assurance, ensures that the project team maintains a clear and cohesive plan while also providing a single source of truth for evaluating and validating each phase’s successful completion before moving forward,” Dibaj said. 

“An integral part of this process is progressive assurance, as it entails ongoing monitoring, validation, and adjustment at each stage to ensure quality and compliance with project requirements. 

“In the rail industry, progressive assurance refers to a systematic and continuous process of monitoring, evaluating, and validating the progress and quality of a rail project at various stages of its development. It involves ensuring that each phase meets predefined criteria before proceeding to the next stage.” 

Dibaj said that the success of progressive assurance is determined by the deliverables meeting the criteria for that particular gate.  

These deliverables necessitate careful identification and planning within the project schedule. 

“People who have worked on rail projects know that in the rail industry, projects are frequently delivered by multiple delivery partners and contractors, each responsible for specific aspects of the project,” Dibaj said.  

“Coordinating and integrating these diverse schedules can pose significant challenges, potentially leading to misalignments, delays, inefficiencies, and ultimately significant cost overruns.  

“Here, the ITS emerges as a crucial tool to tackle this issue. ITS acts as a unifying force, skilfully integrating individual schedules from each partner into a single comprehensive map.  

“By aligning all activities and milestones within the ITS, stakeholders gain a clear and unified view of the project’s progress, allowing for effective communication, coordination, and timely decision-making.  

“ITS enables all delivery partners to work in harmony towards the common goal of achieving a successful Day 1 operation, streamlining the project’s execution, and ensuring a cohesive rail system. 

“Throughout my past experiences, I have witnessed firsthand how many projects’ poor planning, program pressure, and insufficient time for system assurance documentation led to challenges.  

“Additionally, a lack of understanding of stakeholders’ requirements and a skewed Go/No-Go process further compounded the issues.  

“The consequences were far-reaching, affecting construction and test footprints and introducing significant safety risks during daily state changes between construction and testing phases.” 

Dibaj said that TBH’s extensive experience in the rail industry and its skilled experts have used these tools, process and frameworks when faced with seemingly impossible projects.  

Utilising the tool’s collaborative and integrated approach, they have effectively rescued projects that appeared doomed to fail.  

The application of knowledge from similar projects, coupled with the use of the ITS framework, has enabled TBH to identify critical issues, streamline processes, and bring the project back on track.  

“This not only ensures timely delivery, but also results in substantial cost savings,” Dibaj said.