As the capital city of Scotland and home to the Scottish Parliament, as well as three globally recognised universities, a World Heritage Site and the Fringe Festival (the world’s largest arts and entertainment festival), the City of Edinburgh often finds its infrastructure pushed to the limit. The city’s Place Management team is responsible for a wide range of public services and asset management, from roads and public railways to trees and waste management. They recently consolidated data on the assets under their jurisdiction within the Brightly Confirm intelligent infrastructure management solution. Having a “single source of truth” for this information facilitates better decision-making, improves efficiency of inspections and asset maintenance, and is saving the council money.
Since 2013, the Place Management team had been using the Confirm cloud-based solution to manage data on some of the assets for which it has responsibility, but other types of asset information resided in separate, siloed applications. “Traditionally, we chose best-of-breed individual systems to support many of the individual services we were providing,” says Gareth Barwell, head of place management at the City of Edinburgh Council.
“Like many councils, we invested in a road system, a tree system, etc. We did not have a single view of our overall infrastructure.”
This disjointed approach to asset management resulted in a repair backlog throughout the city. At the same time, pulling together information for necessary reports and one-off requests was a challenge. City Councillors preparing for upcoming meetings would enquire about all kinds of statistics, from meter usage to frequency of certain types of road repair issues. The diversity of systems storing asset data often made it difficult to retrieve this information in a timely manner.
Maintaining multiple systems was also expensive. Faced with the requirement to cut £41 million from the 2019- 20 budget, the council looked to technology to lower infrastructure management costs and provide better service to the community. One area in which the Place Management team harnessed leading-edge technology was to address the nearly 29,000 resident complaints they received each year related to aging street lighting.
The city decided to invest £16 million in upgrading to LED smart lighting.
Barwell and his team knew that consolidating more asset management data into Confirm could cut costs. They also saw an opportunity to reduce the city’s repair backlog and lower the number of complaint calls they were receiving. Staff needed to be able to centrally manage the new smart lighting system, and adding this functionality to Confirm made sense, as well.
What you really want is a system that lets you see the whole picture and identify which asset is causing the problem.
Head of Place Management, The City of Edinburgh Council
The council expanded their Confirm cloud-based solution to include street lighting and additional asset categories including bridges and council-owned properties. Now the majority of city assets utilised in waste collection, street cleansing, parks and cemeteries, road maintenance and road infrastructure (including lighting and structures) are managed through Confirm.
More than 250 council employees use Confirm, which houses asset inventory, inspection and maintenance data. It holds records of both scheduled inspections and those conducted in reaction to complaints. It records defects uncovered in inspections and monitors the work orders resulting from those defects. It integrates with the council’s customer relationship management (CRM) system to support more efficient responses to customer enquiries. And it offers the ability to analyse asset and performance data.
Council staff use the Confirm Workzone module to allocate work orders and schedule crews to repair defects. For work crews, inspectors and other council representatives working offsite, the Confirm Connect module provides an efficient, two-way flow of asset information to and from mobile devices. Whether onsite or in the field, staff can view information on asset inventory, maintenance and performance through dashboards or a wide range of pre-built reports. “You can see key measures at a glance,” explains Barwell.
“And running the reports is easy; you don’t have to be a specialist.
“The value of having all of our information in one place is huge for driving service improvement and for meeting our efficiency targets,” he adds.
Confirm is also playing a key role in the city’s smart street lighting initiative. Now when a light stops working, it self- reports back to a system that’s integrated with Confirm.
Through reporting on real-time light failures, the solution is able to quickly prioritise and expedite repair calls, significantly improving repair times.
The integration of the street lighting management system with Confirm is already delivering an improved repair function and will contribute to an estimated total energy saving of approximately £54 million over the next 25 years.
Consolidating data on so many different asset types in one location helps the City of Edinburgh Council break down organisational siloes and focus on structuring work functionally. It also gives the Place Management team a unique view of how assets and teams impact one another. For example, if tree roots are damaging roads or affecting drainage infrastructure, then analysis can be undertaken to identify existing or future defects where there are similar asset relationships.
“What you really want is a system that lets you see the whole picture and identify which asset is causing the problem,” says Barwell. “Having all this information in one place helps us find opportunities to resolve multiple defects at one time, efficiently, compared with relying on more local and siloed knowledge.”
Asset-related decisions have improved council-wide, as Confirm has made the council’s infrastructure more responsive to the needs of constituents. Anytime a complaint comes in, it is immediately clear which team has responsibility for the assets in question. Confirm has also improved the efficiency of the Place Management team in prioritising, scheduling and completing needed repairs and maintenance work for all types of assets.
“The automation of our processes, directly drawing on our comprehensive asset data, is helping us get our response to enquiries right the first time,” Barwell says. “For example, street lighting electricians can show up quickly to the site of a work order with the correct stock on hand.”
For the asset categories that were added recently, Confirm has reduced repair backlogs by 90 percent and improved performance such that 95 percent of repairs are meeting or exceeding performance targets. Resident complaints are down as a result, and the city is also seeing an improvement in waste management metrics, with a reduction in missed-collection complaints down by more than 30 percent from 2017-18 to 2018-19.
The level of information we get from Confirm means we can better determine which investments or improvements we can pursue that will make us more efficient.
Confirm is also helping the city address its current financial constraints. With no capital investment required, the software-as-a-service system offers a transparent, predictable pricing model. And it frees up IT staff from managing and upgrading software and infrastructure, allowing them to focus on more strategic initiatives. All in all, the council has been able to substantially reduce tedious manual work related to asset management.
The integration of Confirm with the city’s new smart lighting system is already showing a significant financial return. Through remote problem identification and diagnostics, the city is reducing the number of times it needs to dispatch an electrician to a street light, saving a “conservative six figures,” according to Barwell.
Finally, the solution is helping staff prioritise other initiatives. “The level of information we get from Confirm means we can better determine which investments or improvements we can pursue that will make us more efficient,” explains Barwell.
The next asset management improvements the council will undertake involve using the new street lighting system to extend the smart infrastructure across Edinburgh. “We will use the LoRaWAN network provided by the street lighting central management system to roll out smart waste litter bins for individuals and communities, gully sensors and air-quality sensors,” Barwell says. “All of these technologies will integrate with our Confirm solution using Internet-of-Things [IoT] connectivity to bring defects to the attention of managers and to support scheduling of work orders. Confirm will be integral to our business case as we progress toward the consolidated and automated monitoring of all the council’s assets and data in a city operations centre.”
You can see key measures at a glance. The value of having all of our information in one place is huge for driving service improvement and for meeting our efficiency targets.