Each year, Yarra Trams transports commuters on almost 185 million trips across about 250 kilometers of double track around Melbourne, Australia.
It's the world's largest tram system, and the network requires more than 91,000 pieces of equipment to operate. In use for more than a century, trams can be anywhere from eight to 74 years old, and 80 percent of them share the road with other traffic. Commuters rely on these vehicles to safely get them to their destinations on time.
Yarra Trams began using IBM Smarter Infrastructure technology to understand how its system operated, increase efficiency, perform predictive maintenance, and improve reliability. In August, the tram service attained service delivery of 99.13 percent and tram punctuality of 82.63 percent. Sensors and other data-collection tools give the company insight into service disruptions, tram performance, and vehicle locations, while data analytics allows the company to improve maintenance and tram allocation. Tablet-toting maintenance workers track and quickly respond to repair requests, tram repair histories, and time logs. There's a great interactive infographic that walks you through the solution.
Passengers gain insight, too. Using free mobile app tramTracker, travelers know the arrival times for the next three trams at their stop, according to IBM, sponsor of Internet Evolution.
Neil Roberts, director of ICT at Yarra Trams, is steering the company's technological journey. Earlier this month, Roberts answered our questions about the company's implementation. Here's what he told us...
Internet Evolution: Tell us a little about your career at Yarra Trams.
Neil Roberts: I joined Yarra Trams in 2009 when the franchise to operate Melbourneís tram network was awarded to KDR Victoria, a partnership between French-based public transport operator Keolis and Australiaís oldest rail company, Downer. [Yarra Trams is the operating name of KDR Victoria.] When I joined, ICT was a team of 12 people focusing mainly on ICT infrastructure such as datacenters, servers, and desktops. ICT applications were siloed across the business with minimal integration. I reported to the chief financial officer.
Since 2009, KDR has enabled the vision of integrating all ICT systems, including IBMís Maximo, under a single management structure to fully leverage technology for business success and enable data sharing across the business. The ICT team has grown to approximately 30 people, and its strategic value has become recognized, as I report directly to the chief executive officer.
IE: Could you describe Yarra Trams and the areas of responsibility ICT has over operations and equipment?
Roberts: Yarra Trams operates Melbourneís tram network, which is more than 100 years old and is the worldís largest, with 250 kilometers of double track. We have 487 trams operating on 29 routes carrying 185 million passengers each year, more than 91,000 assets including trams, track, overhead wires, and power poles, as well as more than 2,200 people including drivers, maintenance engineers, and customer service employees. ICT directly manages two datacenters, over 150 virtual servers, data storage and backup, and major data networks that span 12 offices and extend to more than 250 passenger information displays at tram stops.
ICT provides critical services to all areas of the business whether it is functions that deliver services to passengers such as rolling stock, infrastructure, and customer service, or supporting functions such as human resources, finance, and communications. Yarra Trams uses IBMís Maximo to efficiently monitor business assets, effectively manage incident responses, and provide a world-class service to all our passengers. Other applications are then linked to Maximo to ensure a consistent approach across the whole business.
IE: What was the major challenge or opportunity you wanted to address with this implementation?
Roberts: Our main goal was to move from a primarily reactive to a more proactive, predictive, and cost-effective maintenance regime across our assets. Data that is now centralized within IBM Maximo was previously stored in each department, in Excel spreadsheets, Access databases, Word documents, or with individuals. This centralized data means our rolling stock and infrastructure employees can use mobile tablets to remotely access work orders and up-to-date asset information to enable speedy management of maintenance issues.
Engineers can remotely access specific details about the type, specification, and headline issues regarding an asset while en route to carry out repairs. They then log their findings and the time taken to carry out the job, and can also schedule further inspection if a temporary solution has been implemented. This contributes to a faster return to our core business, which is providing a world-class service to our passengers.
Key benefits include: more predictable performance of assets and resources, reduced downtime, reduction in costs, management or reduction of risk, and compliance with regulations.
IE: How did you think technology could help you improve day-to-day operations and the customer experience? Did you have a specific technology in mind (for example, had you seen examples at other transportation companies) or were you more in a research mode?
Roberts: Yarra Trams uses IBM Maximo in a preemptive way, described above, to ensure our trams and infrastructure are fit for purpose. We also use real-time ICT applications to improve the passenger experience. IBM Maximo is used by operations center coordinators to record incidents being reported by tram drivers and immediately share that data with all responsible personnel so that normal tram services resume as quickly as possible. This might include broken-down vehicles blocking the tracks or a minor defect with a tram.
Another application is Yarra Tramsí free tramTracker application, which shows real-time tram arrival times on mobile devices, at tram stops, and online. Using tramTracker, a passenger can determine the arrival times of the next three trams at their stop, check route maps, locate ticketing services, and see the time until they reach their destination.
IE: What technologies, solutions, and services are you using?
Roberts: IBMís Maximo is Yarra Tramsí default ERP, and it allows us to efficiently monitor business assets, effectively manage incident responses, and provide a world-class service to all our passengers. IBM provides the application and supporting consulting services to help Yarra Trams gain maximum benefit from the application. As franchisee, KDR manages 91,000 assets on behalf of the Victorian Government. These include overhead power wires, trams, and rails. IBM Maximo helps us plan sufficient maintenance to ensure the tram network meets the needs of passengers.
There are also benefits for our employees in that training requirements are reduced because people can use the same screens to do everything from raising a work order about an overhead power cable to ordering more printer toner.
IE: Could you describe the process?
Roberts: In order to fully realize the benefits of the application, KDR focused on defining the business processes around the tool as opposed to assuming the tool will solve the businessís problems. KDR has embedded the use of the tool across all 12 functions of the business, and completed major projects to provide mobile tram recovery crews and infrastructure maintenance teams with direct access to information via mobile, "ruggedized" tablets and provide an automated interface to the Victorian Governmentís asset geographic information system (GIS).
IE: Do you expect to increase your use of big-data? In what ways and what types of analysis and insight do you want to gain?
Roberts: The Victorian Government has purchased 50 new E-Class trams, the first of which will begin operating on the network later this year. These next-generation trams will enable even greater data collection. They will directly download data about the condition of the tram and tracks to IBM Maximo via WiFi at the depot. A key part of the companyís work will be to maximize the value of this raw data to inform decisions about tram maintenance programs.
IE: What is the ROI?
Roberts: The overall ROI is difficult to quantify. The introduction of mobility showed a massive payback in the amount of time saved obtaining asset information and work order data, allowing more time to be spent maintaining our assets. This, in turn, leads to a more reliable and world-class service to our passengers.
IE: How have you measured improvements in customer experience?
Roberts: The Victorian Government carries out a quarterly customer satisfaction survey. Yarra Trams has recorded an improved overall satisfaction result across the last financial year to June 2013, and we have now achieved our franchise target for the fourth year in a row. We also have targets set by government in terms of the number of trams that operate and their punctuality.
Yarra Trams has exceeded these targets in every month since it took over the franchise in November 2009. In August 2013, service delivery was 99.13 percent and punctuality was 82.63 percent -- a great achievement given that around 80 percent of our network shares road space with motor vehicles, leading to unplanned disruptions caused by external factors such as congestion or accidents.
IE: What's next?
Roberts: Two of Yarra Tramsí core values are "Continuous Improvement" and "Think Like a Passenger." We always strive to improve our performance and keep our passengers front of mind in everything we do. We are looking at ways to further improve the use of the data we capture in Maximo to inform future decision making.
We are also contemplating improved real-time incident management, including the automated dissemination of information and capturing of standard operating procedures. The E-Class tram will drive automated data capture to IBM Maximo and a new maintenance regime, as well as more data about the condition of our track to ensure best "bang for buck" of our maintenance budget.
— Alison Diana , ThinkerNet Editor, Internet Evolution