Can we meet Australia’s 20-minute commute challenge?

Australia’s population is growing fast. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, it will increase to more than 28 million people by 2031. And in that year, as a nation we will be investing $377 billion annually in infrastructure to support this growth (up from $187 billion in 2011).

Ensuring that infrastructure investment meets the service level requirements of growing communities with changing demographics is a significant challenge. There is increased pressure on infrastructure managers to create infrastructure networks that support a high-quality, first-world standard of living for our future communities.

Australia’s current government has acknowledged the need for improved infrastructure networks, recently appointing a Minister for Cities and the Built Environment, who is charged with delivering on a 20-minute commute promise – that is, ensuring no important destination in major urban areas – such as offices, schools or shops – is greater than 20 minutes away by foot, bicycle or public transport. And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the broader infrastructure challenges we will face as the population grows and changes.

The demands of a changing population will require infrastructure managers to be more astute about how they allocate available funds for asset infrastructure investment, and manage the delivery of resulting programs and projects. After all, the infrastructure needs of today will be different to those of the future, with demographic and population changes requiring myriad complex infrastructure networks – from electricity and water networks to new roads, better public transport and the expansion of the Australian communications network, to name just the headline items.

Growing pains: What’s holding us back?

Effective long-term infrastructure planning is a multidimensional process that requires a lot of asset knowledge – information such as level-of-service, condition and capacity metrics, for example. Currently, infrastructure planners are being held back from conducting the required modelling, prioritisation and optimisation processes because a common platform for managing this information does not typically exist within organisations.

Similarly, when you move to project delivery, having timely access to infrastructure planning information, in conjunction with a sound project management system to control key metrics – such as those related to cost, scheduling, resources, forecasts and contractors – can heavily influence project success.

In fact, 48 percent of projects, both private and public, “fail to meet their baseline time, cost and quality objectives”, largely due to lack of timely, accurate planning information.

And when construction is complete, organisations require a systematic approach to commission, capitalise and hand over assets to the operations and maintenance department.

The pressure is mounting for a better way to ensure we can achieve Australia’s 20-minute commute, and beyond.

Ensuring we are making better investment decisions about our infrastructure will require sophisticated data systems to manage asset information across the asset lifecycle, from a common platform across an organisation.

A lifecycle approach for better infrastructure investment

It is the lack of an integrated, lifecycle–based approach to asset planning, delivery and management that is holding us back from delivering the right infrastructure to meet the demands of our changing population.

An integrated approach provides greater transparency and performance of assets across their lifecycle by breaking down knowledge silos and process inefficiencies that traditionally exist when different business units use different systems to maintain discrete business processes.

Properly implemented, an integrated approach provides a holistic view of asset information, risk profiles, budget management, purchasing management, work management, maintenance, materials management and more – all of the areas of your business that need to work together to ensure you maintain a high performing, reliable asset network.

In the past, an enterprise approach was an ideal seldom achieved, but technology has now made it a real and viable option for organisations large and small.

When your works management team is collecting operational condition and failure information for your asset base, you can seamlessly feed this into your optimised treatment modelling for your strategic asset managers to use. The optimised treatment prediction outputs can then be fed through to your infrastructure planning team to start the formal planning, approval, prioritisation and funding process to land at your forward works program.

With whole-of-life asset cost being such a critical element to manage, control, analyse, model and forecast, enterprise solutions have the distinct advantage over their point competitors, in that they are able to manage these processes in an integrated manner throughout the whole asset lifecycle.

A better way to plan for the future

As the Australian population grows, infrastructure owners need a way to manage processes such as modelling, planning, funding, project delivery, commissioning and operations using one integrated system, to better allocate available funds and manage program and project delivery effectively – especially if we are to meet challenges such as the ‘20 minute commute’.

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