Roads for a connected Britain

by Tom Kouloumas - Senior Consultant, Government & Transport
| minute read

Recently, Sopra Steria attended the 'Roads for a connected Britain' Highways UK conference at the NEC in Birmingham. The main themes of the conference were innovation, sustainability and investment.

Our consultants were impressed with the variety of interesting talks and topics throughout the day including; ‘Drones, Robotics and Digital Mapping’, innovative solutions and technologies developed to support challenges through the major projects lifecycle, as well talks from members of National Highways.

A particularly interesting session that resonated with Sopra Steria detailed opportunities for cost savings across the supply chain. This session run by Mark Ollerton, Commercial Delivery Director for Major Projects, talked about 'getting the basics right' and the transition that was needed from the more historic client and supplier relationship to more collaborative engagements between teams to solve problems.

Sopra Steria prides itself on creating collaborative environments with its suppliers. Encouraging open discussion and knowledge sharing with our customers has allowed us to understand the root causes and intricate details of their business challenges, and in turn has enabled us to share our technology transformation expertise to create innovative solutions to solve such challenges.

There was an important focus on GIRI (Get it right initiative), looking at the impact and direct cost of avoidable error during major projects. It was highlighted that approximately 21% of project costs were avoidable and equate to roughly £21 billion per annum across the sector, with demand and operational planning being essential to help reduce this.

Up to 70% of cost savings could be derived from the design of schemes, with these costs or savings flowing through into the construction phase. Quality management and avoidance of rework, "fixing problems that shouldn’t exist", as well as shifting the approach to design, and focusing on designing roads to budget, can generate real efficiencies and impact how design might then influence the cost of construction.

Client meeting

Efficiency savings are key in supporting organisations in reaching their sustainability targets. Mark discussed how the implementation of new technology solutions could support these challenges and help on the journey to reach net zero. Having a tool which accelerates the process of designing roads for example, could support designers and empower them to test multiple design options and find efficiencies which not only improve quality and safety, but also reduce cost.

Mark highlighted that the gold standard for supply chain management followed 3 key principles:

  • Thinking Lean - finding efficiencies and improving processes
  • Left Shift - focusing on influencing cost at design rather than construction
  • Designing to a budget

It was very exciting to hear more about National Highways' focus for major projects, and how it aligns to the approaches we take to digital innovation at Sopra Steria. We believe it is important to find areas and processes which can be optimised and improved, whilst also ensuring that the end user is brought along this journey and can benefit from the changes made.

Data driven insights and intelligence was another important area of discussion. The insights derived from data analytics and visualization to support in the decision making process has the power to improve cost savings across the whole major projects lifecycle.

Lila Tachtsi, Asset Management Director, discussed National Highways’ approach to making decisions regarding assets, and the increasing pressures to demonstrate value for money and show what is being achieved through these investments. Lila explored the shift from managing assets, to a more holistic approach of managing the service these assets deliver and the asset lifecycle in tandem. Adopting a whole life cost approach to assets, and taking preventative measures or early resolution to issues, is exciting and could prove less costly, but this also hinges on understanding first the lifecycle itself.

National Highways’ approach to managing these services is dependent on the accuracy and readiness of asset data, for both existing assets and those that will be implemented into future road designs. These data types, readily available, provide the foundation for powerful insights to be developed, which could support key decision makers in driving future initiatives.

Giving decision makers insights on not only how to maintain and manage existing assets, but also how to drive initiatives around future road designs, could improve safety and the service offered, but could also identify efficiencies and cost saving initiatives across the major projects lifecycle (from design through to maintenance).

The transport industry seems to be accelerating into the digital age, with new approaches and technology paving the way to quicker and smarter solutions to industry challenges.

At Sopra Steria we see the data and technology ecosystem as a powerful engine to drive change and enhance the experiences of users. As a data-led transformation organisation, we are focused on facilitating the connection between the network and users, whilst also utilising our expertise in the digital ethics space, to ensure that we are not only building smart solutions to make travel safer and more efficient, but also ensuring that the user is considered at its heart.

It is clear that there are multiple sources of data available to network providers. The interesting question is how this data can be used in a meaningful way. Further to this is how these data sources can be connected, shared and used to shape thinking and improve uptake of valuable services.

We believe that supporting transport authorities to reimagine how public and citizen facing services can be delivered into the digital age, connecting the network to users, is core to this.





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