How collaboration can benefit asset management

20 June 2019 Consultancy.eu

Managing public infrastructure assets is becoming increasingly important, not only to improve cost efficiency, but also to improve services, safety and availability to those who ultimately pay for them. By bringing together the interests of parties involved through a holistic and collaborative approach, Twynstra Gudde is playing an integral part in helping the Dutch public domain with its most pressing asset management matters.

Building on a heritage of more than sixty years, Twynstra Gudde is one of the Netherlands’ most respectable management consultancies. Frank van Es heads the firm’s Asset Management practice, an arm which advises (semi-)public bodies on how they can best manage their assets, spanning anything from buildings and bridges, to roads, waterways and rail networks. Van Es himself specialises in organisational improvement in the infrastructure asset management domain.

“Our consultants are experienced in overseeing asset management projects for government bodies, infrastructure managers, housing associations and other property managers,” he explained in discussion with Consultancy.eu. “They offer a combination of knowledge of the relevant legislation, asset management processes and sustainability, with expertise in the field of organisational science, change management, training and working in partnerships.”

In recent years, Twynstra Gudde’s team advised multiple organisations in the country on asset management matters. Central to the firm’s success is a collaborative approach, one that harnesses the power of the group while maintaining the interests of the individual to drive enhanced results for all. Van Es elaborated, “Objectives are often more effective to achieve when working with others. Prior to working on solutions, we always scan the sector to highlight what partnership opportunities there are and oversee the process towards a fully set up partnership organisation.”How collaboration can benefit asset management

Multiple stakeholders

One such example is the firm’s involvement in the setup of a national framework agenda for the safety requirements for railway yards. With many train movements and hazardous goods stored at railway yards, such areas present safety risks to train operators and yard employees, as well as to the environment. Due to its multifaceted nature, the responsibility for safety in this sector is therefore widely dispersed, with the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, railway agencies, carriers, work yard services, municipalities and fire departments, among others, all holding some form of responsibility in the chain.

When Twynstra Gudde was asked to support this development of the strategy, the firm turned to its strategic stakeholder management approach. First, this involved performing an inventory of the different interests of the parties concerned, before work began on the firm’s plan. Van Es stated; “That’s because each organisation has its own interests and views on how to mitigate safety risks and organise yard safety.”

The consultancy then acted as the process manager and subject matter expert. “We involved and connected all parties to finally come to an overarching plan.” Having been ratified by the State Secretary, the plans are currently being implemented.

Best of both worlds

When supporting its clients, Van Es highlighted that Twynstra Gudde takes a holistic approach to its work. Illustrating how the firm puts this into practice, he pointed to recent work completed in the Netherlands’ fourth most populous city of Utrecht. The newly constructed Stadsbaantunnel is owned and managed by the local municipality, while the A2 motorway, which runs parallel to the Stadsbaantunnel, falls under the national mandate of Rijkswaterstaat – part of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment – which is responsible for the design, construction, management and maintenance of the main infrastructure facilities in the country.

Traditionally, both parties would have drafted their own plans for operations and maintenance, but working together with Twynstra Gudde, the interests of the two parties were brought together in such that joint responsibilities were agreed for management and maintenance.  According to Van Es, this partnership ensured that the available resources were used to maximum effect, but more importantly, “it makes both assets more future-proof.” He expanded that due to this approach, there is now greater awareness about the sustainable management “for both assets and the interdependencies between the two.”

“Bringing together the interests of parties involved through a holistic and collaborative approach can improve the way infrastructure assets are managed.”

One place where this symbiosis can be seen at play is the very concrete decision-making process of road works. From a road user perspective, conducting maintenance on one of the two assets would always impact the other, leading to traffic bottlenecks or other impacts further down the network. In other words, collaborating is also the best way forward for drivers and public transport using the roads. To realise this joining of forces, Twynstra Gudde’s advisors spoke to professionals from both organisations at every level, from operational staff to directors.

Van Es said, “We firstly drew up a uniform vision together for the management and maintenance of the tunnel that included ambitions in terms of accessibility, costs, preventive maintenance and sustainability. We then mapped out the work processes for maintenance, dealing with calamities, training, drills, etc. Per activity, we made it very clear who is responsible for what. We detailed which organisations would need to be involved, down to the roles, competencies, capacity and costs, and we used simulations to test the work processes. All the agreements were then incorporated into a covenant.”

No tunnel vision

Keeping an eye on the much broader group of stakeholders is instrumental to how a project’s success is perceived. Road works could theoretically be completed in a short time frame, but those that have been have often led to traffic havoc, and stick in the public consciousness for years as a result. Viewing the impact of any project through a broader societal lens is therefore a crucial element of Twynstra Gudde’s asset management methodology.

For the municipality of Amsterdam, the consulting firm was tapped to advise the renovation of the Piet Heintunnel. One of Amsterdam’s most important tunnels for accessibility, the works inevitably have come with a huge impact on the surrounding area. As a result, the municipality tasked the consultants with designing a renovation, staging and execution strategy that would satisfy the interests of all stakeholders. This is to say that they took into account the views of not only the municipality and Rijkswaterstaat, but also road users and inhabitants of the area.

Twynstra Gudde’s team came up with several validated scenario’s, and after the municipality green-lit its preferred option, the firm worked with stakeholders to turn strategy into execution. The plan is now in full operation, and maintenance plans have been outlined for 2019, spreading out as far as 2025.

Van Es concluded; “Our expertise lies in translating overall objectives and an asset management strategy into a practical plan of action… Our advice is always based on three pillars: a better organisation, better performance and better results for all. In many cases, working with partnerships can be a silver-bullet for all three objectives.”


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