Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

George Elliott, P. Eng., Commissioner of Transportation and Public Works, City of Cambridge, Ontario

By George Elliott, P. Eng.

In the city of Cambridge, Ontario, we’ve always taken pride in our long and proud tradition of delivering quality services to our citizens with the bottom line in mind. We know that with a growing city, our infrastructure needs are also growing. In these hard economic times, we wanted to address funding gaps through efficiencies and limit the impact on taxes. We looked for ways to give us more analytical ability to refine and enhance our systems and gain greater return on investment.

Given the aging physical infrastructure challenges that all Canadian municipalities are facing, we needed to better understand the competing priorities, and look to refine ways we address our infrastructure to avoid costly repairs.

Our team was challenged with addressing preventative maintenance as most of our resources were being increasingly used to respond to emergency repairs. 

We needed the ability to put resources to proactive programs to start to get ahead of the curve. Through ongoing work in asset management and technology implementation, we’ve uncovered the insights needed to shift to a preventative maintenance model – to begin the shift away from a break-fix mentality of operations and embrace a more proactive approach to maintenance. We are gaining more efficiencies and developing a plan for long-term infrastructure sustainability. 

The technology helped quantify the extent of reactive activities and the resources we used for these emergencies to free up time for prevention. In turn, that prompted change at both Capital Re-construction Planning and day-to-day operations and, in some cases, we could refocus on repair techniques in the field.  We can drill down into the data and create automated, detailed workflow plans that cover all activities that are performed.

For example, by knowing that major infrastructure in the ground is due for renewal, we can better coordinate repaving work so that part of the city isn’t dug up several times – it’s about greater coordination and reducing the impact on our citizens. Effectively we’ve achieved a symbiotic trend reversal developed through collaboration – all starting with the insight gained from analytics.

These analytics touch everything we do and allow us to make more informed decisions – we think differently about how maintenance is done, which is the key to our success going forward. These analytics will also support our city leaders’ decisions to invest in infrastructure and help us to make wiser decisions for future stability. 

The technology captures information from all relevant sources and brings it conveniently together in one place to enhance our knowledge of the big picture while ensuring we are capturing the information the corporation needs. Our use of the technology has also helped leverage new funding opportunities from other levels of government and be in a ready-to-go position to maximize new opportunities. As we continue to build our capabilities, demonstrate our fiscal responsibility through solid financial planning tools, we’re able to get more done with the same resources. Our good roads rating has increased from 30 percent of roadways to almost 50 percent and we are excited about the additional gains we’ll see in maintenance management activities moving forward.

The City of Cambridge’s assets are now inventoried and part of a compressive package to help safeguard them for the future. As analytics continues to evolve, we look forward to leveraging the technology as it provides even deeper insights into the health of the City’s $1.5 billion assets so we can come up with more proactive measures to avoid system breakdowns and mitigate the consequences when they do occur. This will be the big pay off in the future – not only from financial and sustainability standpoints, but in the quality of infrastructure for our citizens.


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