XAIS and University of Nottingham set to deliver ‘step change’ in asset management

A new collaboration has been agreed between XAIS and the University of Nottingham to develop an intelligent decision support tool that will deliver a step change to existing highways asset management software – and is set to save millions of pounds.

Public sector finances are under scrutiny and pressure like never before so the need to make smart, economic and sustainable decisions is an absolute priority for highways authorities and their agents.

This drive for intelligent and innovative thinking has underpinned a joint project between XAIS and the University of Nottingham whose ambition is to work together to transform condition projection modelling.

Through the creation of a new condition projection model, XAIS will enable its clients to more accurately predict future performance and optimise decision-making around the maintenance, repair and replacement of assets – reducing life-cycle costs and uncertainty around budget requirements.

The proposed tool is based on a state-of-the-art approach to stochastic deterioration modelling using Stochastic Petri Nets, an open-source methodology developed by University of Nottingham over the last decade.

This methodology explicitly accounts for lack of baseline inspection data and information on the current condition and performance of assets and their deterioration, errors in the inspection process or the recording of results, and intrinsic variability in the performance of different assets.

The University of Nottingham has pioneered the development of life-cycle performance models of infrastructure assets using Stochastic Petri Nets. The accuracy and efficiency of these models has been tested in an academic context, based on real, large-scale data on existing railway bridges.

This approach has been shown to closely mimic the complex behaviour of assets, including the effects of deterioration, inspections and maintenance actions, accounting explicitly for the uncertainty and variability in each of these processes.

The new lifecycle modelling tool will be embedded into the XA© Asset Management System – seamlessly incorporating a range of new features that will lead the way for the next generation of asset management systems.

For local highways authorities, this critical development will enable consistent budgeting and balanced decision making between short-term (reactive) and long-term (preventive) investments, underpinned by solid evidence to justify investment needs.

The project is being funded with the help of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership grant from Innovate UK and will see a suitably qualified post-graduate embedded within the XAIS XA© Software Development Team.

This associate will lead the project with commercial and academic support from all parties – plus has an opportunity to spend 10% of their time on personal and professional training and development, to benefit the project and support their future career.

Commenting on the collaboration, James Wallis, Executive Director at XAIS, said: “We’re delighted to be able to announce this new partnership with the University of Nottingham which will bring significant benefits to local highways authorities. With the help of our new tool, asset managers will be able to compare different strategies across their entire portfolio and invest in the assets that lead to higher long-term savings.

“In addition, they will be able to take confidence from a solution that provides predictions of future performance which are more robust and reliable than ever before – with the opportunity to update models as and when new data on the performance of assets is available, by either new inspections or incorporation of existing databases.”

Dr Luis Canhoto Neves, Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham, added: “By working with a respected industry leader like XAIS, we will gain a unique insight into the real-world application and practice of critical infrastructure asset management. This close collaboration with the XAIS team, highways authorities and asset managers will significantly increase the impact of our research and provide guidance on future research as we see how our thinking is applied in a commercial context.

“We’re proud that this partnership provides the opportunity to employ research developed over the last decade to improve the quality of life and safety of road users.”

This partnership received financial support from the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) programme. KTP aims to help businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK knowledge base. This successful Knowledge Transfer Partnership project, funded by UK Research and Innovation through Innovate UK, is part of the government’s Industrial Strategy.

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