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Canal & River Trust

Transforming Maintenance and Investment in the Nation’s Canals

CLIENT

REQUIREMENT
REQUIREMENT

The Canal & River Trust needed a decision-making framework that would help them to understand the condition of their diverse assets, schedule their maintenance and provide a well-planned investment strategy.

CHALLENGE
CHALLENGE

Dealing with a huge variety of assets and turning qualitative assessments from subject matter experts into quantified predictions were the main challenges our approach had to address.

SOLUTION
SOLUTION

Our cloud-based mathematical model, designed to work in an efficient feedback loop with expert engineers, allowed the Trust to plan both operationally and strategically in ways that were previously impossible and support its transformation into a Wellbeing Trust.

The custodian of the waterways
The custodian of the waterways

The Canal & River Trust looks after one the UK largest national and historic assets – the canals and waterways of England and Wales. One of its objectives is to improve the wellbeing of the nation and ensure that more than 2,000 miles of historic inland waterways are accessible and available for use by the population.

To achieve this goal, they need to decide how best to spend their annual £100m asset maintenance budget. This decision-making framework for investment planning and scheduling needed to be a risk-based approach, consistent across asset classes, meaningful to engineers, and justifiable to stakeholders. With an old and deteriorating asset base it’s crucial that the Trust spends its money carefully, focusing on repairing and replacing what matters most.

The challenge
The challenge

The approach needed to work across their huge variety of assets (canals, buildings, mechanical and electrical equipment, waterways and reservoirs, culverts, weirs and many more). The ages of these assets range from modern data communication equipment to items more than 200 years old. Assets fail in many different ways, and these have different effects and require different pre-emptive interventions. The greatest challenge was the data; they had very little quantitative data on asset condition and historical failures and relied heavily on qualitative assessments from subject matter experts (SMEs).

A collaboration between engineers and mathematicians
A collaboration between engineers and mathematicians

Decision Lab was well placed to meet the challenge as we had experience working on similar problems in other sectors. What the Trust lacked in data, it had an abundance of engineering expertise, and we used this to drive the solution: an engineering-led approach that translated expert judgement into a mathematical framework. It involved a close working relationship between the Trust’s engineers and our analysts, as we came to understand their assets and they learned how modelling could be applied. It was rewarding and productive for all, and it was crucial to the project’s success.

Developing a common methodology for the end user
Developing a common methodology for the end user

At its heart we developed a mathematic model that used a new model approach. This approach was based on established theory but adapted and extended for our application. We also focused on providing a tool that used the assessment information the Trust could collect. We built it as a modern web application, hosted on the cloud, and we designed it to allow the engineers to build up their asset description and model themselves, reworking it until it matches what they know about their assets and the data they do have, before they produce investment strategy plans for their assets. The tool we created could be applied to the extraordinary variety of asset types, transforming the way the Trust manages its network of assets.

An exciting journey ahead for this new transformation
An exciting journey ahead for this new transformation

The Trust now has knowledge that it never had before. It is able to plan both operationally and strategically in ways that were previously impossible. The results are feeding into business planning at all levels of the organisation. It provides them with confidence that they are investing wisely in their assets and it will help them negotiate their next funding with the Government. We feel proud to be supporting the Canal & River Trust in its transformation to a Wellbeing trust.

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Canal & River Trust

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