Developing and Delivering Enterprise-Wide Corporate Asset Management Strategy

Developing and Delivering Enterprise-Wide Corporate Asset Management Strategy Image credit: TAM America

TAM America had the privilege of conducting an interview with Llewellyn Fonseca, Senior Manager, Corporate Asset Management Strategy, TransLink, and is pleased to share his insights from TransLink’s comprehensive asset management strategy that is cross-functional, cross-organizational and guides capital and investment planning for modernization and growth, while ensuring state of good repair.

Please tell us about your role at TransLink and your unique background that led you to this role.
As Senior Manager of Corporate Asset Management Strategy at TransLink, I am responsible for ensuring enterprise-wide stewardship of their assets and influencing long-range planning. I provide leadership and strategic direction on asset management best practices and investment planning efforts to integrate modernization and growth priorities while sustaining customer service excellence. I am known for building trusted relationships and collaborating with multiple stakeholders to reach consensus and ensure successful delivery of complex and challenging initiatives.

Prior to joining TransLink, I had extensive experience in the public and private sectors with large-scale project and program development and management, including business case writing, risk management, project scheduling and cost estimating.

What is the scope of the asset management program at TransLink given the extent and value of all assets that TransLink owns and maintains?
The South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority (TransLink) is responsible for planning, financing, operating, and maintaining an integrated public transportation network across Metro Vancouver in collaboration with its operating companies, contracted services and regional partners. TransLink is financially responsible for $18 billion in capital replacement cost and is accountable for managing the end-to-end lifecycle of their assets and services. This includes the public transit services of bus, ferries, paratransit, light rail, heavy rail and active transportation infrastructure for cycling, biking, and walking, and the management of bridges.

A brief listing of our assets would be as follows:

  • 5 bridges
  • 1800+ buses
  • 300+ rail cars
  • 3 ferry boats
  • 60 km guideway & tracks
  • 9 bus depots
  • 47 train stations
  • 400+ service support vehicles

The Corporate Asset Management Strategy is TransLink’s enterprise asset management function that provides an integrated long-range, strategic view of existing and anticipated asset investments and projects that deliver on TransLink’s Customer Promise, Vision and Mandate. The scope of TransLink’s asset management program is to collaborate, coordinate and facilitate the discussions between the enterprise-level strategic initiatives and the operational-level technical requirements, with a focus is on creating and sustaining a transportation network that meets customer needs.

How did the asset management program evolve at TransLink and how mature is it now?
TL’s Asset Management Journey, as most asset intensive agencies, was initiated through challenges observed during capital planning and more importantly a significant shutdown of our rail network. The subsequent review of our internal processes noted the absence of a robust asset management system and a transparent and repeatable process for effective decision-making. In response to the organizational need, the asset management program began in 2016 to support the enterprise with understanding their asset base, their condition and criticality for service. Initial activities included the creation of the Corporate Asset Management Strategy program, development of an inaugural asset management policy, implementation of a capital planning decision support tool (DST) and a standardized asset renewal program. While these initial steps have matured asset management capabilities, the region is undergoing significant expansion, leading to an enlarged asset portfolio and increasingly complex asset management practices, which has limited the success of these early initiatives.

This growth has resulted in the need to develop a systematic approach to asset management, tailored to accommodate the unique corporate structure of TransLink. In 2022, TransLink developed its first Strategic Asset Management Plan (SAMP) to bring clarity to the enterprise-level asset management system, the roles, responsibilities, and governance structure required to support a more integrated, aligned, and rapid implementation of asset management improvements. Since then, TransLink has been driving these asset management improvements and over the past two years there has been an evident uplift in the organization’s capability and willingness to adopt an asset management mindset to decision-making.

With reference to the complexity of TransLink assets and operations, how is the asset management program structured and delivered? What is the Corporate Asset Management Strategy?
There are three main goals for TransLink’s Corporate Asset Management Strategy (CAMS):

  • Asset Management Leadership - Leading the development and implementation of Asset Management Strategy, including asset management objectives and KPI’s. Identifying, validating, and prioritizing the investments needed for improving resiliency. And providing consistent support for the development of customer metrics and targets; and delivery of the organization’s climate action plan.
  • Optimizing Business Value - Validating and clarifying accountabilities, roles, responsibilities, and processes related to the capital program to improve governance. Identifying the business benefits consistently across the enterprise (DST scoring); prioritizing and validating the enterprise ranking of business value to support capital planning. And supporting strategic planning with identifying the capital reinvestments needed to ensure state of good repair.
  • Supporting Management of Assets - Developing, implementing, and monitoring the enterprise criticality of asset strategies both at asset class and system levels. Validating and documenting replacement timing/needs for alignment with the capital program. Reporting on SGR needs and unfunded backlog and ensuring enterprise-wide stewardship of assets by collaborating with key stakeholders within operations to gain support for rationalizing the trade-offs between cost, risk, and levels of service.

TransLink as the primary asset owner provides direction and strategic guidelines for service requirements which are delivered by our operating companies. However, there remains challenges when we de-constructed the provision of bus and rail services as an example between the capacity and capability requirements for customer facing assets. The initial steps of addressing this complexity were a notable development within the SAMP with the documentation of a consistent, enterprise-wide Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed (RACI) matrix. Documenting clear roles and responsibilities provides a clear line-of-sight within and across the enterprise. The asset management approach at TransLink can be characterized as cross-functional and cross-organizational, which necessitates a collaborative governance model to rationalize the asset management system.

How does TransLink leverage value-based decision making to prioritize investments? What technology tools have been helpful in this process?
The DST framework has consistently supported our capital planning process with an objective enterprise-wide value assessment for an initial prioritization of capital projects, based on how they contribute to meeting the organization’s long-term strategic vision. It is used to support our senior leadership with a consistent, transparent, and defensible process for decision-making. With the entire capital program assessed for business value, the conversations and debate between our decision-makers have shifted to understanding the benefits of the capital investments rather than the urgency of individual projects – especially for projects that do not score high within the DST value assessment. After the DST value assessment, capital investments are further prioritized and optimized on a portfolio basis, considering key organizational constraints, such as budget availability, human resources, operational impacts, project interdependencies, and so forth.

The DST framework is primarily an excel-based system, however given the region’s ambitious vision of growing our transportation system over the next 30 years, TransLink will be looking at newer approaches for traditional capital investment planning that would leverage asset data to drive insights, decision making and investment planning over longer-term horizons. As such, TransLink has started their technology transformation journey by refreshing and renewing our EAM systems for our operating companies and have also replaced our financial systems which will lead to better integration and understanding of asset data for long-term integrated planning.

What is the role of asset management in renewal or replacement of aging assets and development of new assets?
Asset management at TransLink is the core function that provides enterprise-wide stewardship of all assets and unlocking ‘value’ from our capital investments. The CAMS program in collaboration with the operating companies developed asset renewal programs for key asset classes to document their condition, performance, and replacement criteria. These forward-looking programs are meant to justify the capital reinvestment required and ensure that we continue to operate and maintain our assets in a state of good repair. Assets not covered within an asset renewal program are forecast for renewal or replacement within the long-term capital program, primarily based on age or their planned useful life. The capital investment plan is further informed by condition assessments and/or performance data to optimally manage across the entire asset lifecycle. As new assets come online, these are also monitored by the asset management program and built into the long-term plan based on their expected useful life.

How is TransLink planning to incorporate climate change, seismic vulnerability, equity and accessibility in asset management?
Although the CAMS program started out with a focus on maintaining SGR for our existing services; TransLink as an enterprise is committed to addressing climate change, seismic vulnerability, equity, and accessibility where applicable. TransLink’s Climate Action Plan released in 2022 accelerates climate action throughout the TransLink enterprise by updating and detailing the steps we are taking to create a climate-resilient and net-zero public transportation system. It focuses on the next three years, with an emphasis on climate adaptation and resilience. A key update to our enterprise asset management policy was the principle of “Sustainable Service Delivery”, where assets are managed in a sustainable manner that considers equity within and between generations, the environment and climate change impacts, and asset-resiliency.

Also, in 2022, the CAMS team with the support of key internal stakeholders from across the organization developed TransLink’s Enterprise Seismic Resiliency Policy to ensure consistent enterprise-wide understanding of seismic resiliency and quantify our seismic risk. While the policy defines the enterprise standard for seismic resilience of infrastructure assets, a seismic resiliency program was also developed to systematically prioritize the capital investments needed for our existing infrastructure and, over time, harden TransLink’s critical infrastructure assets to an acceptable level of seismic resistance.

What is your message for transit agencies seeking to deploy a lifecycle approach with preventive maintenance to maximize useful life of assets and progress towards state of good repair?
Based on my experience here at TransLink and industry estimates, asset management can provide significant savings on the total cost of ownership over the lifecycle of an asset. However, I would recommend that to fully understand the lifecycle costs and total business impacts to maintain state of good repair, it would require a commitment to assessing the organizations level of service targets and the acceptable level of risk to service. Finally, when implementing new or upgraded transit services, there is additional lifecycle cost reduction opportunity when asset management and operations are consulted early and throughout the planning, design, and construction stages for the assets.