Published on 20-Dec-2011
"In the last three years, 12 people from our team retired. We haven’t been able to replace all of them due to budget cuts, but we’ve been able to keep up nonetheless thanks to IBM Maximo software." - —Boyd Johnson, Contract Administration Manager, St. Louis County (Minnesota) Public Works Department
St. Louis County Public Works
Asset Management, Cloud & Service Management, Service Management, Smarter Planet
IBM Business Partner:
St. Louis County Public Works Department in Minnesota. Located in Northeastern Minnesota, St. Louis County is the largest county east of the Mississippi, based on land mass, with more than 200,000 residents spread across small mining towns, farm communities and busy cities.
Provide staff with a single platform to manage all aspects of transportation projects from beginning to end
A comprehensive work and asset management platform that integrates financial, asset, purchasing, time entry and GIS information and automates processes across the organization to provide new levels of visibility and control
Enabled department to manage a growing number of projects with fewer staff; improved organizational efficiency; improved budgeting and planning with ability to accurately track costs
Faced with tight budget constraints and aging infrastructures, state and local governments are being pressed these days to stretch their resources farther than ever. And they’re turning to technology to help.
Take the St. Louis County Public Works Department in Minnesota. Located in Northeastern Minnesota, St. Louis County is the largest county east of the Mississippi, based on land mass, with more than 200,000 residents spread across small mining towns, farm communities and busy cities. “State payments and aid are not keeping pace with inflation,” says Boyd Johnson, Contract Administration Manager for the St. Louis County Public Works Department. “At the same time, the total number of county employees has decreased by 20 percent. We’re expected to do more with less and technology is critical in helping us improve service levels despite these challenges.”
Modernizing its infrastructure
The county’s Public Works Department is responsible for maintaining road and bridge systems across a 6,741 square mile area (about the size of Connecticut and Delaware combined). It’s a significant undertaking with more than 3,000 miles of roads, 40,000 traffic signs, 11.2 million linear feet of yellow and white striping, 129 railroad crossings, and 822 bridges and culverts under management.
Public Works staff must manage between 25 and 40 new projects annually, with each project ranging in value from $50,000 to more than $5 million. Total spending averages about $30 million each year.
For many years, the department used a third party asset management tool to support its work but the technology had become outdated and didn’t provide the comprehensive work order and reporting capabilities that staff needed to manage projects efficiently from start to finish.
”The older technology provided information through a ‘green screen’, allowed only one staff member to write reports and didn’t integrate all the information we needed,” says Johnson. “It really limited our access to information. We needed to be able to manage construction projects without having to consult multiple systems.”
Gaining new visibility with a single platform
After reviewing a number of solutions to help it better capture costs and manage maintenance and construction projects, the County selected IBM® Maximo® Asset Management and IBM Maximo for Transportation software. The IBM Maximo Professional Services team provided support to help the department define work rules and integrate information from the organization’s financial systems, time-entry system, fuel meters and purchasing system.
“IBM Maximo software is a user-friendly platform that supports both on-going maintenance and large-scale construction projects and provides us with answers at our fingertips,” says Johnson.
In launching a new project, whether it be repaving a residential street or upgrading a bridge, engineering staff enter the project plan and requirements for review and approval. Once approved, Public Works staff can allocate funding for the project, open the PO and assign contractors—all from a single interface. While work is underway, they can access information to determine exactly how much time and money has been spent on the project, what work orders are in process, and what work has been paid for and to whom.
Additionally, because the software can track everything from worker hours and their associated pay rates to fuel costs, finance staff can quickly and accurately bill neighboring counties for their portion of shared services. For example, if the organization provides snow removal assistance to a neighboring county in the winter, the total cost (time and expenses) can be easily displayed and charged back to the other organization.
“We have a lot of projects going on simultaneously and it can become confusing to track all the various components,” says Johnson. “IBM Maximo software gives us the visibility and control we need to know exactly what we’re spending and to close out projects much more quickly. There’s a lot more confidence in the numbers, a lot more consistency in our processes and a lot more transparency and visibility. Before, we often received notices from purchasing that we had exceeded a PO. Now project managers are alerted if spending is approaching the PO limit and can proactively communicate with management to stay ahead of the curve.”
These capabilities have had a tremendous impact on the department’s efficiency. “In the last three years, twelve people from our team retired,” says Johnson. “We haven’t been able to replace all of them due to budget cuts, but we’ve been able to keep up nonetheless. We wouldn’t be able to do a good job without IBM Maximo software.”
The department is currently expanding the solution so it can manage work by linear reference point. This will help staff to better identify work requests by mile-marker, lane, direction and other attributes and more accurately track labor, material, tools and other charges for each segment of the road. ”If we have a road that is 60 miles long that runs through multiple cities, we can now split the cost out for each segment based on where it is located,” says Johnson. “We can also assign multiple types of segments within an asset—for example, by surface type or type of area—rural or city—so we can see how much we’re spending on specific types of segments.”
Preventive maintenance improves asset reliability
The maintenance arm of the Public Works department handles daily repairs and upkeep of the roadway system, from filling potholes and replacing culverts to mowing grass and plowing snow. To keep these operations running smoothly, preventive maintenance on all equipment—county vehicles, heavy equipment (e.g., dump trucks and graders), large equipment (e.g., air compressors, boilers, etc.) and buildings— is a must.
With IBM Maximo software, work orders for preventive maintenance are automatically generated and tracked. This has been instrumental in enabling the county to increase the ratio of preventive to reactive work for improved asset reliability and decreased costs. Additionally, maintenance staff can also for the first time identify recurring problems and assess whether it is better to repair or replace an asset.
The Public Works Department currently manages about 3,682 assets and 5,000 active preventive maintenance (PM) work orders using IBM Maximo software. More than 60,000 PM work orders have been entered since implementation in 2008. Fleet specific information, such as equipment status, meter history and warranty data for the department’s 450 fleet assets is integrated into the system using IBM Maximo for Transportation, giving staff a single view into maintenance information.
Visualizing spatial relationships among assets
Integration of geographic information system (GIS) data from Esri’s ArcGIS software along with external GIS data sources, such as land ownership maps, will enable staff to visualize assets, locations and work orders. “Instead of searching through tables and looking at maps to figure out where a culvert is located, staff will be able to see it right on the map and determine if a work order is already open and if crews are in the area,” says Johnson. “We also will be able to include information about the size and condition of a culvert in the system so that maintenance doesn’t have to dispatch someone first to measure the pipe. They’ll know before they go out what pipe they need to bring on the truck.”
According to Johnson, these additional capabilities were an easy sell, even in today’s economic recession. “It was a unanimous vote by our committee members to add spatial and linear asset management within the system,” says Johnson. “It demonstrates the significant return on investment we’ve realized with IBM Maximo software.”
For more information
To learn more about IBM enterprise asset management solutions, please contact your IBM sales representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: ibm.com/tivoli
You can get even more out of Tivoli® software by participating in independently run Tivoli User Groups around the world. Learn about opportunities near you at: www.tivoli-ug.org
For more information about St. Louis Public Works Department, visit: www.stlouiscountymn.gov
Additionally, financing solutions from IBM Global Financing can enable effective cash management, protection from technology obsolescence, improved total cost of ownership and return on investment. Also, our Global Asset Recovery Services help address environmental concerns with new, more energy-efficient solutions. For more information on IBM Global Financing, visit: ibm.com/financing
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