Sarah Twigg
Sarah Twigg

In recent times, the Street Works landscape has transformed significantly with the introduction of the national Street Manager system in England.

Whilst this introduced considerable change across our industry, we look at the undeniable benefits that explain why Symology customers opted to continue using our full Street Works systems including:

  • Quick and simple data entry
  • Retention of historic data
  • Mobile working capabilities
  • Opportunity to reduce Street Works related costs, such as FPNs
  • Extensive reporting tools
  • Flexibility to manage Contractor operation.

Quick and easy data entry with a ‘right first time’ approach

Easy in, easy out. Using the very latest data to manage works and make the most informed decisions starts with the recording and creating of the data. Data entry. If users can’t record the information quickly and easily, corners will be cut and performance will be impacted. It sounds simple and it should be. A large proportion of the day-to-day role of a Works Promoter consists of notifying Local Authorities of works activity, resulting in substantial daily data entry. It is a necessity that users have the ability to provide this data as quickly as possible without the resource intensive requirement of entering page after page of data.  Aurora has been designed to increase productivity and reduce data entry effort through the minimisation of the number of mouse clicks and keystrokes required to carry out an activity. The Works Templates within Aurora minimise the number of web pages required to create a works through the selection of a pre-defined template, where a large proportion of details are auto-populated, reducing data entry time. Based on the average time it takes to enter a standard permit, a band “I” Works Promoter would save a minimum of 113 days in noticing time in a single year through the use of Aurora.

Plotting works as a point, line and polygon is common and greater accuracy of plotting is enabled through the ability to zoom in closely on the map prior to plotting. When creating works with lengths of trenches, plotting a route that snaps to the street, further increases accuracy, speeding up the creation of works. Many Promoters, repeatedly raise the same type of works and therefore the facility to copy an activity, amending only the necessary fields, significantly reduces customers of a potential administrative burden. This increases noticing output and in many instances, facilitates notifying Local Authorities of the intended activity with as much notice as possible.

As an industry, we strive for ‘right first time’ which is applicable to creating permit applications and not just reinstatements. Making sure that the information submitted to the Local Authority is correct at the time of creating, with the aim of a permit being granted first time. Having visibility of all works at the creation stage is valuable, although the ability for a solution to automatically highlight potential conflicts with other highway activity and notify the user prior to submitting the application offers greater value. Checking any potential conflicts prior to submission will be a fraction of the administrative effort when compared with needing to resubmit an application following receipt of a permit refusal as a result of a conflict.

Once a works is created and has been granted by the Local Authority, this is only the beginning of the permit’s journey. It must progress through the permitting lifecycle to completion. Having a solution which clearly highlights those permits that need to progress within their required timeframes, significantly reduces any associated manual effort from a user perspective. Colourful dashboard widgets each displaying a different category, filterable by workstream or Contractor, presents exactly which works must progress by which date. A drill-down option provides a concise list of works requiring action within a single mouse click. This automated categorisation of work provides powerful lifecycle monitoring tools for efficient reporting and progression of large numbers of works.

With the ever-growing demand on Promoter resources and the increase in work volumes and scale, recording of site reinstatement details needs to be as simple and efficient as possible. Aurora includes map-based site plotting as standard which utilises the spatial representation drawn by the user to populate the coordinates of the site. Where Promoters have large volumes of sites to register, further efficiencies are realised through an innovative facility where upon entering site dimensions, a pre-drawn polygon is presented to the user to position. This greatly reduces the amount of time and effort required to record reinstatement details once work has been completed.

Street Works legislation dictates the information that a Promoter must provide a Local Authority and vice versa. Promoters often record supplementary works information. Having the flexibility within Aurora to create their own fields to accommodate this additional information, in multiple fields of varying types, is ideal for auditing and reporting purposes. This facility provides a single system in which to store all Street Works data, accessible by all users, which can be moulded to a customer’s own business requirements, without reliance on internal IT departments for maintenance and updates. Easy in.

Availability of Data in a single place

Within the Street Works world, with guarantee periods, inspections and coring programmes, it’s not always about works in the here and now, access to historic works information is vitally important. Having historic data accessible from within the same solution as current and future works inevitably has productivity benefits. When receiving a Category C inspection on a works that is nearly three years old, visibility of the works history from the outset without needing to copy the reference and search in another solution, is a key component in quick resolution of a defect. Resolving a defect inspection through the creation of a new phase, from the same works, retaining all the history in one place adds even more value to the Street Works solution for years to come.

Retaining all the works history in one place adds significant value to a Street Works solution for years to come.

Works creation requires consideration of a number of data sets, which must be taken in to account. An effective Street Works solution will provide the facility to plot the works on a map alongside spatial representations of the additional data in a single view, which can be turned on and off via user-selectable layers. Streets have associated street data such as times and locations of traffic sensitivity or areas with special engineering difficulties, which must be considered when promoting works. Promoters work on apparatus in the ground, which is spatially represented and is an important aspect when maintaining assets. Having these layers available to select as a user action either when navigating around the map or creating works enforces the drive towards ‘right first time’.

Maximising site operative productivity

Street Works legislation dictates that Promoters must send start and stop notices in a timely manner, keeping key stakeholders, primarily Local Authorities, up-to-date with network occupancy in real time. Having a mobile app which provides this facility to site operatives, drastically reduces the administrative burden on Promoters, minimising the number of calls to the back office by removing additional steps and effort, streamlining the noticing lifecycle considerably. As well as decreasing the number of calls to the office, it also removes the risk of not being able to get through on a busy phone line or even worse, forgetting to call. The Aurora mobile app offers this noticing facility as standard, in addition to providing key works information, including permit status, so that site operatives are certain that the permit has been granted prior to starting work. Permit conditions are also visible to ensure a compliant site. Offline capabilities provide operatives with access to permit information even when network connectivity is limited, offering assurances that conditions can be reviewed at any point.

Ensuring permit compliance extends further than just reviewing the permit status and conditions, where Promoters have facilities to record their own inspections providing a documented audit of compliance. Standardised, out-of-the-box Promoter inspections are included for all Aurora users to record via Aurora directly or the Aurora mobile app, using the same criteria as Local Authorities to monitor signing, lighting and guarding in addition to reinstatement quality.

Access to these standard facilities from the outset allows Promoters to monitor their works, improving compliance and thus performance. Self-identification of defects and non-compliant live sites, before Local Authorities do, will invariably lead to a reduction in failed inspections and financial penalties, alongside improving Promoter reputation across the community. Additionally, from an efficiency perspective, operatives should be out on site for as much time as possible, with high levels of productivity. Access to permit information directly from a mobile app removes the need for trips to the office to collect paper forms containing permit conditions or stopping to make multiple phone calls to confirm work has started and finished, truly maximising their time on site.

Minimising Street Works related costs

As works volume and scale increases, so does the potential for financial penalties and other associated Street Works charges. Our customers do not underestimate the role that our solution plays in minimising these charges wherever possible throughout the lifecycle of a works.

Whilst providing a solution where data entry is quick and efficient, users are notified when they may trigger noticing validation rules, thus operating against legislation and associated Codes of Practice. Providing opportunities to correct noticing violations ahead of submitting a permit application or subsequent notice, reduces the likelihood of receiving a Fixed Penalty Notice from the Local Authority. Where validation rules are triggered and penalties are received, ease of access to their origin provides valuable insight as to where improvements are needed to reduce FPNs in the future.

Reducing time and administrative effort when raising permits also minimises the financial burden for our customers. The inbuilt, automated conflict checking and coordination features play a critical role here. Visibility of all Promoter works via the mapping, both own works and other Promoter works from Street Manager, alongside notification of potential conflicts prior to submitting an application, allow users to identify network occupancy. Where potential conflicts are identified, permit dates are assessed to determine whether the permit will be refused, which would require rescheduling of gangs and other works, thus introducing further expenses. Alternatively, collaboration opportunities may be identified, with shared permit costs, potentially reducing financial outlay.

Whilst some costs are unavoidable, such as permit fees and statutory inspections, the benefits of managing costs are indisputable, particularly when they can be attributed to contractor work. Automatic calculation of permit costs for works based on a centrally managed permit fee matrix alongside the populating of other Street Works charges based on events gives customers a central place to view all charges. These are visible against each works so that costs of works can be reviewed if required, and are also available via standard reporting tools. Customers report on all charges, attributing them to types of works, projects, or particular contractors. To further reduce requirements for external spreadsheets or applications, customers allocate costs, such as defect inspection costs, to the contractor for comment and acceptance, all within the Street Works solution.

We’ve got the data in, how do we use it?

Aurora offers vast reporting options including Dynamic Dashboards, Dynamic Grid Enquiries and Static Reports facilities to support all user roles in their need for access to all data.

Dynamic Dashboards provide highly visual representations of data by means of widgets, providing a high-level summary in a more aesthetic format. With an extensive widget library, Aurora’s dashboards can be tailored to any user requirements, providing key information in a wide variety of formats. The dynamic drill-down capabilities immediately take the user to the detail behind the report for greater analysis ensuring the reason behind the real-world situation is understood.

This detail is provided by comprehensive dynamic grid enquiries which often negate the need for dozens of stand-alone reports. Designed to be used and configured by users, without the need for technical querying skills, multi-search parameters and adhoc spatial areas simplify the task of finding the data for the desired timeframe and location. User-definable column selections, business highlighting rules, sorting and grouping allow users to tailor these grids to identify pertinent information supporting users’ informed decision making process.

Aurora’s dashboards can be tailored to any user requirements, providing key information in a variety of formats.

Additionally, the more traditional static reports still have their place, and the ability to automatically schedule the running and emailing of the results has become critical in the management of activities. Whilst reporting requirements are often standard, bespoke requirements are catered for by means of an embedded reports designer.

Sharing of data, commonly via data exports, does not need to be a labour intensive task to complete. Enquiry results can be exported on a manual, adhoc basis or for more regular reporting requirements, exports can be scheduled by users. This flexibility ensures that users have access to the right data and at a time best suited to their needs. Easy out.

Managing Contractor Operations

Many Works Promoters now operate with multiple Contractors or Contract Partners, of which managing and monitoring presents entirely different challenges. First and foremost, visibility of activity across service areas for all Contractors through their own workstreams, is of utmost importance. Knowing where works are taking place under the Organisation’s name, making sure they are progressing in the correct timescales without delay, ensuring reputation is upheld and fines are minimised. This information is accessible via dashboard widgets and enquiries, which can also be filtered by workstream to facilitate monitoring of individual Contractors.

Noticing performance, site compliance, inspection pass rate in addition to outstanding defects and allocated charges can all be tracked within a single solution with minimal effort. Whether customers are utilising their own gangs or sub-contracting to partners, the advanced design of Aurora provides them with tools to measure compliance, track works and monitor performance in order to uphold reputation.

Not a One Size Fits All

Every organisation strives to operate in line with best practice, requiring a solution to support these processes, although there are, inevitably, differences across customers which must be accommodated. As a result, customers need flexibility for modifications in order to accommodate these operational differences. Additional Fields, multiple reporting methods through dashboard widgets and enquiries, presenting local map layers to display apparatus to users are all examples of where a solution must be adaptable to an Organisation’s own requirements whilst providing an out-of-the-box solution promoting best practice.

“The legislative bare minimum is not enough for Symology customers.”

As the Street Works landscape continues to evolve, so do our market leading Street Works solutions. The challenge hasn’t changed. The legislative bare minimum is not enough for Symology customers. They continue to demand the single most comprehensive Street Works solution to overcome their real-world problems with the aim of achieving the highest reputation for compliance and efficiency.

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