Downer Group

Posted: 5 May 2021

How Downer Group used AR to reimagine preventative maintenance of road assets

Downer Group is a leading integrated services provider in Australia and New Zealand. The company designs, build, and maintains a range of critical assets, infrastructure, and facilities that touch our lives every day, including bridges, desalination plants, roads, and hospitals.

As part of a broader digital transformation strategy, Downer wanted to modernise how it carried out preventative maintenance tasks to allow greater agility and proactivity across the frontline workforce of its roads business.

Downer carries out a range of preventative maintenance work on its road assets, including traffic lights and controller boxes at intersections–to ensure that they're working as they should be, raising issues that could lead to faults and issuing fixes where necessary.

 

This process was previously slow and focused on manual processes, with field workers using PDFs, spreadsheets, and Word documents to track and lodge maintenance reports. While the company already armed its field workers with tablets to carry out preventative maintenance, it still relied on manual methods to get the job done.

Not only did Downer want to automate these processes, but they also wanted to investigate ways field workers could provide value to set the company apart from competitors.

Enabling frontline workers with AR

In a previous project with Telstra Purple, Downer had used the Microsoft HoloLens Augmented Reality (AR) platform to conduct virtual tours of an asphalt plant during the initial outbreak of COVID-19. Noting the success of this project, Downer investigated how it could use AR to empower its preventative maintenance work.

The company engaged with Telstra Purple to build an augmented reality application on the HoloLens platform to deploy across frontline workers’ tablets.

As part of the process, Telstra Purple:

  • Delivered a dynamic AR platform that was intuitive and easy to use.
  • Built a database in the cloud to help store and manage asset data.
  • Completely digitised Downer’s existing asset library, maintenance checklists, and other data to make it available on tablet devices as a mobile application.
"This was about enabling our field workers to have a raft of important data at their fingertips and make some regular, routine tasks easier to complete,"

Fraser Shields, Clients Services Manager at Downer Group.

Transforming preventative maintenance

The solution has provided a raft of benefits for Downer, effectively transforming how it conducts preventative maintenance in its roads business. Field technicians can quickly find the right assets using a built-in virtual identifier, saving time spent manually identifying assets and issues using the app.

It allows field technicians to map assets and track progress using an immersive AR environment, providing the ability to map, locate and assess assets using GPS location data.

Field workers can look on the map for specific assets or surrounding assets, submit maintenance reports (complete with photos or other images), look at historical maintenance reports to determine any degradation, and update critical details. Data is stored electronically in the cloud and accessed via a mobile application.

"It facilitated things like being able to dial in a supervisor when a field worker gets stuck,” Fraser continues. “They can see what you can see through the cameras in the lens and mark-up the screen at their end so you can see what they're trying to tell you."

Leveraging a trusted partner

The HoloLens project is just one way that Downer Group is innovating with modern, digitised processes. The solution has augmented an existing preventative maintenance approach that is increasingly becoming infused in data analytics and automated processes.

Fraser says it would have been difficult for the company to accomplish this on its own. Telstra Purple has supported them at every turn.

“When you start getting involved with data analytics people, you realise that, with the right data, you can accomplish things you'd never thought of before,” he says. “Having Telstra Purple there helps. They've got a range of expertise that we can bring in for some of these crazy ideas that we want to try quickly, to see if it works for us.”

“That's a capability we don't have internally, and the ability to leverage those skills from our partners is key.”

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