Canadians depend on municipalities every day. Municipal services such as public transit, social housing, water and electric utilities, and the maintenance of critical infrastructure such as roads and bridges are essential for residents. Rain or shine – or in the middle of a global pandemic – municipalities continue to serve. In March of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic prompted physical distancing mandates, municipal staff across the country were focused on finding ways to safely maintain critical services and support public health. Over six months later, such safety precautions are still necessary, yet municipalities are seeking to also achieve progress on their other strategic priorities. Local leaders do not wish to further delay ongoing projects and plans for growth or improvement. A case in point is the Township of Springwater.
The Township of Springwater had only just begun implementing new maintenance management software when the pandemic hit Canada. Springwater is a small township in central Ontario, just north of Barrie, occupying a vast land area between Georgian Bay and Lake Simcoe.
The Township has a unique blend of rural and urban communities with a growing population of over 19,000. In fact, Springwater is one of the fastest-growing regions in Ontario, with a projected population growth of nearly 100 percent by 2031.
In part, the region’s growth is driven by lower housing prices compared to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and its proximity to the City of Barrie, a booming urban center. Municipal planners and local leaders are dedicated to supporting growth and expanding their capacity to serve more residents. The acquisition of asset management and maintenance management software was a project intended to facilitate growth in Springwater by improving data management and streamlining maintenance processes.
Throughout the pandemic, Springwater has continued with the implementation of its asset management and maintenance management software, recognizing the short-term and long-term benefits of employing these technological solutions. While more training still lies ahead, the public works and parks & facilities departments are now utilizing the software every day to manage their services. The following case study describes how the Township was able to implement the software during the pandemic and utilize the new tools to their advantage.
3. Implementation Before and During the Pandemic
In 2016, the Federal Government introduced asset management requirements as part of renewed Gas Tax Fund Agreements, resulting in a flurry of asset management activity across Canada’s local governments. Springwater, having already completed an Asset Management Plan (AMP) in 2014, was ahead of the curve. Then, the Ontario Government introduced Ontario Regulation 588/17, requiring its municipalities to comply with set deadlines for additional advancement in asset management planning. Springwater, seeking to build on the foundation of its first AMP, engaged PSD to assist with asset management program development and working towards compliance with the new regulation.
PSD’s team of asset management consultants and engineers delivered a condition and data structure workshop and an asset management state of maturity report for the Township. To satisfy the first deadline of O. Reg. 588/17, PSD then worked closely with the Township’s staff to develop an Asset Management Policy. More recently in 2019, the Township sought to advance its asset management program by hiring an Asset Management Coordinator and acquiring asset management software.
4. New Asset Management Practices
In the summer of 2019, Amy Goldsworthy was hired to fulfill the role of Asset Management Coordinator. In her new role, Amy drives the advancement of the Township’s asset management program and supports coordination across departments as they adopt new practices. Springwater also released a Request for Proposal for asset management and work order software through which they selected PSD’s asset management and maintenance management tools: CityWide Software.
In October of 2019, Springwater began the software implementation process. PSD began with the data work needed to implement CityWide Asset Manager. Asset Manager serves as one complete asset inventory that supports all asset classes and incorporates additional functions such as financial accounting, condition assessments, lifecycle and risk management, and levels of service.
PSD’s implementation team conducted a thorough data gap analysis to identify any missing data or errors in the Township’s existing asset data sets. Once the data sets were updated, they could be uploaded into Asset Manager. PSD’s implementation team helped Springwater create a custom classification structure for the asset inventory, build an amortization schedule, and ensure that the asset data balanced to the audited financial statements.
With one master asset inventory, accessible via an enterprise web-based solution, all Springwater staff could now conduct long-term planning and make key infrastructure investment decisions using the same up-to-date and comprehensive asset data.
5. Maintenance Management Goes Digital
Once the asset inventory was built, the maintenance management software could be fully implemented. CityWide Maintenance Manager is a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) or work order and workflow tool which allows the Township to prioritize, schedule, and track maintenance requests, events, and projects.
The mobile and web app – populated with cloud-based data – facilitates use while working from the office, remotely, or in the field. The implementation also provided the parks & facilities and public works departments with the following tools: preventative maintenance and inspections, route patrol, and resource costing.
The Township can efficiently manage all service requests and work orders while also planning for and prearranging maintenance and inspections. The tool allows administrators to view reports and calculate resource use, therefore more easily identifying areas of improvement and the associated costs.
PSD integrated the new asset management and maintenance management tools with CityWide GIS viewer and performed custom integrations with WinFuel – the Township’s existing fuel and fluid management software. To properly integrate with GIS, PSD’s experts conducted a GIS data health check. The data health check involves a GIS data gap analysis and recommendations to ensure proper linkage of GIS data and the asset inventory.
Much of the data work was able to persist throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the most significant loss of progress was seen in the Township’s software training schedule. At the beginning of the pandemic, Springwater was not set up to work remotely; it took some time for municipal staff to receive the necessary tools to work from home and/or make plans to return to the offices safely.
The initial plan for training included both in-person and online training sessions with staff, however, due to the pandemic, training schedules were delayed. Eventually, once the Township was prepared to work from home or safely in the office, virtual training could resume.
6. New Tools in Action
While more training is required to promote municipal staff usage across every department for both Asset Manager and Maintenance Manager, the public works and parks & facilities departments are now utilizing the software regularly. Prior to implementation, the Township’s asset inventory and critical data were hosted in uncoordinated files across each department, contributing to inefficiencies in data reporting and analysis and hampering data integrity. Furthermore, work order management was conducted through paper-based service requests – which were difficult to keep track of – with little to no permanent records of past and ongoing activities. With a web-based work order system in place, Springwater is able to maintain accurate and easily retrievable records with a click of the mouse.
Amy further highlighted the benefits of utilizing a web-based program during the pandemic. Remote maintenance management was made possible with a web-based program. Moreover, the Township purchased 17 new android tablets to enable complete mobile usage of the software by the public works and parks & facilities staff in the field. All service requests and work orders are sent through the system and municipal staff members use the tablets to receive the work orders, make important notes, add photos, and mark when the work order is complete.
7. Efficiency Gained
Since the software went live in January of 2020, over 320 service requests and above 2,000 work orders have been processed in the system. By transitioning to an efficient and user-friendly system, far more work orders have been generated during the same period of time as previous years. Furthermore, the Township estimates that the elimination of paper-based service requests and work orders has saved 360 staff hours since January. An estimated $18,000 per year will be saved by using digital work order management software – savings that can be reinvested in public works allowing staff to spend time completing work orders rather than trying to manage paper.
Municipal staff members have already expressed their appreciation for the new software. Public works staff enjoy being able to add critical notes on certain activities and take photos of the site. It can provide a sense of accountability for staff when requests are complete and for residents that send in service requests. Senior management can streamline work orders and view exhaustive records illustrating the time dedicated to different activities. The Township has already been able to identify areas where more staff may be needed to complete regular activities.
8. Looking Forward
The Township has numerous goals for the use of their new asset management tools. The finance department plans to use Asset Manager for financial reporting, including the FIR (Financial Information Return) for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Amy Goldsworthy, with the support of the Asset Management Steering Committee, will be utilizing the software to advance the Township’s asset management program. The objectives for advancement include updating the Township’s 2014 Asset Management Plan to become O. Reg. 588/17 compliant, building comprehensive lifecycle strategies, developing risk frameworks, and adopting levels of service frameworks across every department. With further training, the Township intends for every department to issue service requests – even from municipal staff to its own IT department – through the maintenance management software.
Successful implementations, as seen in the case of Springwater, are only made possible with the support of municipal staff. The Township was very well positioned with Amy Goldsworthy heading the project. PSD’s implementation team was able to work with Amy to alter the organization’s maintenance management practices and utilize the software to advance the Township’s asset management program. The region’s growing population and increasing demands necessitate a more streamlined approach to maintenance management; moreover, growth is better supported by a comprehensive asset management program. A well-developed asset management program enables more accurate short-term and long-term planning which will facilitate the expansion and evolution of both the community and the municipal organization.