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Real time information on TBM progress

Construction of National Grid’s London Power Tunnels is being monitored remotely using a new web-based system that contractor Costain claims is helping to keep work on the £220M project on track.

The project, which involves constructing 32km of 4m and 3m internal diameter tunnels at 30 to 40m depth between Hackney and Willesden (via St John’s Wood) and Kensal Green and Wimbledon to carry new power cables, is using the Tunnel Information Management (TIM) system developed by The Commercial Applications Company for Costain’s project partner London Bridge Associates.

According to Costain, TIM provides real time information and allows the site team to make production management and maintenance decisions quickly and accurately by focusing valuable time and effort on areas that can make a real difference to the success of the project.

“We believe the gathering and analysis of high quality data provides the foundation for improving our operational performance. Using TIM allows us to keep on top of what we are doing by highlighting areas for continuous improvement,” says Costain project manager Andrew Firth.

Data is inputted into the tunnel boring machines (TBMs) via an internet link as the shift progresses, which reduces the need for paper records. The system is web-based and can be accessed from any location by multiple users simultaneously with a tablet or smart phone. User access to specific data is clearly defined with a permission to read, write or delete information, while the data is securely backed up and saved every three hours. Furthermore, data is based around coded activities that allow for easy analysis, and also includes quality and other information.

TIM uses the data to create reports on progress, delay analysis, quality, geology, consumables usage and key performance indicators, all of which are available on a real time basis.

PDF reports can be automatically generated and distributed by email and tabulated data can be exported to Excel for further analysis. Early warnings are highlighted on screen and can be emailed to specific members of staff while the home page includes a map showing the current TBM locations for display in the site offices and visitor centre.

TIM reports are then analysed by the construction and engineering teams in the daily review meeting. The team’s performance, and that of the TBMs, over the previous 24 hours is reviewed and actions for improvement are assigned. Weekly progress and section meetings similarly use TIM reports to drive improvement. The accumulated information then assists with handover records and can provide continuing information to asset owners, operators and maintenance personnel.

National Grid senior project manager for capital delivery John Trounson adds: “National Grid is always looking for new ways to innovate in order to enhance safety performance and improve efficiency. In providing real time information, the TIM system is an essential tool in identifying operational constraints which can help us to improve in both these areas whilst providing a contemporary record of the tunnel drives.”

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