The Impact of Technology Change on Road Assessment Surveys

We hear from Vikash Narsai, Chairman and Shareholder of Automated Road Rehabilitation Business Systems Pty Ltd (ARRB Systems) - an international business which supports road authority organisations and private road civil engineering consulting firms achieve their objectives to translate strategic infrastructure plans into tactical outcomes.

When you first joined ARRB Systems as Chairman, what were your goals in driving change within the company?

ARRB Systems operates in the road infrastructure industry within a very niche market where its primary activities are focussed on pavement condition surveying equipment, software and data collection services with the onus on semi-automated and fully automated technologies. My involvement and relationship with the Australian Road Research Board stretch back to 2009 when a vision was born to expand into road asset management. The 2017 acquisition of the spin-off road and pavement survey equipment business enabled the fast-tracking of a vision to the expansion of our brands, giving impetus to brand and legacy-building aspirations. With significant potential for operational and top-line synergies, the focus was shifted to create a global scale distribution platform across the developed and developing world with attractive growth prospects and strong brands to drive long-term value creation, utilising shared best practices in road infrastructure delivery supply chain and complementary development efforts to improve innovation. Technology-driven innovation in pavement condition surveying can help the global industry become more sustainable and environmentally-friendly where resources are becoming very scarce and limited.

How would you evaluate your role and its impact over the last year or so?

Managing and directing the newly acquired global distribution network involving established businesses in Australia and the United States, boasting a mix of management, engineering, marketing and software development skills – with the emphasis on directing ARRB Systems – is a mammoth task. At ARRB Systems, we embrace a team approach to enable individuals not only to excel but to participate as it is the key to achieving our common goals and vision. Various key initiatives drove the vision in leveraging a global presence through creative opportunities and innovation thus ensuring continued growth for the ARRB Systems brand worldwide. This enabled the establishment and expansion of the ARRB Systems operations into India, Sweden, Singapore, and South Africa.

What challenges would you say you and the company encounter on a regular basis? How are these resolved?

ARRB Systems operates within a very inclusive niche and highly technology-driven market; a technology not always accepted at face value. The ‘proof is in the pudding’ as they would say. Whilst the backbone technologies and equipment have been developed over the past 70-odd years, real-time and fast-tracked evolution is only now accelerating in leaps and bounds. As we lay a solid foundation in building on our future, it is exciting but challenging to establish our presence in key territories in South Africa and penetrate global market territories in Asia and Europe. Meeting connected customer demands requires a whole-hearted commitment to conducting business ethically. Our experience has repeatedly shown that in order to significantly and sustainably improve a country’s road network, the whole delivery system must be taken into consideration. Improvement interventions will only reach their full potential when they are designed and implemented with the full delivery system in mind. The impact of any intervention aimed at increasing the pipeline of planned road projects will be limited if the permitting process is slow and complex due to, for example, poor stakeholder management or collaboration between institutions.

Technological change, has unforeseen impacts not only on society but within the ARRB Systems business environment, creating massive opportunities to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth on a global scale.

How are these challenges set to change, in conjunction with the advent of technologies and the potential future needs of clients?

The ever-increasing influence of technology within the industry requires an understanding of how to delegate between human and technological resources, so optimising the proficiencies of both. The latest trends and advances in mobile-, advanced sensor-, Geo-positioning technologies and distributed databases are progressively providing great opportunities for automated detection and measuring, classification of pavement distress and assessing skid resistance thus enabling a global road safe system in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s ambitious target to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries. However, there are still persistent barriers to technology-driven innovation in parts of the industry. High costs to utilise the technology is one of the greatest challenges, while a partial misunderstanding of new and emerging technologies continues to be our biggest barrier.

Technological change, has unforeseen impacts not only on society but within the ARRB Systems business environment, creating massive opportunities to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth on a global scale. Significant changes and paradigm shifts towards technology-driven road condition data collection – away from the manual methodologies – have added significant benefits of reducing collection times and subjectivity to those in the developed world. However, in developing economies, overcoming these barriers can pave the way for widespread adoption of the technologies, which is only achievable through collaboration between all thespians in the road transport sector.

What would you say are the company’s top three priorities towards its clients?

Creating value means constantly identifying the value expectations. In a high-tech, new-economy business world, where we had been a pioneering market player for many years with the product and services we provide, our first priority is to continue to scale the business to reinforce our reputation as a major industry force and become the foremost service provider of choice within the United States, Africa, Asia as well as Europe key territories. Coupled with this, is our drive-in prioritising road safety within Africa specifically with the objective of radically reducing road traffic deaths by supporting road safety decision- and policymakers in their efforts. Our third core priority is developing our team so that they can effectively and consistently execute on the framework that we’ve established.

In your opinion, how will your market look in three years? Where would you like ARRB Systems to be in the same amount of time?

Socioeconomic growth is dependent on efficient and accessible infrastructure This facilitates the growth of efficiency, reduces time and cost, stimulates job creation and connects diverse parts of society. Investments across all public assets are lacking. There is a limitation of resources to build and maintain existing public infrastructure globally. The current available technologies can deliver significantly tangible benefits at all levels of road authorities – whether small, medium or large. However, it requires awareness; comprehension of the technology-transforming practices; innovations in surveying and collecting data and the potential benefits provided by automation. We need to focus on delivering the essential modernisation building blocks for all and leveraging technology to solve simple not only socio-economic challenges but also operational issues thus increasing reliability, credibility and efficiency.

Internationally, the technological innovation that encapsulates it, in the road infrastructure sector, drives the regulation and application of harmonised global standards worldwide. Yet success depends on our efforts to achieve global change. Whilst we face these obstacles, we are aware of the potential for technology-driven development in an increasingly competitive business environment for exploiting vast opportunities and ARRB Systems is ready to enable this.


About ARRB Systems

Automated Road Rehabilitation Business Systems Pty Ltd (“ARRB Systems”) – defined by a legacy starting in the early 1950s as a means of being able to test in a technical sense certain project hypothesis – was founded in 2017 following the acquisition of the spin-off of the Australian Road Research Board’s road and pavement survey equipment and international deployment arm acquired by VNA Global. ARRB Systems will continue this legacy to manufacture survey equipment, develop new technologies and associated software and focus on the implementation of advanced data collection support services for international clients.

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