Project software will aid Tube signal work

Contractors modernising London Underground's signals infrastructure have installed product lifecyle management software to help...

Contractors modernising London Underground's signals infrastructure have installed product lifecyle management software to help meet budgets and safety regulations.

Invensy Rail Systems is rolling out product lifecycle management software to help it manage two contracts valued at more than £850m. The software, from Matrixone, will make it easier for engineers to share documents and reduce the risk of design flaws in safety-critical rail equipment by maintaining an up-to-date record of changes to a project, the company said.

"When you work with safety-critical systems and an engineer makes a change, you need to be aware of this and track it over time," said Ceri Gosling, IT director at Invensys Rail Systems. "The Matrixone software is our corporate memory. It makes it easier to meet high safety standards."

Previous workflow applications used by Invensys Rail were not seamlessly integrated, which meant staff spent more time chasing-up documents, added Gosling.

Invensys Rail will initially use the PLM software internally for more than 1,000 of its staff. In the future, however, it hopes to open-up the system to suppliers and contractors to help improve communication between teams working on large projects, said Gosling.

Simon Bragg, European research director at analyst firm ARC, said PLM software was becoming widely used by engineering and manufacturing companies. "The problem with large contracts is that there are lots of partners involved and there is no single definitive copy of a document,"he said. "The beauty of PLM software is that it makes it possible to design projects in parallel because you can inform people of relevant information."

The importance of tight project management on the London Underground was seen with the the Jubilee Line extension, which opened in 2000. Costs of that project escalated from an original budget in 1993 of £2.1bn to £3.5bn, and construction time rose from 53 months to 74 months.

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