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CIO50 2021 #2: Brian Northern, Fulton Hogan

  • Name Brian Northern
  • Title Group Chief Information Officer
  • Company Fulton Hogan
  • Commenced role October 2011
  • Reporting Line Group CFO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 75 staff, eight direct reports
  • As Group CIO for Fulton Hogan, Brian Northern has led a team responsible for a number of new deployments at the infrastructure and construction company in the past 18 months, notably in the Internet of Things space.

    The standard IoT platform cuts out the need to pay for the platform cost of suppliers of sensors and allows the company to ingest information into its data platform and to display sensor alerts, as well as link to other information source. These insights can be displayed on a mobile app. The value to Fulton Hogan in having its own platform is that all sensor data is collected in one place from a variety of different use cases. The IoT solutions are changing the way the business works, from manual, costly and inefficient reactive processes to more efficient, automatic and proactive business processes.

    A slip monitoring solution has been deployed on the West Coast of the South Island to give prior warning of slips that have the potential to cut off access to the region. While a solution that monitors water levels in the Wellington region warns if there is a high risk to water culverts. In addition, the team has implemented an environmental solution for measuring dust in its quarries and linking that to dust suppression systems.

    Automatic roading inspection system

    In conjunction with its outsourced partner, the Fulton Hogan IT team and engineering solutions team have come together to develop an automated roading inspection system. They now have the ability to place a camera on a Fulton Hogan designed camera mount on a vehicle to record video of the road which is then uploaded to a cloud service where machine learning is used to analyse the road condition.

    This improves the safety for its inspectors as they are no longer working in ‘live traffic’ and, along with end customer Waka Kotahi, this is part of a major safety focus to drastically reduce potential injuries on our roads. For contracting companies like Fulton Hogan this is the top critical risk area for injury to its staff. Using this technology not only improves safety but also increases efficiency and reduces costs, and it removes the variability of road inspection between inspectors thereby creating a more standard inspection process. Here are some metrics to demonstrate its effectiveness.

    ·      Reduced chance of near miss or injury while performing an inspection from 22% to 5%.

    ·      Reduced number of days to complete a survey from 66 days to seven days.

    ·      Inconsistent and subjective reporting has been replaced by national standardisation of reporting

    ·      Additional time and resource now available to focus on safety improvements, business growth

    “While the IoT solutions and automatic roading inspection solution have benefited our internal business, we are packaging these up to create additional revenue streams for Fulton Hogan. Our strategy is to use technological innovation to offer a competitive advantage for Fulton Hogan and then as we move onto the next opportunity we plan to commercialise that innovation,” Northern says.

    Future of working groups

    To influence and keep technology front of mind at the senior to mid management level of the business, ‘of the future’ working groups have been set up. The first is the ‘quarry of the future’ where the working group (ranging from quarry operators through to the national quarry manager) meet on site at one of the quarries and brain storm how technologies can assist with meeting the various goals of the quarries, such as increased customer satisfaction, revenue growth, and margin increase.

    “Part of the brain storming is blue sky thinking but also enables the introduction of technologies in other sectors to be discussed for applicability in this environment. Either way it is keeping technology front of mind and viewed as an enabler,” Northern says.

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