News / Calgary

On the road to savings

Zero-based review found efficiencies for roads dept.

By having third-party consultants look at the Calgary’s road budget and operations, administration was able to save over $3 million in costs and productivity gains.

metro file photo

By having third-party consultants look at the Calgary’s road budget and operations, administration was able to save over $3 million in costs and productivity gains.

The city’s zero-based review on the roads department has resulted in some serious savings for taxpayers.

The roads department predicts it will save approximately $3.4 million in productivity gains or in costs this year, when compared with the 2012 baseline. 

Andrew Bissett, leader of strategic planning for roads, said the process of bringing in an outside consultant to dig down into the departments books helps them see the bigger picture.

He said the outside consultants - Western Management Consultants and ISL Engineering – went beyond the line-by-line budget numbers and questioned how the city was delivering services. 

“They were looking at the value for the dollar – what does it actually cost to deliver the service,” said Bissett.

As part of the review, the consultant started with about 30 areas within roads and zeroed in on five things they saw could be improved – pavement marking, streetlight maintenance, sign manufacturing, the Spyhill gravel crusher and pavement rehabilitation.

For streetlight maintenance, the consultant suggested outsourcing maintenance to several service providers instead of just one. 

The result was that the city was able to reduce the time it takes to respond to a streetlight service call from 42 days down to 22 days. 

Councillor Shane Keating said zero-based reviews are an important part of bringing innovation to the city.

“If you don’t ever look at how you’re doing and what you can do differently, then you’re just going to continue doing the same thing, and that’s why this part of the process is so crucial.”

He said having an outside set of eyes to look over your shoulder and make suggestions can lead to efficiencies.

“In this case, I think roads did a fabulous job,” said Keating.

The zero-based review was a one-off and the process will be complete with the report going to City council Monday. But Bissett said it helped the entire department change its thinking.

"Now it’s really on us now to have that sense of continuous improvement,” he said. “We’ve got data – lots of data – but having the more improved data allows us to continue to have these conversations.”

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