Taking Innovation Underground
SICE is the global systems integration company at the forefront of intelligent transport and tunnel systems. We go behind the scenes with Manuel Gonzalez Arrojo, Managing Director of SICE Australia and New Zealand, as SICE celebrates its 100th year
Writer: Phoebe Harper | Project Manager: Lewis Bush
When the global systems integration company SICE first entered the Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) space in 2005, the move was not without its challenges.
“We were a new company in Australia in a market that is extremely process-driven. There were already companies here delivering SICE’s portfolio when we arrived, and at the end of the day we were a bunch of Spaniards trying to deliver system integration systems here in Australia!” opens Manuel Gonzalez Arrojo, Managing Director of SICE ANZ.
Despite these initial hurdles and cultural differences, SICE found a welcoming and receptive new market in which to thrive, delivering its innovative portfolio of highly configurable motorway control, tunnel, and tolling systems.
“It’s very exciting to be working here. In Australia, both technology and safety are taken extremely seriously – and while they welcome cost effective solutions, they are not just looking for the cheapest one. Generally, Australians and New Zealanders are also open to working with international companies,” he continues.
Of course, having the strong global footprint of a vast international enterprise such as SICE provided a concrete backing that continues to be an enormous advantage for SICE ANZ today.
“Operating in ANZ, our projects can be completed much faster as a global company rather than as a smaller, local company,” Gonzalez Arrojo states. “The advantages include: innovation coming from all of our international and Spanish projects and R&D department, international supply chain that includes strategic agreements with companies like Dell, Oracle, Cisco, as well as access to our vast group of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) located in 40+ countries.”
Following a strong background in SICE’s Madrid operations, Gonzalez Arrojo himself came to ANZ after the company secured a tolling based project centred on technology integration – ConnectEast, based in Melbourne. Soon, he was hooked.
“What was initially a two year assignment ended up being a fifteen-year journey and counting,” he tells us.
Subsequently, in 2012 the SICE footprint extended into New Zealand, with Gonzalez Arrojo taking the helm over operations in both countries.
“Back in 2011, SICE had one project in Australia – our tolling system with ConnectEast. 10 years later, SICE systems are controlling four tunnels, one motorway and two tolling systems. Plus we are delivering four additional tunnels, one motorway, one tolling system and one rail project to add to our portfolio in ANZ”. Furthermore, we are providing support services to most of the projects already delivered.
The SICE enterprise is primarily a systems integration company, comprising more than 3,000 employees worldwide. The company’s vast footprint extends to over 45 countries and is established in five continents.
“SICE has always been strong in the Spanish and Latin American markets, but now in the last few years we have really grown in the UK, US and Canada, and now also Scandinavia.”
The company’s core specialities comprise system integration, intelligent transport systems (ITS), Rail systems, Smart Cities, control systems, telecommunications, and security systems.
“In ANZ we are more focussed on the areas of control systems, both for motorways and tunnels, rail and tolling systems. Currently in ANZ we are approximately 230 employees, the majority of whom are engineers,” Gonzalez Arrojo adds.
“Our client portfolio ranks from government bodies to private operators, private organisations and construction companies.”
SICE prides itself on offering industry-leading end-to-end capabilities. The company’s expertise in integration is founded on a holistic approach that allows SICE to offer tailored turnkey solutions to a wide range of projects.
“We are not a software or a design house – however our expertise goes from design to operations. Our engineers have knowledge of the whole project life cycle. This minimises integration risk whilst maximising quality and ensuring that it is a fit for purpose solution,” he states.
NO TWO ROADS THE SAME
Arguably SICE’s greatest defining advantage is its versatility and the flexibility in the customisation that they bring to their client’s solutions. Essentially this translates to the understanding that no two clients, and indeed, no two roads, are the same. Agility is paramount in serving different operator’s needs.
“We don’t attack the market saying here is my product – take it or leave it. We tend to adapt to the project or clients’ requirements,” Gonzalez Arrojo comments.
This is best evidenced by SICE’s flagship product, SIDERA – a software platform that offers an integral solution for centralised management in tunnels and motorways. As a highly configurable, commercial off-the-shelf technology, SIDERA has been developed to suit clients’ unique needs and requirements.
“For each project, we need to configure to our client specifications. The same can be said about our tolling products like TOS and BIS – they are highly configurable off-the-shelf products that we adapt based on specificities.”
When dealing with such high-profile clients, maintaining a competitive edge that confidently handles the latest technological advances is critical in securing projects.
“Because our clients are government operators and organisations that are looking for the latest solution and innovation, there is a natural competition between different countries - each region wants to be at the forefront.”
For Gonzalez Arrojo, there are three key components that define SICE’s stance on innovation and keeping pace with technological advances, with R&D representing a crucial pillar of SICE’s operations:
• It begins with European activities, where the company participates in many combined R&D projects;
• Closer to home, in-house innovation is essential to remain competitive, as evidenced by SICE’s development of its original traditional tolling systems to multi-layered, free-flowing solutions;
“If you don’t upgrade your technologies, then you become stuck and excluded from the advanced markets,” Gonzalez Arrojo comments.
• Finally, feedback is everything. This is ingested from clients and systems operators and fed back through the company to guide innovation, rejuvenating the life cycle of systems design and integration within the company.
“In the last decade, we have become the preferred systems integrator for tunnel and motorway control systems in ANZ and that also helped SICE to become a leader in tunnel management systems worldwide”
PRIDE IN PROJECTS
SICE’s successful segue into the ANZ market is entirely attributed to the backbone of successful projects that the company could rely on to prove its cutting-edge abilities and technological prowess.
Indeed, the move to Australia was project-driven, after SICE secured a contract on the Melbourne-based ConnectEast tolling system. This was entirely granted due to the company’s work on its previous tolling project, Autopista Central in Santiago (Chile).
Another flagship project, this time in the tunnel area, Calle 30 in Madrid, opened SICE’s doors to the ANZ tunnels and motorways market, with SICE winning the Waterview tunnel in Auckland (NZ) as part of the Well-Connected Alliance back in 2011.
SICE’s portfolio today finds its true culmination in what will become the company’s new flagship project with what is set to be Australia’s largest undertaking in road infrastructure - the WestConnex motorway network.
SICE is engaged in each of the four major stages of this project which, when completed, will comprise 33km of the continuous and seamlessly integrated underground motorway. From the New M4 Tunnels, which opened in July 2019, across the M8 Motorway in operation since July 2020, to M4-M5 Link Tunnels and Rozelle Interchange, the last and final stage, forecast to open in 2023.
“SICE was appointed to deliver its unique federated tunnel control system and Operations Management and Control System (OMCS) architecture, that will allow for low-risk safe construction of one of the longest underground road networks in the world.”
“SIDERA - SICE’s in-house world leading fully integrated OMCS - essentially allows road operators to seamlessly manage the entire operation surveillance, traffic management and allied safety equipment of the four tunnels simultaneously,” Gonzalez Arrojo tells us.
Not only is SICE is delivering services during the construction, but also, once the tunnels are opened SICE will also provide post opening support during the Operation and Maintenance phase.
SICE could not undertake such notable projects without the robust backing of a solid supply chain. In Gonzalez Arrojo’s opinion, it is the company’s in-house supply chain operations that also provide a truly competitive advantage, together with the ability to provide post opening support and ongoing technical support during the operating phase.
“This is one of our differentiators. We define ourselves as systems integrators, and as such, we do not manufacture equipment or hardware, so we need to rely on third party providers. One of our advantages is that we can integrate any third-party system into our global solution. This allows us a lot of flexibility, because in each given project we can decide the third-party product that is best suited for that particular project based on specifications, compliance with requirements, availability and price.”
SICE source different local providers based on each country, with each supplier vetted by the company’s international procurement network.
“We also use commercial Tier One solutions from providers such as Barco.”
“Ultimately, we deliver for our clients, this is the essence of our DNA. In 20 years, I have never seen one of SICE’s projects fail or not reach completion”
For the years to come, SICE’s pace of sustainable growth shows no signs of abating.
The company continues to invest heavily in cloud-based solutions, including selling Software as a Service (SaaS) alongside its already varied portfolio of products and hardware, especially in the tolling and motorway and tunnel control systems sectors.
“We are also investing hugely in our training capabilities to improve our clients’ understanding of our products before they start operating with our solutions.
“With motorways and tolling management, there is a strong human element behind our systems, so it is essential that operators understand the system before a tunnel opens.
“Secondly, during the training process we get a lot of feedback from the operators and all that feedback feeds back to our development teams to allow us to keep improving,” Gonzalez Arrojo explains.
Diversification also has a key role to play in further expanding SICE’s cutting edge portfolio, with exciting projects ahead.
Earlier this year, SICE successfully entered the rail space in the ANZ region, after the company was appointed to provide tunnel ventilation control systems for a new rail project in Auckland.
“Rail has been one of our priorities during the last three years, and there will be massive investments in ANZ rail over the next five to 10 years, so we are extremely content with this,” Gonzalez Arrojo concludes.
With further market penetration ahead, SICE is truly the name to watch in delivering intelligent infrastructure.