By John Helwig, PE, CMRP
The condition of our nation’s infrastructure including our roads, bridges, and water and sewer systems are vital to our daily quality of life and overall economic growth. However, infrastructure is beginning to deteriorate as states cut back on spending. With a lack of funding, communities must take a closer look at specific investments that can help preserve and maintain their assets. One way to make municipal organizations more effective and efficient is to introduce asset management principles into existing public works management programs.
Asset management can be best described as the balancing of risk, service and cost to reach a specific objective. To be effective it requires engagement of the workforce, adherence to good asset management principles and development of the enabling technology. Having a good asset management system in place allows resources to be allocated based on the community’s strategic plan.
Below are several fundamental components of an asset management program that should be implemented in order to meet the needs of a community:
- Asset Register – An asset register is an inventory outlining each asset that belongs to an entity. This list is organized in a hierarchy with useful attribute information allowing maintenance professionals to understand the relationship among the assets.
- IPSECA – This acronym stands for identify, plan, schedule, execute, complete and analyze. This planning and scheduling methodology is the backbone to work management.
- Risk Framework – This structured process allows assets to be categorized based on their relative risk and outlines strategies to eliminate or minimize the impacts. Risk matrices and heat maps on GIS layers permit a visualization of the riskiest assets, which are characterized by the product of their likelihood of failure and consequence of failure.
- Lifecycle Planning – From construction to disposal, lifecycle planning entails looking at and managing an asset across its entire lifespan. This approach permits lifecycle costs to be minimized by optimizing capital and maintenance budgets with respect to each other instead of in isolation.
- Workflow Mapping – The information outlined in this document provides vital knowledge from the workforce, which is retained for succession planning and onboarding. It helps promote operational improvement and serves as a basis for Enterprise Asset Management Software (EAMS) configuration.
- People – One of the hardest parts of implementing an asset management program is the people. They are often perceived as an impediment to success, when in reality they are a force multiplier. It is important to equip your team to make good, timely and data-informed decisions at all levels in the agency.
Asset management has as much to do with planning and renewal as it does with operation and maintenance. An often-overlooked, yet vital, component is maintenance management. A common misconception is that all asset failures are directly correlated to their age and forecasted lifespan, while in reality only 20% of asset failures are age related. By adopting good maintenance practices, municipalities can save approximately three to eight times their operations and capital costs.
Whether the driver is regulatory compliance or the need to renew aging infrastructure, asset management programs enhance line-of-sight so the way assets are operated aligns with the business objectives of the organization. In one specific instance, a major transportation agency that manages bridges, tunnels and ancillary infrastructure wanted to develop a coherent and consistent management strategy across its diverse asset classes and implement a succession planning process. The solution involved aligning multiple perspectives from within the organization to create a management strategy for each of its asset classes. This helped to bolster onboarding and succession planning by defining the asset lifecycle activities from handover to inspection, replacement and disposal.
In another example, a medium-sized public works agency wanted to start an agency-wide asset management program across road, water, sewer and facilities bureaus; however, multiple silos posed a risk to aligning its goals, priorities and sharing of information. To address these challenges two coordinators from each bureau were selected to facilitate communication between the overall committee and staff. This organizational breakdown promoted sharing of best practices and the solicitation of feedback from the bureaus. Over the last three years, these combined efforts have resulted in increased buy-in and understanding from all levels of staff.
Advanced asset management technologies provide many opportunities for organizations to administer complex networks of infrastructure. To further enhance existing capabilities, KCI is actively exploring application and integration of 3D Building Information Models directly into various asset management software in order to improve geospatial and visual referencing and also potentially create an operating digital twin that would report current status using internet of things type monitoring.
Regardless of your journey with asset management and the technology you choose to support it, the following guidelines can prove useful in establishing an excellent framework:
- Start small by piloting initiatives at a facility or small network level
- Maintain an inventory of your assets
- Document work done on assets
- Define business objectives and use them as a basis to assess risk and lifecycle planning
- Use technology to support your business
- Treat your people as a force multiplier, not an impediment to success
By implementing these techniques and applying asset management processes, municipalities can more effectively and efficiently address the complex challenges of our nation’s infrastructure.