Asset Management: Harnessing data for business intelligence
As organizations look to optimize resources and prepare for the future, many seek ready access to data regarding capital assets. Engineering advisors play a key role in helping clients identify, document, and access this information to support maintenance and capital improvement projects.
Under the leadership of asset management specialists Rishi Immanni, Ken Logsdon, and Patrick Wade, our firm is helping clients nationwide to align technology successfully with cost-effective business practices and decision-making. In this roundtable, the team reviews the benefits of sound, data-driven management to optimize the life cycle of assets.
What are the challenges that clients face in optimizing their asset management programs?
Ken Logsdon, Jr.
Many organizations, including water/wastewater utilities, oil and gas companies, ports, and public agencies, manage large inventories of facility and infrastructure information. They can be challenged by the pace of growth and its stress on legacy processes and technology. Staff may not have the skills to keep up with technological advances, or as a workforce matures and people retire, institutional knowledge may walk out the door. Critical data often exists in silos, or it may still exist only on paper or in a person’s head, making it difficult to access, mine, and share. We often find that clients have large quantities of data, but they can’t access it in a timely or effective manner. They are datarich but information-poor.
Are there other drivers that are leading clients to strengthen asset management tools and processes?
Yes. It’s important to remember that most underground infrastructure in the eastern U.S. has aged beyond its useful life. Components are failing, yet at the same time, many service areas are growing and facing increased demand for their services. The need to manage the life cycle of infrastructure assets efficiently is greater than ever before. There may also be regulatory drivers: America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, for example, calls for the use of asset management plans and best practices for public water systems. Clients are recognizing the importance of harnessing institutional knowledge and large repositories of data to maintain and improve systems, reduce risk, and save money. It’s working smarter, not harder.
Are you seeing transformational improvements in the way clients are managing their assets today?
Yes. We’re seeing system-wide improvements that reduce or eliminate data silos, enhance workflows and communication, consolidate and upgrade systems, and streamline operations and maintenance. We help clients identify vital records, the custodians that steward the information, and the risks each asset poses. Information must be accessible, turning intelligence into actionable decision-making. The Prince William County Service Authority, a water and wastewater utility in Virginia, is a good case in point. We performed a business process analysis and helped as the authority created a master data strategy. We then helped implement a CityWorks asset management system, refine standard operating procedures for the land development program, and create more efficient O&M procedures; and are now continuing to support enterprise asset management and business analytics for vertical assets in their facilities and water reclamation plant.
The benefits are both practical and far-reaching. Our water/wastewater clients, for example, will see clear advantages in terms of customer service, cost, and resilience. If a component fails, these asset management tools can tell you what the environmental impact will be, the cost, the likely service delay, the impact to the transportation network, and so on. It allows for smarter planning on a day-to-day basis.
Today’s asset management tools and processes position our clients for stronger decision-making on capital improvement projects for both vertical and horizontal assets. In Wake County, North Carolina, for example, we are conducting a multi-year facility condition assessment for nearly 100 county-owned buildings. We created a comprehensive database with inspection data, along with estimated costs for repairs, upgrades, and replacements. The database is being used to plan and budget the county’s capital improvement and maintenance projects. They now have an efficient approach to addressing urgent projects, while conserving budgets and avoiding higher costs in the future.
What’s next in terms of technology for asset management?
We are constantly innovating to develop effective, customized tools for our clients. DimensionalView, for example, is a map-based project management tool for clients in the infrastructure, power, and oil and gas markets. Next up? Artificial intelligence. Free platforms are already available to support asset management and provide even more impactful insights to optimize the life cycle of assets.