Asset management plans (AMPs) are fundamental to effective water distribution and wastewater infrastructure management. But aging infrastructure, funding gaps, regulatory requirements, and organizational barriers present difficult challenges for utilities to overcome when developing an AMP.
These obstacles often prompt people to wonder: how and when can we get started with an AMP? The short answer is simple. The time to get started with an AMP is now. Even if it isn’t perfect, taking the first steps will lead to improved understanding, assessment, and execution.
Starting with the basics
At WEFTEC 2018, hosted in New Orleans, Louisiana, Innovyze Director of Asset Management and President of the ASCE’s Utility Engineering and Surveying Institute, David Totman, shared his knowledge and expertise on implementing proper asset management.
In an interview for Water Online’s “Water Talks”, he explained the importance of distinguishing solutions in a crowded market, common challenges faced by asset management practitioners, and various steps that can be taken to get started with asset management planning.
Totman started by explaining the value of taking a simplistic approach and breaking out the fundamentals into four “building blocks” to get started.
Block 1: Define what assets you have, their location, and their characteristics
First, an effective AMP starts with taking inventory of assets, as well as their characteristics. “We start off with the assets themselves, we put them on a map and understand where they are, what the materials are, and the diameter. Start with the basics,” Totman said.
Block 2: Record what work is being done to maintain them, and how often
Then, once an organization has localized and recorded their asset inventory in an asset register, the next step is to assess what work – service, repairs, or maintenance – is being done to the assets, and how often. “It’s the labor, it’s the materials, it’s the cost. It’s the work that we do to these assets that determine what the assets do to us, right?” Totman noted.
Block 3: Evaluate performance
Following the understanding of both where the assets are, and what is being done to them, it’s time to evaluate their performance. “Asset performance management is where Innovyze really comes into play,” Totman said.
This includes not only an evaluation of the assets’ physical life in the sense of when they may fail structurally, but also a consideration of at what point an asset fails to provide the desired level of service to ratepayers. “One of the mantras of asset management standards is: your assets have an intent to serve,” Totman added.
As an example, if a distribution system fails to provide an acceptable level of service – be it pressure, or water quality – to residents, it may be considered a failing asset.
Regarding sewer networks, should they fail to successfully perform their intended use of collection, treatment, and discharge of wastewater with minimal impact to the environment, they may be considered failing assets and in need of rehabilitation or repair.
Block 4: Effectively plan capital allocations
Finally, the fourth stage involves planning for capital allocations. “We hear about the A.S.C.E. report card and the D+ that came out in 2017 and it seems that we have more need than funding. So we’re all kind of wondering, how do we fund this infrastructure debt?” And, even more, utilities need to make sure that funding is sustainable for the future.
Identifying, overcoming barriers
Defining the necessary steps to begin an AMP is likely to be followed by an identification of barriers and obstacles to execution.
- What data do we have, and in which format?
- Is it easily accessible to the right stakeholders?
- Who are the right stakeholders?
- What software do we have?
- What software do we need?
These questions may make an effective AMP appear to be unobtainable. But asset management is not an exacting process, it requires ongoing iteration for improvement.
If you understand what assets you have, start by getting them mapped. Whether just in a tabular registry of pipe networks, manholes, valves, or into an asset registry housed in your GIS or CAD software. What is the material, diameter, length or age? Recording this information, along with tracking maintenance, is fundamental to starting an AMP.
This is commonly done in spreadsheets, but with asset performance management or risk modeling tools that can integrate with computerized maintenance management software (CMMS), it becomes easier to track asset location as well as what work is being done to maintain them. Additionally, likelihood of failure (LOF) and consequence of failure (COF) analysis helps to provide a holistic view of the asset life cycle, its remaining useful life, as well as a defensible standpoint for maintenance prioritization.
Finally, making the relevant information accessible can help with stakeholder buy-in. Asset management is an interdisciplinary process by nature and as such may involve several departments such as operations, engineering, finance, and IT. The right tools are understandable and intuitive for use across the entire organization.
The end goal is adjusting finances for a fiscally sustainable future and making sure that capital improvement projects are funded properly. In summary: are we doing the right work out in the field?
As Totman put it, “Asset management is about affecting change. It’s about spending our dollars wisely because we have more need than funding […] how do we spend our ratepayer dollars wisely?” And with the right tools, it becomes clear what actions should be taken, at the right time, with minimal cost, and with minimal impact to ratepayers.
Interested in learning more about Innovyze Asset Management solutions? Get in touch with us today to request more information.