by Jeff Roorda, General Manager, Strategic Asset Management, TechnologyOne
Any organisation that relies on critical assets to provide services is faced with the age-old, ongoing problem of working out how to meet service targets with an aging asset base. What do you renew, when, with what, and how do you pay for it?
To make matters more difficult, many of these asset owners are relying on the past to predict the future and this is proving problematic with an ever-changing operating environment to contend with — whether it be environmental changes or an aging population.
If you work in asset management, you’re probably aware that Australia’s need for reliable and efficient has never been greater.
The country’s population is set to hit 46 million by 2075; double the population our infrastructure assets are serving today*.
To put this growth into context, by 2061 the population of Brisbane is projected to increase from 2.2 million (as of 30 June 2012) up to 5.6 million, Sydney up to 8.9 million and Melbourne will reach a population of up to 9.8 million**.
In order for asset owners to address this growth trend, they must first acknowledge the current situation.
The key challenges facing asset managers are strategic ones: accurately understanding asset performance in order to make better long-term investment decisions, maintaining service levels and managing risk.
Part of this challenge is due to the traditional, siloed structure that asset management has long adhered to.
Broken into independently managed functions, with separate departments responsible for repairs, maintenance programs, capital planning and delivery, asset management has long seen separate departments manage different stages of an asset’s lifecycle.
Currently, many of the systems managing asset information at these different stages operate on a spectrum of incommunicable technology platforms.
With impending and unprecedented growth before us, it’s not hard to see how this model is unsustainable.
Contrary to popular belief, it is in fact possible for organisations to create a common language for multiple and vastly-different business functions so that asset management can be more efficient and transparent across the board. I like to call it taking an enterprise-wide approach to asset lifecycle management.
By taking an enterprise-approach, business functions no longer need to be concerned that their priorities will be overlooked or misunderstood by separate departments; lost in translation during the process of reporting and data consolidation.
Furthermore, separate business functions are better able to understand their business holistically, which is only ever a positive thing when it comes to long-term strategic asset management, meeting long-term strategic imperatives, and providing customers with a reliable, critical service.
Integrated asset lifecycle management (ALM) delivers greater transparency and improved asset performance across the asset lifecycle by breaking down knowledge silos and eliminating sources of inefficiency.
When properly implemented, a technology-enabled ALM system provides a centralised source of asset information, including data on maintenance, budgets, purchasing and work and materials management.
Without it, asset managers face a combination of rising costs and rising risks.
It is only through considered investment in technology that Australia’s aging infrastructure network can be supported to meet the needs of our growing cities.
The true benefits of a technology-enabled enterprise system for asset lifecycle management is the ability to gather data from across an entire organisation and review it on a single, easy to use platform.
In fact, the shift to a centralised, single system was an integral step in ensuring the future viability and quality of assets for Victorian-based water utility, GWMWater.
Responsible for $2 billion worth of assets spread across an area the size of 25 per cent of Victoria (equivalent to the size of Tasmania), GWMWater is responsible for 16 water treatment plants, 87 sewer pump stations and more than 11,000km of rural pipeline.
The adoption of an integrated asset management system enabled GWMWater to centrally understand and track where it was spending money and how assets were performing in real time.
Importantly, the implementation saw field operators use tablets to instantly report on the status of assets and repairs — eliminating the margin of error associated with paper based systems.
While certainly valuable in the field, the use of an integrated system delivered far-reaching benefits for the wider business too as it automatically broke down existing silos and enforced the discipline of data sharing which in turn improved regulatory reporting and confidence in the validity of data.
To take it one step further, this subsequently impacted compliance with industry regulations, of which there are many in the water sector.
While pressure on Australia’s infrastructure will only continue to rise, the adoption of an enterprise ALM system is a vital, long-term safeguard that will empower asset managers to better understand their assets and provide customers with exceptional service.
Ultimately, with the right information at their fingertips to make better strategic investment decisions for the future, asset managers will be better equipped to predict investment requirements to ensure service targets are met. Suddenly, knowing what to renew, when, with what, and how, will be intuitive rather than problematic.
* Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia’s population predicted to double by 2075, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs
** Et. al.