The second Asset Management for Critical Infrastructure Conference, created by Monkey Media, the publishers of Infrastructure Magazine, ran in September in Sydney and brought together leaders in the utility and infrastructure sectors to discuss current challenges and opportunities in asset management.

At the beginning of the conference’s second day, MC Steve Doran, Director of Infrastream, and Chair of the Sydney Chapter of the Asset Management Council, asked attendees to add to a word map that showed the key themes from the event discussions. Words like collaboration, value, risk, data, culture and capability stood out as the most important, and in a way encapsulate the main ideas from the event.

This was the second year of the Asset Management for Critical Infrastructure Conference and in only 12 months, the event had doubled in size, in both speakers and attendees, and added an exhibition which showcased some of the latest technology in the sector.

Attendees came from water and power utilities, consultancies, government agencies, rail and other asset owners to hear discussions about skills of the future, ISO 55000, value driven maintenance, reducing risk, strategic asset management plans, stakeholder engagement and more.

This year’s event also saw the addition of an exhibition, featuring companies in the space with new technologies and services that make asset management operations easier and more efficient.

The positive feedback from attendees emphasised the high-quality speakers and topics which gave delegates tools they could take back to their organisation and implement in their own asset management strategies.

DeployPartners was this year’s Event Partner, supporting the conference and exhibition to deliver essential information to delegates. DeployPartners delivers high-quality service assurance solutions expertise, specialising in sales, design, delivery, training and support of IBM Cloud and smarter infrastructure service assurance products and solutions. It is the network and service management solutions provider of choice for many of Australia’s utilities, telcos, banks and government departments.

Greg Southam, Technical Account Manager at DeployPartners, talked to delegates about how utilities can build efficiencies and implement some of the sector’s disruptive technologies. They also held a special Leaders Lunch, bringing together key industry players to discuss and debate pressing issues in a more informal setting.

Damien Moriarty – Industry Solutions Consultant from ABB Enterprise Software, this year’s Major Sponsor, also delivered a presentation, teaching delegates how they can improve their asset maintenance efficiency through timely and targeted activities.

The biggest names in asset management

Day one keynote Rami Affan, Executive Director, Infrastructure Australia, opened the conference with a look into the NSW State Infrastructure strategy and how it’s strengthening asset management and utilisation in the state. Rami spoke about the current challenges in Australia’s asset management capability and the path to improving practices across Australia.

Day two keynote Kerry Brown, Professor of Employment and Industry at Edith Cowan University, is a well-known voice in the asset management space and was on hand to discuss how to develop strategic asset management plans and how to overcome current industry challenges to do this.

A valuable presentation was delivered by Mina Gerguis, Manager, Asset Portfolio, Victorian Health and Human Services Building Authority, who looked at the cultural side to asset management and the skills asset managers need to thrive in a rapidly evolving industry.

Mina talked about some of the most valued skills needed including: problem solving, critical thinking, communication and engagement, and the ability to draw on math, science and technology knowledge, and drew a roadmap for how organisations can create a high-quality team.

Kirsty Bauer, Case Manager, Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia, provided delegates with information into how to incorporate sustainability into asset management systems to benefit the quadruple bottom line, and detailed case studies across treatment plants and road infrastructure to show how they increased their sustainability.

With the ISO 55000 standard continuing to dominate asset management discussion across all types of critical infrastructure, many organisations are at different points in the ISO 55000 journey. Paul Higham, Head of Service Planning and Asset Strategy at Sydney Water, gave a great overview of Sydney Water’s journey so far and some of the key learnings and pitfalls that other organisations can watch out for. It was an interactive and practical discussion featuring tips for others getting started that provided significant benefits to delegates.

Another highly interactive presentation was delivered by Dr Lutfiye Manli, Senior Asset Management Strategy Advisor, Powerlink Queensland, that took a look at how the electricity industry is dealing with current changes and how Value Driven Maintenance (VDM) has supported Powerlink in its asset management operations. Lutfiye included a computer game that got delegates involved and demonstrated the concepts she was exploring.

KPMG Partner Engineering and Asset Management, Andrew O’Connor, took an in-depth look into risk, and the balance between performance, cost and risk across all critical infrastructure assets. A highly informative presentation, Andrew had delegates scribbling down notes and ideas to take back to their own asset management teams to reduce risk.

MC Steve Doran wrapped up day one of the conference with a presentation on influencing internal stakeholders for better asset management outcomes. This is an important topic that is not discussed as much as it should be as the individual/intangible influence space is powerful and a gap for most asset management practitioners.

Industry panels and dedicated knowledge

The conference also offered dedicated streams on day two covering rail asset management, corrosion mitigation, renewable energy assets and trenchless technologies. This gave delegates a deeper look into their field, as well as a chance for people from different industries to learn how other sectors are approaching their asset management.

The rail panel was sponsored by Lycopodium Infrastructure and chaired by Helen Carroll, Manager Asset Management, Public Works Advisory, Department of Finance, Services and Innovation.

Panellists included Andrew Meier, Executive Director/CEO, Australian Centre for Rail Innovation, Lucio Favotto, Director Infrastructure Management, Transport for NSW; Bonnie Ryan, Senior Manager at GS1 Australia; and Dale Smith, Operations Manager East at Lycopodium Infrastructure.

With rail infrastructure projects ramping up significantly over the next few years, the panel talked about some of the biggest challenges in ensuring the rail network, both freight and passenger, operates at its highest standard. Some of the main issues were capacity, cyber security, collaboration and interoperability in rail, and the biggest — technology and data use in networks such as for real-time monitoring.

The corrosion panel, chaired by Steve Doran, featured Jim Hickey, Electrolysis Engineering Officer, Network Test and Measurement, Ausgrid; Andrew Jones, Senior Asset Integrity Engineer, CNC Project Management; Simon Krismer, Principal Consultant, Krismer Consulting; and Brad Dockrill, Partner/Director, Vinsi.

Much of the dialogue from this panel centred around the need to build corrosion protection and management into a project at the design stage. Panellists also touched on the use of ongoing preventative work to help prevent corrosion in older assets, sourcing the correct materials for the job and how to ensure quality control.

One of the most popular streams was ‘The unique challenges of managing renewables energy assets’ and featured Gerard Reiter, Executive Manager, Network Planning & Operations, TransGrid; Darren Davis, General Manager Asset Management & Engineering, Snowy Hydro Limited; and Iain Pople, Head of Asset Management, Edify Energy.

The panel, sponsored by ABB Australia and chaired by Andrew O’Connor, attracted delegates not only from the energy sector, but from across different disciplines to learn how the energy industry is dealing with current challenges and how that’s impacting asset management.

While the trenchless stream gathered representatives from the biggest water utilities across Australia to explore what is occurring in the trenchless space and what attendees need to know about trenchless to benefit their operations.

Mark Simister, Head of Delivery Management, Sydney Water joined Scott Stevens, Principal Civil Engineer, Operations & Service Delivery, Queensland Urban Utilities; Martin Marerwa, Senior Asset Investment Planner, Asset Investment Planning Metro, Water Corporation; and Louis de Groot, Project Manager, Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions, Unitywater for this interesting discussion.

Networking with key utility and infrastructure players

One of the main differences of Asset Management for Critical Infrastructure compared to other industry events, was the emphasis placed on facilitating networking as the atmosphere and structure of the event guaranteed introductions to other relevant asset management professionals.

Both days of the conference featured a speed networking session, a fun activity that gets delegates mingling and facilitates real connections. These relationships were continually fostered through networking breaks and drinks, and ensured everyone that attended made some new contacts that could help them in their asset management journeys moving forward.

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