Comprehensive information bolsters asset management in water and wastewater infrastructure.
It is undeniable that the water and wastewater infrastructure is deteriorating and in need of some tender loving care. Every few months we are reminded of its degradation with the publication of the latest questionnaire. Of course, we need to know how big the gap in infrastructure is, but we also must answer the question as to how we can close the infrastructure gap.
The industry is adopting two business practices to close this gap – building information modelling (BIM) and asset management – which are good practices to use in capital project delivery and operations and maintenance.
Regulators and stakeholders are discouraging operators from capitalising assets, demanding that utilities utilise existing infrastructure to its fullest capacity through better operations and maintenance – the so-called “sweating assets”. This thought process makes sense because approximately 80 per cent of total expenditure on assets (totex) is spent on operating and maintaining the existing asset base.
While it is well understood that BIM is an important enabler of best practice asset management, we also need to recognise that the availability of data that informs operators about the current operational state of their assets is arguably of greater importance. This means constructing, populating, and maintaining an asset information model with what I like to call “biographical” data and information that helps describe the asset condition and performance origin and how it affects service delivery.
Asset management involves optimising the cost, risk, and performance of assets over their lifecycles to deliver satisfactory service to stakeholders who are demanding an increased service with higher expectations against the backdrop of deteriorating asset condition and constrained funding.
Information needed to manage and maintain water and wastewater assets can be summed up in the “Five I’s of Asset Information Management”: Inventory, Inspections, Intervention, Incidents, and Investors. The key is to make information and data pertaining to these five I’s “asset-centric”, while also supporting specific business processes.
Making this information “asset-centric” provides a single point of access to consolidate and track inventory, inspections, interventions, and incidents throughout an asset’s lifecycle, which provides the biography of an asset.
Having the five I’s of asset information consolidated and associated to individual assets not only prevents operators from wasting time, money, and effort in retrieving data, it also allows for optimal risk-based decision making regarding the prioritising of maintenance and investments. Otherwise, operators are basing their decisions on personal experience or simply guessing about an asset’s lifecycle in order to close the infrastructure gap.
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