Asset Management vs. Asset Maintenance
The terms “asset management” and “asset maintenance” are sometimes mistakenly used interchangeably. There are, however, important differences. Asset maintenance involves repairing problems with the infrastructure as they occur. It is sometimes referred to as the “break/fix” model.
Infrastructure asset management, meanwhile, is a comprehensive approach not only to maintaining infrastructure assets, but also making it a priority to extend the life and functionality of the asset. Extending an asset’s life is vital to maximizing investment while minimizing cost.
- Key elements of asset management include:
- Knowing where infrastructure assets are located (via a GIS/mapping system)
- Knowing when the asset was installed
- Knowing the type of material the asset is made from as well as other attributes
- Scheduling periodic condition assessments
- Taking proactive measures such as pipe coating or street sealing
- Keeping track of all repairs and improvements, including when they are made, what exactly is done, and how much they cost
- Budgeting for capital improvements
Why Do Infrastructure Assets Need to Be Managed?
Relying entirely on a “break/fix” model of asset maintenance might seem practical and efficient, but it can often have serious consequences. An infrastructure asset management system helps operators not only to perform maintenance when it’s necessary, but also to enact protective measures that help prevent expensive crises before they happen. It also makes performing maintenance faster and easier, and allows operators to plan ahead more thoroughly.
Negative impacts of poor infrastructure asset management include:
- Reduced life of infrastructure
- Costly, unplanned repairs
- Reduced quality of life for residents due to service interruptions
Positive impacts of good infrastructure asset management:
- Lower stress – having a well-organized asset registry in a GIS/mapping system and having work order history associated with this asset registry provides peace of mind
- Better financial stewardship of tax dollars – money invested in infrastructure provides a greater return by extending asset life
- Data-driven justification for capital expenditure requests – as an example, knowing that composite pipes typically last X number years before starting to breakdown and that you have X feet of this pipe which will reach that point in 5 years is very helpful for planning; justifying asset replacement when you can show the cost of repairs over a period of time is much easier than attempting to do so without data
- Reduced chance of unplanned outages and faster turnaround of repairs when they occur – as an example, knowing the location of a pipe and having quick access to information about its attributes make it possible to know exactly what supplies are needed to make the repair where the repair crew should begin digging
What to Look for in an Infrastructure Asset Management System
An infrastructure asset management system is only as good as its features. It needs to be able to serve multiple roles, adapt to changing circumstances, and have a clean and accessible interface. The included features determine what the system can actually do and, by extension, how much control an operator has over their assets.
Some features that utility operators should think about when choosing an asset management system include:
- GIS/Mapping integration – helps operators knowing where assets are at all times
- Unlimited custom fields – allows operations to define what information about the asset is appropriate and important
- Mobile access – being able to access this information on a mobile device while out in the field
- Ease of Use – ensures employees actually use the system and keep asset information updated
- Integrated Work Order Software – allows operators to document details about any work that is done and when it is completed
- Cost Tracking – helps track labor, equipment, and material costs
- Custom Reporting and Dashboard Analytics – allows operators to slice and dice the data in ways that make sense to council members and other decision-makers