From paper and pencil to spreadsheet and mouse, to connected, cloud-based joint use management systems, infrastructure asset management has changed dramatically over the past decade. Change however, is a constant, and as the state of assets and the times themselves shifts, our world is about to change again. Here is what we are seeing on the horizon, and what to do about it, in a two-part series.
In the U.S., infrastructure itself is aging, and while we have not hit this point quite yet, there will soon come a day when the cost of maintaining our elderly assets in total will be greater than what can be funded through typical means—small rate increases to customers that keep up with inflation. There is no avoiding it—time takes no prisoners, utility poles included. So, what will your company be prepared to do when one too many assets must be replaced rather than repaired?
We believe that the philosophy and process of infrastructure asset management must change or companies will eventually face needs for asset repair and replacement that will not be sustainable. Fortunately, we also know the revolution is already underway, and it goes something like this:
The Now: Time-Based Asset Management
Historically, asset owners have been on a time or schedule-based asset management plan. This means every few months they check a specific asset, or plan maintenance on a rotating timetable—every 6 months for one task, every 2 years for another. A lot of that structure is based on manufacturer recommendations or just experience, and that works great if owners have assets that are evenly distributed in various stages of their lifecycle, or all assets in their infancy. But as most everyone approaches the aging-assets tipping point, time-based methodologies are not going to be the most economical way to plan service.
Something different—and more hands-on—is needed.
The Next: Condition-Based Asset Management
Beyond time-based is condition-based information asset management. In this philosophy, activity is not planned on a set calendar. Instead, assets are assessed individually, with an eye on the health of the equipment and a determination of what needs to be done based on urgency and where money is best spent. Here, a company’s goals become more important than simply checking the box on service or inspection, with companies determining where they may get the biggest bang for their buck to ensure asset longevity, safety, and/or uninterrupted service, whatever their priority.
The Near Future: Prediction-Based Asset Management
With a looming expiration date on many assets in the field right now, organizations will have to get even smarter about how they spend their money and maintain their assets. The key is moving away from time and condition-based management to being able to predict when an asset will need attention.
The future lies in getting away from simply keeping up with the data of an asset to using that data to look at the probable causes of degradation or failure—and on the flip side, asking why some assets may last longer or perform better than others.
But how do you predict the future? It is all in how you collect, handle, and leverage the data. We will discuss that next week.