We find ourselves in a world where data (and hence methods of collating and storing data) is on the verge of becoming, the foundation in all areas in which we operate. Whether we like it or not, we are moving to space where we trace routes through data and build knowledge and solutions out of it. This thirst for knowledge, and expectation that the knowledge is ‘real-time’ and immediate has driven an explosion of technological enhancement, including the infrastructure to support and power it. In the context of Asset Management, however, we must guard against being submerged in noise.
Techniques, technologies, and applications appear everywhere we turn: digital transformation, Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, digital twins, real-time data, remote monitoring, augmented intelligence, virtual reality, algorithmic analysis, laser scanning and point clouds, Building Information Modelling (BIM)- for the full asset life cycle from inception and design phase through to asset disposal - mobile data collection, predictive analytics, and 3D modelling, to name a few.
We are being inundated with these new technologies on a daily basis, in industry journals, attending annual industry conferences or CPD events, in discussions with clients and colleagues, and on social media. To some, it will be exciting, invigorating and required, whilst to others it will be overwhelming and confusing.
These techniques, technologies, and applications are here to stay and will be developed and expanded. They can undoubtedly provide effective solutions and subsequent increased value to an organization in it's pursuit of delivering effective asset management. The purpose of utilizing more developed technologies is to support the asset management planning function, which is to clearly explain what the organization plans to do with its assets with respect to the acquisition, maintenance, operation and disposal, and what level of service will be delivered as a result of these activities. Technology is a medium to provide information more efficiently and support the effective delivery of the overall aim.
Asset management is the ‘coordinated activities of an organization to realize value from their assets’. Asset management is a structured approach that creates a “line of sight” alignment with the organization’s objectives and translates them into asset-related decisions, plans, and activities. The risk-based approach creates the basis to achieve the desired balance of cost, risk, and performance.
A fundamental error many organizations make is believing they are operating an asset management approach when they are simply “managing assets”. Managing assets is merely things that you do to assets which can be done with or without a structured organizational strategy and context. In summary, asset management is the coordinated managing of assets plus the application of organization strategies and plans to derive value from them through alignment to the organization’s objectives.
Technological development isn’t a new concept. We have been innovating and developing for millennia, but the success and effectiveness of these technological developments are based upon successfully solving a particular problem or providing a working improvement to something existing. But for a technological advance to add value, it must be useful in the context of an organization’s operation.
The application of new technologies must be focussed upon delivering, and be in support of delivering, value to your organisation through demonstrating alignment with the organization’s overall objectives. Whilst an activity or use of new technology may be useful at a technical level, and it may not provide any value or benefit to your organization whatsoever when considered against delivering your organization’s objectives. It is not unusual to find organizations that have wasted resources and been left with expensive unused ‘nice to haves’ through not considering alignment with the wider organization.
To avoid falling into these traps, the organization’s asset management function, supported by senior management, must create and adhere to a set of processes to provide a consistent cross organization ‘set of ‘rules’. These rules relate to identifying the asset performance required, the importance or criticality of an asset, in the context of achieving an organization’s objectives, against the risk appetite and tolerance the organization is willing to accept. Through categorizing asset importance and identifying the risk of not meeting defined requirements, decisions can be made as to what an organization should do and why. This is the basis for investment decision-making, which includes the case for those supporting function technologies.
Looking ahead, we shouldn’t be scared of applying these new techniques, technologies, and applications, but we should take care to ensure that they solve a problem that requires solving and provide solutions that align with an organization’s objectives. They should also positively support the mitigation of risks and deliver value, effectiveness, and efficiencies for an organization over the short and long term.