Switch Content View

Options for Getting Started

The unique organizational and asset performance characteristics of each utility should guide in determining the most appropriate implementation pathway to AAM.

Organizational attributes that are highly relevant include:
  • Size of the organization and customer base;
  • Nature of stakeholder issues and interests (“green/environmental”, lowest possible rates, growth oriented, predominance of legacy systems, etc.);
  • State of repair of the infrastructure and financial health of the organization;
  • Corporate drivers of performance; and 
  • Management reporting structure and lines of accountability, culture and staff competencies.
In selecting an appropriate implementation pathway, the following commonly experienced key success factors should also be considered:
  • Management Commitment – implementation of Asset Management (AM) business practices is a process, not a project. It requires investment and unique solutions and approaches for each utility, including the participation of cross-functional teams and change management.
  • Asset Management Policy - a successful AM program requires guiding policies adopted and driven by the governing body with linkage to the clear benefits to stakeholders.
  • IT Systems support – development of the knowledge management elements required to support asset management decision making must go hand in hand with introducing AM business practices.
  • Adequate Resources -staff and financial investment by the utility must be fully recognized and allocated to the program.
  • Training and Education - all levels of the organization – governing body, staff, public – will require varying degrees of continuous training and education.
  • Internal Champions - Champions are required at all levels of the utility.
  • Continuous Improvement - Ways to measure progress, realistic plan for continuous improvement
Background Discussion
It is not unusual for an AM champion to emerge through trial and error from within plant mid-level management staff. Often the champion achieves efficiency gains and performance improvements through the application of such practices as RCM (Reliability Centered Maintenance), PdM (Predictive Maintenance) to the operational environment or service level and risk-based approaches to capital renewal planning. If benefits are achieved at the treatment plant level, for example, then, it is likely that other parts of the organization will derive benefits from the same approach. It is possible to transfer the associated strategies and procedures to other plants or maintenance activities for the greater benefit of the organization without a formal corporate policy on asset management, or executive level commitment to asset management. The extent to which this can occur depends on the organizational culture and the level of communication and information sharing between operations and maintenance staff, supervisors, and managing engineers across the organization.

However, maintenance, operations, and engineering are not always the areas where the organization can achieve the greatest benefit from asset management implementation. In many cases, the largest benefits can be realized at the Board, Commission, and executive management level, where the enabling decisions are made regarding revenue, funding strategies, capital investment, customer and stakeholder relationship management as well as project delivery and service strategies (e.g. public/private operations and maintenance contracts).

While implementation of asset management often starts in the engineering part of a utility, it usually spreads to other parts of an organization as result of a need to keep pace with investment in the infrastructure through the peaks in the forecast replacement/renewal profile (“humps” in the “Nessie curve”). A corporate approach to asset management implementation results in a corporate level understanding of renewal liabilities and risk exposure, and enables the organization to engage with customers and stakeholders to determine appropriate service levels, and revenue and funding strategies to minimize rate shock in order to maintain the value or integrity of infrastructure assets for future generations.

A desirable goal for any organization is to exercise “good engineering” as well as achieve a strong corporate understanding of infrastructure funding needs and performance. The key question when selecting an appropriate asset management implementation pathway is: Where will the greatest benefits be achieved? A holistic view of the organization is generally necessary in order to make the right judgments and select the best approach.

For example, in organizations where a specific major process (for example, a particular aeration basin) or a specific type of asset (for example, unlined cast iron pipe) poses a significant challenge, Pathway 1 – Problem Asset or System Approach may well be the appropriate approach. Pathway 1 begins by focusing a specific set asset management practices and techniques (for example, condition assessment, failure mode analysis, or residual life analysis) on a selected asset, class of assets, or major process in what might be termed a pilot mode. The practices and techniques would be applied by the team of employees who have the aggregate responsibility for investment decision-making over the life of that asset (for example, engineering, operations, maintenance) and related support personnel who play a role in the larger business process (for example, IT and Budget). The pilot would be used to test, then adapt generic practices to the actual operating environment of the utility – usually in the form of written protocols. From here, the developed practices would roll through the organization, ideally moving both up and down the organizational structure.

The process of continuous improvement will enhance the quality of asset management planning by identifying business processes such as determining long term renewal “annuity funding levels” and funding strategy analysis, that can be improved to begin the process of actively optimizing lifecycle cost by applying the already well developed operations, maintenance and capital renewal project identification processes, within the context of an adequate or enabling income generation model.

The seven implementation pathways are built around two key approaches:
  • Identification of the changes required to deliver the greatest overall benefit to the organization – SAM Gap (a gap analysis tool used to identify the “as is” and “to be” states), or a more comprehensive assessment of the utility’s asset management practices and procedures, and the development of a prioritized implementation plan.
  • Initiation of projects that are obvious candidates for generating a quick return on investment (known as “quick wins”).
As one size does not fit all; combinations of the pathways are often adopted as a way forward. The challenge is in:
  • Identifying where the greatest benefits will be achieved; and
  • Structuring a way forward that navigates the unique cultural, organizational, resource, and asset issues that an organization faces, whilst taking account of the inhibitors to success that are often experienced by organizations embarking on the process.

previous home next
Alternative Routes to Implementation   The Seven Pathways