I recently moderated a roundtable discussion including leading decision makers in Australian water infrastructure at the Digital Built World Summit in Sydney. It was great to see representation from multiple Australian water infrastructure authorities and other organisations leading in digital engineering and asset management. We’re very thankful for all the contributors for the thoughtful and well-informed discussion on future challenges around asset management.
At the event, there was a general consensus that there is an abundance of data being captured – and a desire to capture even more. In addition to image data from drones, various sensors, and cameras, everyone is keen on collecting more and more data around water quality, salinity, sources, and different treatment requirements.
As the conversation unfolded around data, we heard many other interesting points of view.
Operating in a regulated environment, with regulations applied by the Critical Infrastructure Act with Cloud Hosting and Disaster Recovery, can be challenging for organisations to implement without additional guidance. Cloud access and security are a big issue for utilities in Australia, so any digital based solution on the cloud has to meet strict guidelines. This has the potential to delay projects moving forward based on the timeline to assess suitability and potentially stop projects altogether.
What if we assigned a financial value to data?
Some championed the idea of adding a financial value to data, which sounds interesting. One organisation has made data an asset on their balance sheet, which gives it intrinsic value to the business and therefore is treated like all other capital assets for management and investment. It immediately elevates the importance of data in organisational decision making by treating data as an asset and putting a financial value on it.
More digital literacy is needed
Several attendees stressed the need for more digital literacy across a broader section of their business, from management to operations. This is something we have heard again and again at other events. Everyone wants to move forward with innovative ways of working with water, and that often means adopting new, collaborative tools that are accessible across the organisation.
What if your IT department controls everything?
System engineering, change control processes, and asset management all require agreement with IT on the platform and infrastructure required to support data capture, data structure, and connectivity. Having IT as the sole control of data can inhibit data access, making use cases such as connecting asset information to work management systems and hydraulic modeling more difficult. There needs to be an agreement on who manages the storage of data versus who actually manages and uses the data.
Silos and closed ecosystems
When choosing an asset management vendor, consideration should be given to the accessibility to those that need this information. As an example, field service workers should have access to the asset information and be able to make comments on each asset in survey or repair into the management system. This allows captured field data to be used in decision making on risk and consequence calculations for potential failure of the asset.
Businesses also need to question whether the preferred solution will create a closed ecosystem, locking them into a long-term solution that may not flex with their changing business or regulatory changes. Applications appropriate to finance are not a fit-all solution as there are many factors involved in managing water assets besides the dollar values.
The industry is enthusiastic about data – and should be
After a great conversation, we came to this conclusion about the mood of the room: it is not the question of being able to gather data to manage the environments, it is a matter of getting the right data to address specific problems. Who and how it is managed or controlled is the bigger question to be answered. This often means first stepping back and asking the question: why are we gathering it and what problem does it solve?
We’ve seen a lot of successes in Australasia with migrating to digital workflows when managing assets with Info360 Insight. Read how Stantec helped Wellington Water in New Zealand, which ultimately helped them save 20% on electricity costs by optimizing their pumps.
Many thanks to all of the contributors of this insightful discussion. We hope to have many more conversations just like this – and we’re always ready to talk to you about your own asset management challenges.