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4 Pitfalls in Asset Management

by Kevin G. on January 20, 2014

We all need to manage our assets and most of us have been doing it for years. Asset Management is not a new concept, in fact, local governments have been under a federal mandate to manage their bridges through a very strict asset management program since the collapse of the Silver Bridge in 1967. While asset management is not new, there are many new ways to improve your management system; and in order to do that, you need to avoid the four pitfalls of asset management.
 
Pitfall #1: Inspection Only: The flashy part of any asset management program in the inspection. In fact, we are often requested to assist with culvert inspections, sign inspections, road inspections, etc. What our clients really want and need is an asset management program, but they refer to it as an inspection, because that is the easiest part to understand.
 
The problem is that many organizations believe they have an asset management in place once they have an inspection. Granted, an inspection is required, but is only the basis for an asset management plan. The inspection cannot replace or duplicate a plan. The real benefit to your community is in how the inspection, or raw data, is used to benefit you. Remember, the inspection is only the first step.
 
Pitfall #2: Not going digital: This seems obvious with the movement to digital data. Heck, there have been reports that 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last 24 months. While that is impossible to quantify, suffice it to say, everyone is moving to digital data. Or are they? All too often, we continue to rely on paper copies for our assets. While paper will never be obsolete, we need to make every effort to move our asset management systems to a digital platform.
 
Digital used to mean having the data in a spreadsheet or database. There is still value in this, although we are finding the preferred way to move this data to a digital format is through the implementation of a GIS. With GIS, we can do all the data manipulation AND see the results with a visual representation.  You don’t have to integrate your asset with GIS, but if you don’t, you may be missing the boat.
 
Pitfall #3: Worst-First: Inspections are done, results have been tallied, priorities have been set, and we are ready to go. Let’s start with the worst and work our way through the list. This is a great idea if money was never an issue. This “worst-first” approach will often result in throwing good money after bad. In other words, worst-first directs us to spend much of our budgets on our poorest assets while ignoring our good assets. Today’s reality is limited budgets, and the results are coming in from the worst-first approach, and the results aren’t pretty.
 
Taking the “worst-first” approach on our limited budgets results in our good assets going bad faster than we can replace the bad. A customer of ours recently told me that their “worst-first” approach will require their new roads to last 75 years with no maintenance. Here’s their problem, new roads only last about 20 years. What is the solution?  It usually involves spending the limited budgets not only on replacements, but also on maintaining the good assets and preventing them from going bad. We perform maintenance on our cars for the simple reason that we don’t want to replace them every few years. We need to do the same with our assets.
 
Please understand, of all the four pitfalls, I know this one will probably receive the most resistance. 
 
So, let me present it to you another way. Let us consider a roadway. It is very hard to convince elected officials and the voting public to spend money on a seemingly good roadway when a few streets over the roads are falling apart. However, by spending a little bit of money on the good roadway, we can greatly extend its lifespan. We have been deploying this maintenance system in communities for several years now and the results are amazing. We can analyze your roads, analyze your budgets, and effectively project what your roadway system will do based upon different maintenance plans.
 
Pitfall #4: Poor Data Maintenance: Now you have your inspection complete, and you have a great maintenance plan in place. So, you are done, right? This is where most asset management plans go bad.
 
The last step and the most underappreciated step is properly maintaining your data. There are countless times that I’ve been handed an inventory that is 5, 10, 15 or more years’ old; and it has never been updated or maintained in any way, shape, or form. There are countless organizations that have outdated inventories. Inventories they spent thousands of dollars to create. Originally, there was a plan. However, budgets change, prices fluctuate, and dozens of other unforeseen circumstances exist. Then, before you know it, you have an asset inventory sitting on the shelf that is both out-of-date and not updated. Basically, you have a ridiculously expensive paperweight.
 
The only way to prevent this is to have a proper data maintenance plan in place. There are several ways to do this; and once again, GIS is the preferred methodology. Schneider Geospatial has helped countless clients inspect their assets, develop a maintenance plan for their assets, and maintain their assets through the usage of a GIS. Why is this so efficient? Think about it. You are constantly changing, maintaining, or updating your assets. Often, this is happening when you are out of the office or the person administrating the work doesn’t have the inventory in front of them. If you are lucky, someone remembers to scribble in the book or put a sticky note on the page. Usually, it isn’t recorded at all. However, with a proper data maintenance plan, you can access your inventory for a table or smartphone, show the changes and modifications right there. Additionally, you can easily run reports and/or maps to compare changes made with invoices to confirm that everything has been properly documented. Maintaining your data can be easy!
 
Our experience combined with our innovative use of technology has positioned us as asset management experts. We can help you avoid the four pitfalls of asset management.