How Cities Can Improve Asset Management

A public works asset might be a water treatment plant that has many components, such as these fittings.
Image: Pixabay

Asset management is how public works can improve operations and reduce costs. It’s technology that enables municipalities to break silos and use data to inform better decisions.

As populations grow, public works assets increase. Add in aging infrastructure — and legacy-based operation and maintenance systems — and managing and preserving assets challenges cities. The job of optimizing maintenance to control costs and ensure smooth operations while continuously addressing maintenance backlogs is made more complicated when inventories are kept in silos and teams operate with manual records.

Asset management systems guide acquisition, use and end-of-life planning in infrastructure as they optimize services delivery — doing everything from predicting maintenance and advising procurement to providing analytics-based key performance indicators.

Today’s asset management tools can improve customer service, risk management and budget decisions by achieving operational objectives at the lowest costs. But before a municipality begins to study and select asset management tools, there are a few things they must do.

#1 Commit to Asset Management Principles

If a municipality can save 20 percent of its asset maintenance and preservation costs, can public works agencies really afford not to consider automated asset management systems? When cities conduct operations and maintenance ‘the way it’s always been done,’ they miss the opportunity to reduce costs and increase efficiencies.

By better understanding the status of assets, agency leaders know which assets need updating, when structural problems can be expected and which tasks are priority.

Documenting work is a first step to optimizing maintenance, and then evaluating assets based on the data can ward off problems before they happen. With today’s mobile tools, and cloud-based platforms, the workforce is better able to input and access asset management systems.

Eliminating silo mentality and legacy ethos is absolutely a change in culture — but it results in unprecedented operational capabilities.

#2 Go Paperless ASAP

Paperless systems increase communication and productivity.

Paper logs are not only subject to human error and damage, but they increase lag time in operations and maintenance work flows, and that can lead to physical problems that may be otherwise avoidable. Data is backed up, and accessible in the field, which improves overall performance.

Automated systems can track and schedule tasks, streamlining work hours in the field and making it possible to better prioritize and even get more maintenance work done.

#3 Engage Multiple Stakeholders Thoughtfully

In the asset management journey, it’s not just agency leaders that must be committed and employees empowered to embrace solutions, all key players must understand that it takes time to realize the reward of saving money and agree on how money saved is then reinvested.

“Meeting the requirements and expectations of the different stakeholders is often the biggest challenge,” according to the 2016 research paper, Challenges in Infrastructure Asset Management, authored jointly by researchers at the University of Cambridge and Rutgers University.

Complicated by legislative actions that require owners to forecast deterioration of assets and other complexities, like the use of assets changing over their lifetimes, various government agencies are often responsible for managing a mixed portfolio. Delivering on maximum value for all assets is a challenging proposition when stakeholders have to decide which assets to allocate investments to.

Asset management tools with built-in decision support can aid multiple stakeholder discussions, but they must first be brought to the table.

Explore our previous coverage of public works asset management:

Cutting Sewer Costs with Asset Management and Leak Detection

Arlington Park & Rec is Winning with Smart Asset Management

About the author

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox is Editor of and Senior Editor at Lexipol. She is based in Massachusetts.