For infrastructure, transport and utilities organisations, the asset inventory is the central list of all the assets of interest to the organisation. This is a critical enabler for most asset management activities. If an asset does not appear in an organisation’s asset inventory, then it is highly likely that it is not receiving the correct maintenance. This in turn will ultimately lead to asset and service failures, potentially putting customers and employees at risk. In the worst cases, this may affect the survivability of the organisation.
So, how does this problem arise? How can it be prevented?
One of the most common causes for an asset inventory to degrade arises from a failure to update the asset inventory when assets are created, modified or demolished.
This may sound simple, but at the end of capital projects there can be many pressures to ‘complete’ the project – both from the contractor to ensure that they get paid and from the client to demonstrate that they have delivered the planned projects on time. With these pressures, once the physical assets have been delivered and put into use, then the residual activities of resolving defects, provision of information, site clear up etc. can seem a far lower priority. Therefore, projects often get signed off with these residual items added to a residual ‘snagging list’ for completion prior to release of any retention money. For complex systems and plant, there can be the challenge of identifying which existing assets have been removed/demolished – which can be made more difficult if the asset inventory is not trusted or poorly understood.
Checking the accuracy of an asset inventory is not a trivial activity – assets can be geographically spread, difficult/dangerous to access and the whole process can become very costly. However, without some sample checks on data accuracy, how sure can you be that the inventory is ‘good enough’? Can you trust the data for strategic planning?
One large UK infrastructure owner has had a sustained focus on improving data quality over a number of years, but had been focusing on the validity and consistency of data. Due to the cost, difficulty and safety issues with checking the accuracy of their data, it is something that they had been reluctant to do. However, a recent data capture project came up with some surprising and alarming statistics:
- 10% of their large stock of operational buildings on the asset inventory no longer existed
- Over 20% of operational buildings were not recorded at all
- There was an increase in one large group of systems assets of over 120%
- There was over 60% increase in power assets
These clearly represent a number of challenges to the organisation concerned, not least the fact that these assets will not have been maintained correctly. Additionally, for regulated organisations, having large gaps in your asset inventory will make it far harder to secure the funding needed to manage these assets.
So what can be done to avoid these problems?
- The approaches defined in BIM (Building Information Modelling), not least the EIR (Employer’s Information Requirements) should ensure that the processes are in place to get all the required asset information from capital projects
- For maintenance and revenue funded changes to assets, you need to ensure that staff undertaking these changes are both aware of the need to update the asset inventory and the ways to do this
- Undertake ongoing checks on the accuracy of your asset inventory – these could be sample accuracy checks and/or checks whilst staff undertake other activities