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  1. 1. A LOOK INTO ENTERPRISE ASSET MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS By Edward A. Singer, PE, Timmons Group Everyone reading this article has at least one thing in common – at some level we are all responsible for the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of some form of assets, whether it be a water main, sewer lateral, natural gas regulator, pavement section, catch basin, sidewalk, cable television service, or similar “physical” assets that provide service to our customers and economic benefit to our particular organizations. Additionally, given our responsibilities for the maintenance and management of assets, we each have our own ideas of what an asset management program is as related to our respective organizations. Over the past several years, Public Utilities, Works and Local Government agencies have been prominently and successfully implementing a wide array of Information Systems solutions focused on improving a variety of business processes including regulatory compliance, customer service, financial stewardship, human resources management, supply chain management, contractor management, engineering planning and design, operations and maintenance, and facilities mapping. Through the implementation of these various “vertical” systems, many divisional or departmental asset management challenges have been effectively managed. However, very little if any attention has been placed on the integration of these applications with other corporate business solutions and data sets that would be typical of a true enterprise solution. Without delving into the technicalities of the various application and data types, this article will present an over-arching view of an Enterprise Asset Management Program (EAM) – one that integrates all of these “vertical” systems and effectively brings each to bear, in conjunction with the others, to solve complex operational challenges by helping balance capital and maintenance investments, support the executive leadership of an organization in their fiduciary management and provide visibility into the many varied business processes. ENTERPRISE ASSET MANAGEMENT DEFINED As defined in this article, enterprise asset management is a series of inter-related business processes through which organizations strive to maximize the useful lives of their assets, while at the same time minimizing the total cost of ownership and mitigating the risks associated with asset failures. To achieve these goals, a number of very specific and varied business objectives such as planning, engineering, mapping, operations, accounting, customer service, human resources, contract management, etc. must be strategically aligned, integrated and proactively managed. Thus, a properly designed and implemented EAM program draws upon a vast array of corporate applications and data sets to combine and synchronize the financial, management, engineering and operational perspectives of the enterprise within the overall asset management process. The following graphic illustrates the various business processes that would be inclusive of an EAM program at a typical utility:
  2. 2. When viewed across the Enterprise, asset management solutions support the adoption of a comprehensive view of the organization’s physical assets and their related life-cycle activities (planning, design, construction, operations, maintenance, renewal and abandonment). The totality of an asset’s life-cycle often extends well beyond a fifty year period, during which time a significant number of man hours and capital dollars must be invested to maintain the assets in a minimum acceptable operational condition. Thus an effectively implemented and managed EAM is centered upon the systematic analysis of asset needs and the recommended allocations of the resources required to economically maintain the assets throughout all phases of the asset life-cycle, as illustrated in the following graphic. The ability to achieve and maintain economic soundness in the operation and maintenance of assets is more important today than at any time previously in the industry in the face of decreasing capital funding, increasing customer demands, aging work forces and assets rapidly nearing the end of their useful lives.
  3. 3. While an EAM depends upon the latest information technology offerings (mobile applications, CMMS, GIS, ERP, CRS, etc.), it represents more than the introduction of software applications or the integration of existing (or legacy) business solutions. Instead, EAM is an over-arching business process that leverages each of these systems in combination with engineering principals, economic methods and sound business processes to seek and deliver economic efficiency and cost-effective outcomes. In other words, EAM seeks to make the best use of existing processes and tools, and build upon them rather than duplicate them. An effective EAM is comprised of three fundamental components: Metrics – accurate and up-to-date operational details on the organization’s key performance indicators (KPIs) delivered in a user-friendly format to support quick and proactive organizational decisions Business Intelligence (BI) – core business applications employed to capture, track, analyze, manage and report information drawn form various sources (operational, financial, customer service, supply chain, etc.). Robust BI applications enable decision- makers to stay informed of operational conditions and drill into the data to fully understand the relationships and root causes of asset conditions and performance. Methodology – a systematic, repeatable and sustainable means of consuming the BI data such that improvements to asset performance can be identified and applied top- down in a structured manner throughout the organization. The methodology is what enables management to align planning and execution, strategy and tactics, and divisional and corporate objectives. With each of these three components in-place, and a top-down commitment to enterprise asset management, business decisions become proactive, predictive and precise. GIS-CENTRIC ASSET MANAGEMENT Asset management applications are classified as either GIS-centric or non GIS-centric. Non GIS-centric solutions are typified by stand-alone proprietary applications that leverage vendor-specific data models and require custom programming and extensive vendor support to make modifications to the systems. Additionally, Integration of non GIS-centric applications into a true enterprise environment requires the use of duplicative data sets (assets defined and maintained separately within each of the proprietary applications) and
  4. 4. the sharing of data by and between the different applications mandates the use of proprietary middleware and synchronization applications. While many non GIS-centric applications provide GIS interfaces, these are primarily for map visualization purposes only and do not support any substantial form of spatial analyses of the assets. GIS-centric asset management applications leverage the inherent value of an organization’s GIS to effectively and efficiently manage the assets based on their spatial locations and relationships. In a GIS-centric asset management application, the GIS database is the asset database. The assets are modeled in the geodatabase and all of their physical characteristics (size, material, age, etc.) and geometric relationships are managed through a series of open architecture data models that are editable directly in the GIS without the need for proprietary middleware applications. As such, all of the various open architecture enterprise applications that collectively comprise the asset management program can be interfaced with one another and share the same asset data repository that resides within the GIS. This approach offers a wide range of benefits in the pursuit of an EAM program including: The GIS database serves as the asset database for all enterprise asset management applications Use of the GIS database ensures non-redundant asset feature data editing and storage The GIS asset feature data model is fully user-definable and customizable without vendor support of proprietary data structures (geometry, field names, data types, feature relationships) Full inter-operability among all asset management applications ensures concurrent use of the asset feature database Asset definitions and spatial locations are inherent and maintained entirely within the asset feature data model, thus enabling full utilization of the spatial analysis and data management capabilities of the GIS software (linear referencing, buffering, spatial overlays, etc.) Asset feature data is created and maintained using the GIS tool-sets (capture, edit, network tracing, routing, connectivity, etc.) Thus, a GIS-centric EAM program employs the enterprise GIS as the data repository for all asset features and uses the various Business Intelligence (BI) or asset management applications (CMMS, accounting, outage management, network analysis, etc.) to maintain, analyze and report upon the business data related to each of the assets (work performed, unit costs, account history, etc.). Further, a GIS-centric EAM program fully supports the development of thematic maps depicting a virtually endless combination of the operational data and metrics maintained within the BI applications. The following graphic presents a high-level view of a GIS-centric EAM program system architecture that leverages all of an organization’s existing data and business application resources and provides on-demand access of each to a wide cross-section of employees tasked with asset management responsibilities.
  5. 5. EAM BENEFITS Organizations embarking upon an EAM program implementation stand to realize significant organization-wide benefits. The development and deployment of GIS-centric EAM solutions that re-engineer ineffective business processes, help to answer organizational and asset performance questions and solve problems, and generally make mission-critical data more accurate, up-to-date and readily accessible will improve operating efficiencies while at the same time decreasing annual planning, engineering, and operations and maintenance costs. Different EAM applications yield varying rates of return, and it is common for an organization to seek out the “killer app”, or the one that provides the largest return in the shortest time, to justify significant program expenditures. There are many documented examples that can be used to illustrate how GIS-centric business processes yield enormous benefits (cost savings, increased productivity, automation of business processes, reduction of duplicative efforts, etc.). However, the most significant and sustaining returns on investment are realized through organization-wide adoption, use and support of the applications. The business case for an EAM program is best made by aligning the over- reaching benefits to the organization’s stated business goals and objectives, or mission. Some benefits of a GIS-centric EAM program are more quantifiable than others. Further, benefits are often valued differently by each user group within the organization. For example, increased revenues are generally more important to the finance department than savings in time, and increased efficiencies are more important to the engineering department than are increased revenues. In this regard, a successful EAM program
  6. 6. implementation – one that provides adequate returns on investment across multiple user groups while delivering the tools needed to efficiently meet the over-riding business needs – must seek to balance competing goals and objectives across the organization while focusing on those applications that deliver the greatest benefit to the greatest number of users. A best practices analysis that defines the stretch goals of the organization’s planned EAM program and contrasts them against the current position in each program area will help derive both the implementation costs, as well as the program-wide benefits that the EAM should be expected to deliver. The following listing of best practice objectives should be reviewed and analyzed specific to the implementing organization. This is a broad listing of the components comprising an EAM program and can be tailored to meet a particular organization’s specific goals and objectives. Data – base map (or landbase), asset feature locations and descriptions, currency of asset feature data, spatial accuracy of asset feature data, digital data sets, standard corporate data models Technology Tools – desktop PCs, application and data servers, hand-held devices, mobile data terminals, wireless networks, back-up and recovery tools and processes Geospatial Applications – asset feature data maintenance, maps and views, operations and maintenance, engineering work order, field automation, miscellaneous GIS applications Legacy or Enterprise Business Intelligence (BI) Applications – automated meter reading, SCADA or related system monitoring and automation, financial reporting, forecasting and planning, human resources and payroll, customer information systems, document management, workflow automation, laboratory information systems, inventory control, network analysis modeling, asset and work order management, outage management, computer-aided crew dispatch Compliance Measures – EPA, DOT, SCC, GASB34, DEQ, USCOE, etc. Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response Succession Planning and Knowledge Transfer Performance Measures and HR Systems Executive Decisioning Tools Without a comprehensive understanding of an organization’s existing business processes and delivery methods, it is impossible to compile an accurate listing of quantitative benefits that an EAM program will deliver. However, the following listing of qualitative benefits is rather compelling and should be encouraging to those organizations considering the move to a GIS-centric EAM program: Improved Planning, Programming and Monitoring of Assets o Strategic view of assets o Performance-based planning and prioritization o Executive-level program review o Proactive risk management and reduction Better and More Timely Information and Analytic Capabilities Development and Monitoring of Enterprise Operational Strategies Institutionalizing Asset Management Across the Enterprise – Best Practices
  7. 7. Compliance with Mandatory Reporting (GASB, CMOM, EPA, etc.) EAM IMPLEMENTATION CHALLENGES While the benefits of an EAM program are significant, they are difficult, if not impossible, to realize if the numerous organizational and technical challenges are not appropriately identified and effectively managed throughout the implementation process. Organizational Challenges o Integration of decision-making and resource allocation across all asset classes o Combining the financial, management engineering and operational perspectives of the enterprise within the decision process o Defining system performance measures that effectively reflect stakeholder costs and demands for service o Securing and maintaining senior management support throughout the implementation period – several years Technical Challenges o Integration of legacy systems or stand-alone databases established for individual asset classes or functions o Development of comprehensive spatially enabled enterprise databases to better support integrated asset management o Improving life-cycle analysis methods and fully incorporating them within the enterprise planning and program development functions o Strengthening system monitoring capabilities and utilizing this information for program evaluation and policy formulation CONCLUSIONS A number of keys to a successful EAM program development and implementation can be summarized as follows: Insure that senior leadership applies top-down pressure – set expectations and integrate them within the corporate culture Create cross-functional project teams Make an honest assessment of existing operational challenges Create a flexible long-term enterprise plan with achievable interim milestones Perform detailed post-implementation reviews Celebrate successes and learn form mistakes Develop and aggressively administer a change-management program Do not waver on any of the above Over the course of many years designing and implementing enterprise-level information system solutions for a wide array of Public Utility and Public Works agencies, we have learned that most organizations approach these engagements as they would any typical engineering project – define an operational challenge and build a system from the ground up to solve this particular challenge. While this approach may result in a technically sound solution that can be effectively designed and implemented given today’s available technologies, it fails to address the numerous real organizational and political challenges
  8. 8. that will arise and impede the successful deployment and organization-wide adoption of a true enterprise system. For this reason, we seek to implement an EAM from the top down as opposed to the traditional ground up approach. As is evidenced above, an EAM program is more than an array of business processes and solutions targeted to improved asset management activities. An Enterprise Asset Management Program is, in most instances, typified by a radical culture change within the implementing organization. By tackling the management and organizational behavior aspects of the program early and often throughout the implementation, through top-down pressure applied by senior management in conjunction with a pro-active change management program, the chances of delivering a successful EAM program increase significantly. ABOUT TIMMONS GROUP As an award-winning, industry-leading Geospatial consultant and Azteca Systems authorized business partner, Timmons Group goes to great lengths to stay abreast of the ever- changing and increasingly complex information technologies needed to design, build, implement, and maintain the GIS-centric Enterprise Asset Management solutions required to solve our clients’ varied challenges. Our Infrastructure Solutions Group combines the planning, engineering, financial, and technological expertise required to solve complex asset management challenges for our water, wastewater, stormwater, gas, electric and public works clients. From our GIS Technicians all the way up through our Database Managers, Programmers, Systems Engineers, Consultants and Project Managers, our staff prides itself on our unique ability to grasp your vision and then work with you to deliver a solution tailored to your individual business requirements. While we offer all of the traditional consulting, implementation, data development, training, and maintenance services typically associated with a geographic information system project, our subject matter expertise enables us to move our clients beyond these traditional desktop projects with solutions that extend across the enterprise to deliver results that can be measured in time, money, and improved levels-of-service. Engaging Timmons Group as a partner on your infrastructure management programs will yield the results you demand. Many years of important lessons learned will be available to you and your stakeholders throughout the life of your program. You will have the opportunity to work with our planning, engineering, geospatial, and technology subject matter experts who will share over a century of combined ideas and solutions with you in support of your greater mission. This group, who has established themselves as some of the industry’s most sought after consultants is excited about working side-by-side with you and your staff to develop a technological legacy that you, your organization, and all of your stakeholders will be proud of. Contact us at ed.singer@timmons.com or 804.521.1065 to find out how we can assist you.