I have frequently mentioned asset management as being pivotal in optimizing and getting the most out of your system. In a time where lots of rehabilitation and rebuilding of systems is taking place, now is a great time to talk about the short- and long-term benefits of managing assets.
The more focus that is placed on the benefits of improvements, the closer one can expect to get toward full optimization. It is expected that 90 percent of utility leaders expect to have formal asset management programs in place or in progress by 2016. Increasingly, water and wastewater utilities are more focused on informed spending to stretch limited budgets and extend the life of current assets. The top four challenges facing water and wastewater utilities today are aging infrastructure, managing capital costs, managing operational costs and funding for capital projects.
Aging infrastructure can pose a lot of immediate issues. This explains why prioritizing infrastructure replacement ranks at the top of the list when it comes to the highest benefit of an asset management program. Capital improvement program development and implementation, as well as evaluating asset conditions more often and examining the remaining life of the system, are also a key piece to the asset management puzzle.
As you begin to evaluate operational enhancement through asset management, the first step is to understand all of the areas where asset management programs improve your particular utility’s operations. The well-planned and well-developed management plan gives you a head start on the executables associated with a successful asset management plan.
If you do not follow through with the plan, it doesn’t matter how well written it may be. Other important parts of asset management programs include justifying project financing and rate increases, improved asset inventory data and capital and operating cost efficiencies. Many water and wastewater utilities have started to pay close attention to inventory control.
In the past, it had been viewed as favorable to keep a lot of spare parts and extra materials on-site. With the emergence of six-sigma and lean manufacturing principles being implemented at various facilities, inventory waste has been minimized. Water and wastewater utilities should only keep necessary back-up components and items on hand that take more than 24 hours to ship. This not only gives an increase in the operating budget, but also reduces the need for large storage areas or warehousing space.
Other benefits gained from asset management programs include the ability to understand and manage risks associated with the system and optimizing the operation. The knowledge and training of the operators and the ability to transfer knowledge throughout the entire department, as well as keeping elected officials informed of the importance of following through with the asset management plans, are keys to sustainability of a productive system.
As part of assessing risk, water and wastewater utilities should use deterioration models, as well as setup deterioration funding accounts to prepare for necessary upgrades as outlined in their asset management plans. Regulations should be a key driver in establishing components of an asset management program. Any shortcomings or gaps in compliance system operation or management should be identified and promptly addressed.
Once identifying these gaps, the utilities and third-party advisors should tackle the tasks of eliminating the identified gaps and prioritize capital projects so that high operational efficiency or optimization can be reached. Asset management is proven to be a solid way to enhance water and wastewater utility management. Favorable execution of these plans can bring savings, fewer service calls and harmony to the water and wastewater utilities, elected officials and operations departments.