Water Online

January 2017

Water Innovations gives Water and Wastewater Engineers and end-users a venue to find project solutions and source valuable product information. We aim to educate the engineering and operations community on important issues and trends.

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By David Sklar W hen water and wastewater utilities start to think about asset management, oftentimes the initial discussion centers around activities such as assessment, compliance, and reporting. The first words people hear are typically things like "lifecycle costing," "asset hierarchies," and "business risk exposure." With all of the lexicon around asset management programs, it's sometimes easy to lose sight of the fact that the real value is in the outcomes the program can deliver in terms of improved system reliability, quicker crew response, and a sharpened focus on renewal needs. When thinking about asset management, it is important to remember that the data, systems, and analytics aren't ends in themselves but must be integrated with more fundamental improvements to business processes. These must be embraced not just by asset management staff but by the entire organization. If an asset management program is to be truly transformative, it must go beyond analytics and deliver fundamental benefits that resonate with frontline employees involved in water and wastewater operations, maintenance, and customer service — the staff who deal most directly with the infrastructure and customers. I often hear from utilities that have struggled with their implementation efforts: What can we do differently to start on a pathway that results in less theoretical and more actionable outcomes? Whether starting a new program or enhancing an existing one, establish a strong foundation and a practical approach. Although the U.S. municipal water sector is well past the "awareness" stage of asset management, the diverse drivers and lack of a specifically mandated framework means that utilities have a lot of flexibility in deciding how they want to approach and implement their programs. While common wisdom would still suggest drawing upon accepted industry standards such as ISO 55000 and the IIMM (International Infrastructure Management Manual), it is not necessary to check all the boxes to be successful. It's important to remember that at its core asset management is still an approach and philosophy and offers a lot of flexibility to tailor a specific program to meet your needs. To ensure short-term implementation successes, think of tactical outcomes: Can it make work easier and more efficient for field staff? Can it provide more accurate information to speed decision making? Can it help improve customer service and system reliability? Staying true to some common principles, each utility is free to determine its own appropriate pathway by focusing on initiatives that are aligned with the organization's overall strategic goals, achievable, and most likely to be impactful in the short term. There are four simple tactics that can help any water, wastewater, or stormwater utility enhance an existing program or start from a strong foundation. Formalize The Team And Define Outcomes Start by getting an energized team and ensuring they have ample time to dive in and get involved, are driven by a clear charter and mandate, and have active executive-level support. If needed, provide background training and education and promote collaboration and breaking down of silos — don't just focus on planning and analysis but ensure equal roles for O&M, finance, and information technology. Set clear team expectations including milestones and target outcomes to track progress. While it's important to have a strong leader(s), the asset manager also needs to stay grounded and realize that the 8 wateronline.com n Water Innovations Defining Your Asset Management Pathway How to create or enhance a utility asset management program using four simple tactics.

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