Maintenance is King

“Renewal is so Yesterday” (December 5) argued that, in a changing world, we cannot afford to think of renewal as replacing what we currently have, perhaps with ‘better’or ‘higher’ quality which, when you think about it, is what we are currently doing.  We need to focus instead on ensuring that any infrastructure we build now is ‘future friendly’, meaning it can be adapted as needs and opportunities change.

However, new infrastructure – while it often occupies most of our thoughts and media column inches – is at any time really only a very tiny percent of our total infrastructure stock.

How do we defer the need to renew – and thus avoid committing ourselves to another 20, 40 or more years of 20th century assets?    The answer is obvious:  we need to put more effort into maintenance.  Well-maintained assets last!

So, if we are to maximise our chances to benefit from the changes that are coming – and avoid adding to the mounds of redundant, or stranded, assets that change has already brought about – then we need to focus on extending the lives of our existing assets by better maintenance.

It may not be as glamorous as renewal, but better maintenance is key to succeeding in a changing world.  It does what nothing else can – it gives us the chance to learn more about the future before we build for it.

Agree/Disagree?  Counter arguments welcome!

Special Note: The Asset Management Council is running a special webinar on Tuesday 19 December – “Life extension of a gas powered generator” the award winning presentation by Mark McKenzie and Giuliano Cangelosi,   Find out more and sign up here


3 Thoughts on “Maintenance is King

  1. David Hope on December 19, 2017 at 5:16 pm said:

    I strongly agree with this hypothesis, particularly where we are unsure of what the future service demand will be. For example, what impact will electronic vehicles have on transport infrastructure? If what is being postulated comes to fruition – we won’t own a vehicle, we’ll just call one up for the trip – this will have a significant impact on our transport infrastructure. That vehicle called up will then go off and serve other needs and there should be less vehicles on the road, centralised garaging and other reductions in infrastructure demands.
    Fundamentally, switching the focus from new to renewal and looking at technological improvements to lengthen infrastructure life seems like a no-brainer to me. This should be linked with the issue of building infrastructure that can be adapted for a different future use if we need to have an infrastructure solution that is twentieth century technology. For example, if we need to replace a bridge because it can no longer meet the service need, why not build a tunnel that can be adapted in the future to archival and storage needs?
    Critical thinking now, especially by emerging infrastructure professionals, might well yield innovative solutions with high levels of adaptability.

    • David. You are right. When it comes to EXISTING Infrastructure, using technological improvements, or actually using anything, to extend life rather than committing ourselves to replacement makes a great deal of sense. Indeed this may well be an area where the cost:benefit is not determined by dollars, but rather, how much extra life -and therefore leeway – it provides. That is, replacement may yield a lower cost per year of life IF (and only if) we can assume what has in the past been a ‘normal’ lifespan. This assumption is looking increasingly doubtful. for any future infrastructure investment the functional life is likely to be far shorter than it has been in the past.

  2. Kerry McGovern on January 1, 2018 at 2:48 pm said:

    Maintenance brings with it skill sets that enable us to “think around corners”. The very act of creating a maintenance capacity builds into our communities the skills that are meaningful and satisfying. A good maintenance person listens, understands and confirms the unmet service need, and finds a way to restore the service. S/he doesn’t blindly reconstruct the asset that has failed, but restores the service. The building of a maintenance capacity teaches people to find new solutions from the resources on hand to meet the stated needs. This includes educating users to find other ways to obtain the service. It builds in adaptability.

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