3 What does an AM Team do – and what can it do

 

This is part 3 of the 5 part series by Ruth Wallsgrove and Lou Cripps on Building an Asset Management Team.

Three: What are the key activities required of an AM team?

Penny Burns identifies three phases (or ‘revolutions’) that it is worth considering when you look at building up AM capabilities.

First, there is ‘Asset Inventory’: ensuring we actually know what assets we manage, where they are, what condition they are in, cost, expected life and their type and model and age.

If you have poor asset information, you have little choice but to start here.

The next stage is what she calls ‘Strategic Asset Management’, in other words ‘Optimization’: using this data, along with our understanding of the assets and asset systems, to begin to optimize at every level. This is where it starts to get interesting.

What does this require from the Asset Management team?

  1. Co-ordinating the integrated Asset Management Plan
  2. Leading the implementation of Asset Management, including AM training
  3. The development and implementation of co-ordinated, whole life asset strategies both at class and system level
  4. Key role in defining the asset information strategy (but not doing the IT or entering data – which are a waste of AM skills)
  5. Focus for improved asset decision techniques and models to do the optimizing

Other potential responsibilities of an AM team include helping to define the top level KPIs or Levels of Service. If Asset Management is about aligning asset decisions and plans to the organizational objectives, the first issue for many North American organizations is that the latter aren’t well defined. Sometimes, that inevitably means AM practitioners have to be involved in helping to define them. (And that is explicit for levels of service in ON Reg 588/17.)

It seems inevitable that Asset Management also has to take an active role in developing an overall organizational risk management framework, even if the lead is taken by a specific corporate risk function. This is not just because this is a key requirement in ISO 55000 back to back with ISO 31000; good AM depends on a solid and consistent risk framework across the organization and across all risks.  Physical assets can impact on just about every corporate objective, which means they can also contribute to just about every type of risk you have.

Penny believes skilled AM practitioners are key to the next revolution, too: better ‘Infrastructure Decision Making’, by which she means society making better decisions for new infrastructure, especially in a time of change and new technologies such as we face now. Technologists and traditional ‘Planning’ are not experienced in the practicalities of managing complex asset systems, and without this real expertise, we are unlikely to make best use of opportunities.

Note:  Talking Infrastructure was specifically created
to explore and develop this third stage, or ‘next revolution’.

Next week we look at what kind of people  an AM Team requires.

Why you need an AM Team


Photo by Steve Johnson from Pexels

Ruth Wallsgrove and Lou Cripps continue their series on Building an Asset Management Team.  Their book is to be published in February. More information to come.

 Two: Why you need an AM team

Experience around the world over nearly 30 years strongly suggests the need for a specific, dedicated AM team to be accountable for the implementation and improvement of asset decision, asset risk and long-term optimized asset planning processes.

You can’t just think things better. To improve, there must be action,
and people with responsibility for those actions. 

Specifically, ISO 55000 defines AM as the ‘coordinated’ activities of an organization to realize value from its assets.  Co-ordination takes real effort, not just a general wish to co-ordinate.

This is no different than other functional teams within your organization where expertise and specialization deliver value.  If it is your plan to deliver the AM capabilities, you need to be intentional in adding this competency to your organization.

The likelihood of hitting a target you haven’t specified
or aren’t aiming at is low.

Without a focal point, organizations struggle to do more than isolated improvements, and generally lack a framework or structure to bring together the different activities around assets.

What most will fail to achieve, without at least a small dedicated team, includes:

  • The development of whole life strategies for the assets
  • Integrated long term asset planning: someone has to do the co-ordination, develop the processes, and build the relationships across functions to bring them together
  • Asset risk management beyond safety, general corporate risks, or a high level risk register
  • Ownership of the Asset Management system and AM objectives

Take it seriously

It also looks fairly impossible to implement good Asset Management if you have no-one who knows much about it.  Rule of thumb: you need at least two people who have been on an Asset Management course to begin.

We might go further and suggest that if there is no-one who is prepared to identify as an Asset Management professional, dedicated to getting themselves and their colleagues developed in Asset Management skills, a company doesn’t really know what to do or how to go about it.

It is easy in this area to be unconsciously incompetent – not even to know what you don’t know.

If no-one in the organization really knows what Asset Management means, they can be sold a line by, a consultant who doesn’t know either.  Real examples include organizations who decided Asset Management is an implementation of work management IT, a.k.a. an ‘Enterprise Management System’; or that it equates to reliability-centered maintenance (RCM). Both are very useful tools, but they aren’t a transformation of the business in themselves, and can be expensive, painful and applied wrongly.

Asset Management is about people, relationships, assets and strategies.  You need an AM leader that has some knowledge of each. Leadership is a skillset beyond technical knowledge or management proficiencies.  So it is worth careful thought about who can deliver this to the organization.

AM is a better way to manage our asset base overall.
For an asset-intensive sector like Public Transit,
that means how we do business overall.

 

Building an AM Team

 

Photo by Steve Johnson from Pexels

Building an AM Team is like creating a piece of abstract art.  What makes it work?  The choice of colour, shape, positioning, the passion?  All of this, and more!   A practitioner’s eye and experience definitely counts.  This month, Talking Infrastructure is running excerpts from a new USA guide to Building an Asset Management Team, co-written by one of TI’s long-time collaborators, Ruth Wallsgrove, together with Lou Cripps, who heads up the Asset Management Division at the Regional Transportation District in Denver.  It will be available shortly – and we will let you know when and how to get hold of it.

One: Building an Asset Management Team

‘Building an Asset Management Team’ is intended as a practical guide for any infrastructure agency interested improving overall Asset Management.  It is our response to common questions around staffing to perform the functions and competencies required to support an effective Asset Management system.

Asset Management carries the flag for good asset stewardship, the responsibility that comes with managing critical infrastructure assets.  We owe this to current and future generations.

‘Planning brings the future into the present
so we can do something about it now.’

This includes understanding the intergenerational liabilities that are delivered with all longer life assets, and that once something is gone, it can’t always be replaced. We cannot take a better future for granted; we need to work hard each day to bring a better future into reality.

We have to stop making asset decisions in silos, and start to join up the dots.  For example, a decision to electrify a bus fleet has to be made with the full understanding of the interdependencies between fleets and facilities.  The type of propulsion system in buses isn’t a decision that can come from strategic planning or engineering alone.

A basic question for AM practitioners is: And then what? We build a shiny new rail line. What is it going to take to operate and maintain it successfully and sustainably for the next fifty years or more? We buy a new fleet: how will it interact both with the other assets and systems we already have, and with our existing skills and processes?

The Challenge

The challenge for US Transit Agencies, and other sectors wanting to implement Asset Management, is finding the right people and assigning committed resources to its delivery.

Asset Management is increasingly important – yet there are few
experienced AM practitioners, and even fewer useful resources
on how to develop an AM team.

The thirty years since Asset Management began to be established in Australia and New Zealand – and much less time in many places – is not long to establish a stream of trained and experienced people. AM is still not taught at undergraduate level, and only partially on a few post graduate courses up until now.  It isn’t included in the standard curricula of business, finance, engineering, urban planning or other relevant disciplines.

The demand for Experienced AM teams is increasing

Add into these the now legislated requirements in North America for Asset Management, such as Ontario Regulation 588/17, or the US Federal Transportation Administration TAM rules, that require at least knowledge of it in those regulated organizations, and the demand wildly outstrips supply for anyone with any AM experience.

This guide is based on our personal experiences; it reflects the views of us as authors rather than representing our employers, any institution or the wider AM community.  Neither of us could write this document alone.

If you are

  • developing a business case for setting up an AM team,
  • establishing a team,
  • considering where to locate an AM team in the organizational structure, or
  • wondering how to find and attract the staff you need.

this guide will be invaluable.

To come:

  1. Why you need an AM team
  2. What are the key activities of an AM team?
  3. What kind of people does an AM team need?
  4. What is required of an AM lead?