On 21 January 2020, Ross Waugh and Heather Himmelberger held another Ask-the-Experts webinar titled, “Infrastructure Asset Management – How to Start.” Inframanage.com presents the webinar topics through a series of blog posts.
Heather took a break from the questions that were submitted and checked on the questions posed during the webinar.
An attendee asked if Heather and Ross can give some ideas on how to get some of their system employees, such as public work employees, construction contractor, and their sub-contractors, a way for those employees to notify you to have asset purchases, and repairs when they work on certain projects.
So it sounds like this is sort of one of those informational questions which we actually have a couple submitted ahead of time along those same line of how do we get information shared from various people to each other because it doesn’t do me a whole lot of good.
Alluding to the question if my contractor goes out and fixes a pump or a pipe or something and I don’t know about that.
It doesn’t help me as much as it could because I want to know what happened to the pipe, where did it occur. What did they do to fix it?
And if that information isn’t shared back and forth, it makes it really difficult to run a utility when that information isn’t shared.
So, Ross I know you guys in New Zealand used a lot of contractors. I’m sure you faced this issue. What ways you have for people to share information.
Yes, we mandate in the contracts, if we had a contractor work out, which we do a lot of, that they must return a certain amount of information when they’re working on assets.
So, if we’re repairing, where is it, GPS coordinates, and photos of what they have done. Depending on the asset, maybe you want a pipe sample and things like that.
And you can do that, and you can do that with your public employees, and you can deploy a handheld system or, either iPads or similar or a phone. And we’re doing a lot of that sort of stuff.
The gotcha in there is, and this is something we run into quite often in New Zealand. I’m sure you get the same thing over here.
You’ve got this list of things that the workers have to do, and now they are there fixing a meter break or a service line leak or even a main hydrant valve type thing. They get the job finished, they’ve got to fill in this form.
Now form filling in probably isn’t what they get upbeat every morning to do as they like fixing stuff and helping the community.
But because it’s in the contract and their bosses have wanted it. They fill out the form. But what they do, guys like that or girls they are working on it, is they ping the system.
So the first month they’re on the job, they write a story. Maybe, it’s like, hey I was fixing this water meter, and there’s an alligator that was 18 feet long came up and stopped me from finishing the job.
So, we didn’t put the concrete back in around it, and the alligator is still there. And the workers would just write that, and they would send it in.
And what they are trying to do is see if anybody is reading what they’ve written. You already know the answer to that, is that nobody is reading it.
It just goes into the computer or a stack of paper. So the field workers are getting no response.
Because if somebody had read it, that call up that service person and say hey, what’s this big long story. Let’s be a bit serious; let’s keep the facts right. Don’t do that again.
But it never happened. So then the next month, they try it again.
Okay, maybe it just got missed. Perhaps somebody is reading it. So the workers write an even bigger, longer story.
You know there’s a 50-foot python at the water meter and it was eating all the animals in the neighborhood and that really stopped them from fixing the job properly. And nothing happens, nobody has read it.
So, at that point, they go, hey look I will fix everything up that I have been asked to but I’m just going to put, it’s in average condition, it’s a general code, it’s the easiest code to remember.
Maybe nobody even cares to know better dimensions I’m putting, so I’ll just put average dimensions as well. Perhaps it’s a couple of feet from the fence or whatever.
And it’s that a whole you-get-what-you-inspect type mentality. And there’s no quality system around it. No checking of information coming in.
You will get those sorts of issues. And we’ve had situations where we’ve got into a job for somebody, where is all that information?
It’s in the system. Pull it out. You see that the only useful piece of information that you could take away from it is if the workers have had a phone where they’ve gathered GPS data.
You go, okay, we know it was there. And we see the day it was. And we know that they are fixing a meter. But that’s all we know. We only know those three pieces of information.
The rest about it is just the information you can’t trust because you’ve never given the person that’s collecting the information enough and see if they were doing it correctly after all, who likes filling in forms that nobody reads. I know I don’t.
Neither do I. So I think part of that is making sure whatever you ask the contractors, sub-contractor or employee doesn’t matter who it is, whoever is supposed to give you information, make sure you tell them what information you want.
Ross: And why you want it.
And why you want it. Don’t ask for a lot of extraneous stuff. Because you, I mean every one of us has filled out a form that just seems like half the form is ridiculous and, you know in healthcare this is a big.
So I just want to look at my finger that got, you know stub when I was playing basketball, and I’ve got to fill out 500 pages worth of information. None of which is going to use because all you’re going to do is put my finger in a Popsicle stick and tape it up. So why do I have to give you know, ten thousand bits of information?
The same thing here, where you don’t want to have a bunch of information you’re not going to use. And the workers were not going to fill in a bunch of information they’re not going to use.
So, try to be judicious about what are the pieces of asset information you want. Makes sure they understand why you want them and how you are going to use them. And hold them accountable that they’ve done it.
So whether it’s a contractor or an employee, find a way to hold them accountable.
And that means you’ve got to look at the information you’re getting. I did a job in Australia a few years back, and this particular authority had decided they want a massive amount of data.
So they had guys that were going out to the site, and they have five pages of closely typed tick boxes that they have space to go through it and fill out and sign off. And I knew for sure, and I was in the yard with the whole group of these guys saying, oh yeah, we’re trying to untangle this mess.
I said you guys all fill this out diligently. Yes, yes, yes, we do. I said, look if it was me, I think I would just be scanning through and go tick, tick, tick, and sign.
And there’s one young guy at the back of the room who was not as skinny as the other guys, and he just smirks a little bit, told me what I needed to know because no one is going to admit to me that they weren’t filling the forms out correctly.
But these were just practical guys. They will never be going to go through, read each question, and fill in, choice of 15 tick boxes against each question.
It is just making sure that you’re getting the only information that you are asking for is the information you actually need. And then make sure that somebody is looking at that every month and doing some quality checks on.
If you can’t do that, there’s no resource for the quality checks, then the information you’re going to get can be quite patchy.
And you’re not going to be able to make this right decision out of that if it’s not as good as the data, it will limit your ability to make good decisions.
And if it’s not useful data and you know you don’t need it, the next step will then be, hey, what can we get automatically right. We just take a cellphone photo, we get the XYZ, it’s there, and we’ve got a date stamp.
Okay, is that all we need? Maybe that’s all we need.
And maybe if you put it into a little field software, you might go, you want the charge code as well. That’s it.