Ross and Heather shared their insights on how asset management can be implemented when the true condition of utility assets in the field is not known, especially for buried assets. Heather further explained capturing field information.
I think one of the things that we’re seeing, it actually doesn’t even matter, system size, because it’s something that happens over and over again no matter what the size, is people aren’t prepared to kind of take the information in from the field.
And I would strongly encourage you to come up with some way of capturing what people are seeing in the field. So as Ross has mentioned, locations of breaks or even locations of pipes if you don’t know where the pipe is.
And somebody spent, maybe they spent four to five hours trying to figure where the pipe was and you didn’t know before then.
Well, now you do because somebody spent four to five hours figuring it out. So you need some way to capture that so that somebody else doesn’t have to spend another four to five hours, another time finding it. So the next time, you know right where the pipe is.
So you want that process in place that allows you to capture what you’ve learned in the field in some way that you can use. And that can be really really simple.
We’ve had people just put a hand-drawn map on the wall like, maybe they’ve downloaded a map on MapQuest or Google Earth or something as a starting place. You can get that stuff for free nowadays. And then they just start hand drawing on, you know, where are the pipes located?
I don’t know where they are today, but through the course of the next year, 6 months, whatever the time frame is, my operator, is going to have to dig them up for break repairs or other things. Or maybe they have to do a line spot because there’s construction so they’re going to have to find your line.
And when they do that, that’s when you to capture the information and you want the process where the operator can share that information or can put the information on the map themselves so that in the future, you start to capture that information.
So maybe in the past, we didn’t know, but in the future, we will because we developed this process to capture that information. Like I said, even with the most sophisticated GIS systems, geographic information systems, oftentimes, don’t build in that process to figure out or to fix when they’ve had incorrect information in the GIS.
There isn’t a process for the operator to come back and say, oh you know what you put the pipe over here but it’s really over there. Or you said it’s 6 inches, really 4 inches.
And a lot of times that feedback loop is missing, and you want some way to capture that information because over time, just like capturing that field information, you will come up with a really good set of information, a really good database.
That may take you several years to get there but that’s okay. I mean, you’re still progressing in a good direction.
So something to really think about is what way can we actually capture information from the field? What is the best way for us to do that?
Is it a map? Is it through some kind of electronic means? Is it a spreadsheet? Is it a paper base thing?
How are we going to capture the information from the field so that we can start building our database for the future so that we will have a lot more knowledge later on than we do today?
That’s okay that we don’t have the knowledge now but we do want to have the knowledge later on and we do want to fix that process.
Digital photography as an effective tool
A participant commented that it is easy to take photos of assets especially underground assets during excavation or repairs and it goes along well with written documentation.
Heather appreciated the comment and mentioned that they have talked about that on their basic asset management training. She said that through digital photography one can make an amazing record that would have been very difficult to do ten years ago.
Heather further said:
And you can capture pictures of your assets above ground when you go and do an inventory. Maybe annually, you take a picture of your asset and you can look at them over time.
When underground, certainly whenever they’re digging up the asset, that can be a great time for the operator to snap a picture and then you have a permanent record of what it looks like about moment in time.
With the only caution being to have some way to label that picture and document the time the picture was taken because if you wait too long, you’ll end up with a bunch of pictures and you won’t know exactly what they’re about, because pipes start to look the same.
So you want to date stamp the picture somehow and title it. But that’s absolutely correct that there are great ways to keep data through digital photography and that can be very very helpful.
PHOTO CREDIT: Orange County Northwest Wastewater Treatment Plant, Florida by Florida Water Daily via Flickr Creative Commons License