Ross and Heather shared further lessons as they continue discussing on Asset Management versus Managing Assets.
And I think a classic example of that, a few years ago, one of the larger urban municipalities in New Zealand got me to look at.
They were rewriting a service delivery contract with a contractor, and I had a look at all the schedules, and they had this pump station inspections every single day that’s just for wastewater.
Two pump stations, so, there was redundancy in. They had SCADA on every single pump station, and they had lots of alarms and lots of diagnostics.
What was going on? And I said to them, why are you visiting every day?
And they said, because we always had.
And “always have” was like 30 or 40 years ago because that was before SCADA. I said well you know, let’s have a look at the records.
They were getting no problems with this. They were cleaning them once a week. Maybe we could go there once a week. They said, “oh, that’s scary.”
But sometimes stepping back out, like Heather was just talking about allows you to have another look at things and say, “Well, do we really need to do that?” And sometimes you do.
And sometimes you go, “Well, we are really over-servicing this quite badly or stuff like that. Or sometimes it’s just a completely different way of doing things.
You can go, going back to Havelock again, by now they are going to a couple of big wells in a different location where there’s good water and then wholly reconfigure the network, that’s where the 50 million bucks are going.
But they’ve had it got locked into just doing the same thing in the same place with wells where they have contamination, well yeah, we know they had bad, bad risk of contamination.
Sometimes you can step back, do that big picture asset management and strategic direction. We could work on something entirely different that will deliver a much better result to our community over a more extended period.
If you’re just managing assets, you’ll never do that thinking. You just fix whatever it is in front of you, and nothing changes.
Asset Management is Capturing the Holistic View of the Infrastructure System
And one thing that we noticed, even with more prominent utilities, so the larger and the small let’s say, you tend to want to manage the assets you can see a lot more, than managing the assets you can’t see.
So, again as you get on the bigger picture of the asset management side, that allows you to look at those you can’t see in the context of the whole because as human nature, it’s a whole lot easier to deal with something that you can touch, you can feel, you can see.
So, we’ll see, sometimes over maintaining certain assets and under maintaining others because we can’t view the well very well, we can’t see the pipe, your valves to some extent they’re underground.
So, it’s, sometimes we spend more time looking at pumps that we can touch and see and hydrants and things like that, and then maybe ignore what’s happening on our pipe now, or what’s happening on our wells, which sounds like a little bit the case we’re talking about in New Zealand.
But certainly, I have seen other utilities along those lines where they were spending a whole lot more time looking at one type of asset and another and sometimes or even see, their O & M they’re doing on those assets that they can touch like pump stations. Or they’re spending a lot of time on, let’s say less critical activities, so maybe some grounds keeping.
It’s not to say that’s not important at all, but if you have a well that’s going to get contaminated, that’s certainly more important than the ground keeping or around the pump station.
So, we would find cases where there are lots and lots of hours spent on grounds keeping that we’re entirely ignoring another asset.
So just when you get up to the bigger picture of the asset management that allows you to take a look at, where am I spending my time? Am I sort of over maintaining some assets, under maintaining others? Am I keeping a balanced look at what’s going on with my system?
So again, that’s the difference. Both important aspects but just the difference, keeping in mind the difference between the two and how they work together and how you can’t have one without the other because you get out of whack. You’re not going to do what you need to do if you are doing one and not the other.
Yes, I think the other thing is I’ve been involved with the municipality that runs Havelock supply. We looked at the resourcing, the staff resourcing and also the capability, the training and stuff like that.
And that would have been really, really nice if we did that exercise two years ago or three years ago and that actually might have gotten them ahead of that problem.
They’re going to be hiring more resources, particularly in the operations area.
So, sometimes you can just get into this little phase where you, everybody wants you to save money, and you don’t replace people as they leave. Or somebody with a lot less experience comes on when you’ve just had somebody with 30 or 40 years experiences left, and you can end up quite vulnerable.
Because you haven’t had a look at the bigger picture, hey, what’s that doing to us? The staffing and what’s this loss of experience doing to us in terms of our risk profile and sometimes it changes.
And that’s again just stepping back and having a bit more of a holistic view of that. You can then go back up to your management and your governance decision-makers and say hey, maybe we need a period of cover. At the same time, we manage these risks and get some short term, or some medium-term resources or some external resources to make sure you don’t end up…
Having worked with these guys for the last year and seen the pain that they’ve gone through in terms of trying to make things right, I can tell you, for sure you never want to be there in your career. It’s not a happy place for any water or waste or engineer to be.
And sometimes it requires painful and hard conversations with senior managers and with governors, and just say, look we’re cutting it too fine, and we’re not spending enough money, and if we carry on like this something is going to break badly.
And it’s a matter of defining that a whole lot more and that’s where you can go and collect some evidence and check those assumptions and just provide a bit more robustness to the request for additional resources or funding.