Our asset management experts, Heather and Ross, continue to discuss questions on risk management.
A participant asks are maintenance schedules required for critical assets.
I think if you are talking about required, it is required by whom? If we are talking about a state agency that would vary from state to state, whether or not there is a specific requirement by a government or an entity for you to do that.
If we’re thinking about it from the standpoint of how do you want to manage your utility and are they required in terms of having a useful, well-managed, well-run utility, certainly we would hope that if it is a critical item for your utility, you are thinking about how that item would be maintained and what the best approach for maintenance is.
But we have to be cautious of a topic that we touch on in most of our training, which is the difference between managing assets and asset management.
So, managing assets is what you are doing to each asset. So, I choose to lubricate a pump, or I decide to inspect that pump or clean a pipe or something like that.
So, I’m managing that particular asset versus asset management, which is that bigger picture. How does that piece of pipe or that pump or that well fit in the bigger picture?
So, getting the criticality requires you to think of the bigger picture. Is this one critical to keep the whole system running?
If so, what kind of maintenance must I do to minimize downtime, maximize the ability to serve the excellent water, not cause problems?
So, you will have to have some maintenance schedule that considers where this pump or pipe or well or tank or whatever it is, fit in the bigger picture, and how is it critical to the system?
And one of the things I do at our national continuing professional development training on asset management for Engineers New Zealand, just like the American Society of Engineers, their training.
I’ve got a slide in there that shows an answer to this question, which is, you also have to consider where the asset is in its life.
If its life breaks up from the third, is it in the first third, the middle third, or the last third of its life?
So, for many assets, pipes particularly, if you’re doing maintenance in the first third of the life, it’ll be because somebody had hit it with an excavator or it wasn’t built properly to start with.
If it is a critical pipe, you know, a big pipe is coming into town from the ball field or wells or whatever, even in the middle period of its life, middle third, you might go, well, they’re probably not too much, and something is happening.
Once you got this highly critical asset and it’s in the last third of its life, yes, I should know what I’m doing. Maybe I should have a preventive maintenance schedule.
It’s useful to consider what phase of the life the assets are in. And if it’s critical and at the end of its life before getting into the last third of its life, yes, see what you need to do to manage that risk.
And we are also thinking about that financial inefficiency component when it starts to get more expensive to continue to maintain that piece of equipment versus a new one. And we’re seeing a lot of it happening now with obsolete equipment.
A manufacturer has chosen to no longer support a particular piece of equipment. Like somebody had a belt press, and the manufacturer said, you know we don’t make that belt press anymore, we don’t support it. There are no spare parts available anymore.
So, for that particular utility when they would need a repair, they will be going to a machine shop and request the specific component that is styled precisely to the specifications. It costs them a lot of money.
So, at some point, you say, well, we can’t continue to maintain this piece of equipment because the cost of maintaining it is so high. And it is critical because, without it, we can’t do water or solid. So now we have to look at another alternative which might be replacing it.
So that again gets into the idea of how does it fit in the system? What’s the financials? How does this maintenance program fit with the overall of what we are trying to accomplish and the goals we are trying to set.