Further on the question of using a spreadsheet or database is the use of applications or software for asset management. Many participants had asked what software Heather and Ross would recommend.
In response, Ross and Heather elaborated that asset management is about the thinking process. They gave some examples too.
Yes, we’ve got many pre-questions around software, and we thought we’d deal with or talk about some of the bigger picture stuff.
To set up the conceptual stuff at the start, we’d had many questions, and the pre-questions on tools to use and things like that, 13 questions on software.
So, we will deal with that probably in the last third of the webinar in a little bit of detail.
And I think what I will mention here is there was a strategic decision to do that, and I’ll share with you what our strategic thinking was so that you’ll understand why it came towards the end instead of the beginning.
The problem is, people are starting to equate software with asset management. And the software does not equal asset management. It won’t think for you.
As much as we would like to plug a bunch of data into a program, push a button, and out spits all the answers to what we need to do, it doesn’t work that way.
Asset management is so much more about the thinking and about people and less about the physical piece of software you choose to use.
So, I want us to focus on the other aspects first before we go into the software to prevent propagating the myth that it’s all about the software.
The software can help you for sure, but it’s not asset management. It’s a tool that you can use in your asset management program.
But we want to separate the thought that asset management software is the be-all and all, and it’s much more about thinking through.
- What you are trying to do as a utility?
- How you are managing this asset?
- How are you making decisions?
- How are you going to do replacements?
And there isn’t any software in the world that can replace the people and their thinking.
Yes, and we had one software question we will come back to, but what are the best tools to track assets and changes? Prefer the most efficient, the lowest cost.
I wrote my answer, that was your brain. And that was a slightly humorous answer.
We will come back to perhaps a more technical answer around that, but over the last 20 years, we are the world’s worst of it in New Zealand as well.
People had grabbed a piece of software, that’s the silver bullet that had the free-to-steer routine from the provider, thrilled about what they are buying, but it doesn’t think for you. And it’s a useful tool.
There are lots of useful tools, as Heather mentioned. We’ll come back to that. We’re going to spend a little bit of time on that a bit later.
The software is essential. They are important tools, but other things are equally important.
Organizing and updating your asset inventory
I do have one comment on the organizing and updating of the list of your asset inventory. And one of the best times to do that is when you are working on an asset.
So, you put information in your asset inventory, and will it be a 100 percent accurate? And the answer is not.
There is no possibility that your first time through developing an asset registry that you will have a 100 percent accurate asset registry.
I don’t think a hundred years from now, and you’re not going to have an asset registry that’s 100 percent accurate. And that’s okay.
What isn’t okay is, you go out to piece of equipment, and your inventory tells you, this is a 4-inch PVC pipe and I dig it up, and lo and behold it’s a 6-inch cast iron pipe.
Ross: That’s great that you know that now.
Now I know it. Now is the time when I update my inventory, my registry. So, I said it’s always right to be wrong the first time. That’s no big deal.
But the second time when you’d figured that out, you don’t want to leave the incorrect information in there. Because now, we know what the right answer is, for what that is, let’s fix it.
So, the next guy to go out doesn’t show up expecting to find the 4-inch PVC. He knows that it’s going to be 6-inch cast iron.
The best time to update it is as you are working on the equipment, as you are finding out the mistakes. Having a business process that says, who do you provide information to? Is that something that I log in to the registry, and I fix it?
Do I pull up the spreadsheet and make the change? Or is there an IT person in my organization whose job it is to do that.
Must I get the supervisor’s approval before we make the change? What is your business practice to update the registry?
But do it as you are finding out incorrect information, as you are working on those assets, especially the buried assets you can’t see.
If you can actually see them that’s the time to update the information and then make sure it’s correct. I mean I don’t think you necessarily have to walk around the plant every year redoing inventory. That would take you a lot of time that’s not necessary.
But as you’re going throughout the entire year, if you find out something is different than what you thought, no problem. Let’s have a process to fix it.
Software or spreadsheet and asset inventory
And see, I remember, I’ve been coming here, as I said in the intro, maybe seven or eight years now and one of the times I was here, that question about the software versus the spreadsheet and things like that are such a good question.
Heather introduced me to this gentleman. They were running a training-seminar, there was a gentleman who was in his late 70s or early 80s who was a voluntary custodian of a very small town’s water supply, and he’d written an asset plan of 15 pages.
And he had done a great job of that. At the back of it, in the appendix that had the inventory, which was two sheets of paper, he had maybe 10 or 15 pipes and a couple of pumps and a tank, and that was about it.
And the thing is, for him, he didn’t even need a spreadsheet. I wouldn’t also have said use a spreadsheet. I just see those two pieces of paper at the end of the plan.
That if you replace one of these pipes, you’d cross it out and say we replaced this in 2018. And now it’s HDPE or PVC or whatever it is. And it used to be cast iron, whatever it was.
So, it’s around still, saying, what do I need to manage? If you are looking after a tiny system, maybe paper is still okay, not even need a spreadsheet. A very, very simple GIS with just this pipe is, this is what we know about it.
If you are managing a city with 500,000 people, that isn’t going to get you over the line. So, you are going to get some software. The software will tie in with your corporate requirements as well. So, it’s just scaling at the right level.
Again, knowing what you have to manage, the answers you need, and updating your inventory when you get the opportunity, particularly with buried assets. The above-ground assets are a little bit easier because you can go and look at them at any stage.
But if you’ve got buried assets, the best time to update your information and your data are about them is when there’s a hole there or you’re replacing something, or you’ve had an issue.
And it’s getting those processes in place, and the quality management around those processes is about how you keep your top of the inventory requirements. But I mean, the thing that always impressed me about being that gentleman was he was doing that for his community for free.
And he has done a really, really good job. He wasn’t an engineer. He had a practical background. That was fine.
He was doing far better than some utilities that have 5 or 6,000 people. I think his town was on 150 or 200 people something like that, wasn’t it?
Heather: Yes, very small.
Very small town. It’s still, asset management. It still does the job.