Asset management at digital turning point

Posted 5 December 2016

Asset managementDigital technology is poised to upend how infrastructure is built and managed but Australia is at a turning point, and the next steps could determine whether the country is able to maximise the potential gains.

Information-rich asset management technologies, such Building Information Modelling (BIM) and its more advanced sibling Asset Lifecycle Information Management (ALIM), are beginning to deliver on their hype of cutting construction and maintenance costs but experts say action needs to be taken to ensure they are introduced effectively.

By linking live digital models of assets with databases of relevant information, ALIM can allow managers to have one central view of every aspect of an asset, from construction through to disposal, offering major efficiencies.

Global construction consultants PCSG have recently appointed Gavin Cotterill to head its Australian digital advisory service and he said the sector needed consistent national- and state-level reform to drive unity when it comes to the adoption of information-rich technologies, or risk the major utilities using competing, incompatible systems.

“The industry is fragmented from three layers of government,” he said. “There’s still a huge opportunity to bring that together and I am optimistic. But I think what could happen is large utilities – such as SA Water, Melbourne Water, or Sydney Water – will create and implement their own digital programs, and effectively run their own race. 

“The risk of each jurisdiction and water utility company running their own race is that the supply chain will have to conform to numerous and differing digital requirements and we will have a repeat of the 19th century rail gauge issue.” 

Tom Carpenter, CEO and Director of the Institute of Quality Asset Management (IQ-AM), said the UK was embracing the opportunities ALIM offered and already reaping benefits.

“The big difference is that the UK Government has put in place a regulatory framework and I believe we’re a bit away from our government taking such a positive initiative,” he said.

“Their government has seen a vision, they’ve run with it and the industry is responding. There are companies that have picked this up in the UK and are bringing it over here – they’re trying to interest the Australian industry and the government. Many asset owners and their industry associations are also pushing for implementation.

“We’re just behind the eight-ball in terms of getting something moving. It is a shame we are not moving as fast.”

One early adopter has been SA Water, who deployed an ALIM system to achieve optimal operation of Adelaide’s newly integrated $400 million water network, reducing operating costs and improving efficiency in the process.

It provides SA Water with the ability to combine IT and operational data to predict water usage, distribution and electricity usage. From 2013 to 2014, it saved SA Water $3 million in energy-related costs alone by predicting tariff increases and moving water accordingly.

Want to learn more? Read the full feature in the latest edition of Current magazine.