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Challenges Developing an Asset Management Program

Challenges Developing an Asset Management Program

Developing and maintaining an asset management program benefits the short and long-term operations of any utility. During operational, financial, and managerial decision making, choices can be backed by quantifiable data and knowledge gathered from asset inventories, condition assessments, and risk assessments. Furthermore, the maps, spreadsheets, and reports generated for asset management programs can improve communication between board members and utility staff. Asset management programs allow utilities to shift their operations to preventative maintenance and long-term planning.

The recommended methods to develop asset management programs are well documented, however implementation of such methods in the real world generates a slew of both predictable and unpredictable challenges. Fortunately for all communities, it is the responsibility and the nature of any utility to problem solve and overcome these challenges.

In October of 2017, the Michigan Water Environment Association (MWEA) and the Michigan Section American Water Works Association (MI-AWWA) hosted a roundtable seminar on asset management plan development. The results of this roundtable highlight how communities and their consultants developed their own plans in response to new regulatory requirements in Michigan. The Spring 2018 Edition of MWEA Matters summarizes the actual approaches undertaken by these facilities and how they overcame individual challenges in developing an asset management program. These approaches and challenges were divided into six categories:  inventory, condition assessment, risk, O&M/ capital planning, rate integration & level of service, and software.

Most challenges in asset inventories arose around the question of how and where to organize data so that information could be related to other data sources. Challenges in condition assessment were often rooted in cost limitations, evaluating underground infrastructure, and weighting the data available from equipment history, maintenance history, age, condition scores, visual inspections, engineering judgement, and operational institutional knowledge. During risk assessment difficulties emerge when estimating risk for uninspected equipment or considering system redundancies. The final challenge lies in determining how to make maintenance program and financial decisions by balancing institutional knowledge with system modeling.

Utilities can find expertise in avoiding or overcoming these common program develop challenges through the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) or the National Rural Water Association (NRWA). We also recommend searching through our online resource library to find program develop manuals, spreadsheets, and tips to get started. For a general overview of the program development process, review the 13 Session Asset Management Training Slides by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


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