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How councils can optimise asset management, mitigate risks

New technology is helping councils manage their assets.

Software that forecasts infrastructure deterioration and data analysis that reviews processes are among the tools helping local governments to improve asset management.

The City of Tea Tree Gully in South Australia has transformed its asset management processes through a new award-winning strategy that improved service delivery, risk management and investment.

Ben Clark, assets business administrator at Tea Tree Gully, says the program had significantly improved asset management.

“We have seen an increase in efficiencies in most teams. We were able to streamline processes and maintain assets quicker, respond to customers quicker and provide a better product,” he told Government News.

Ben Clark

Managing $1.4 billion in assets and spending 85 per cent of its capital program on the development and management of assets, the council realised it had to improve the way it managed infrastructure in order to maximise investment and minimise risk.  

To do that, the council implemented the managing assets through capability and knowledge (MACK) project, which reviewed its asset management processes to adopt best practice.

It used the IPWEA National Asset Management Strategy template to undertake a maturity assessment of its asset management practices.

Under the MACK project, which was overseen by a steering group, the council undertook an IT review and ultimately invested in improved solutions.

This included the introduction of tablets to field staff with an asset management software in which customer requests are passed directly to customer service and then onto relevant teams.

Mr Clark said that the introduction of tablets to field staff, which was completed after an extensive procurement process, was key to the program’s success.

“It enables field staff to capture data, receive all their work on tablets, know what they need before they go out there so they can make sure they have the necessary equipment,” he told Government News on the sidelines of the event. 

With 83 per cent of customer requests relating to acquisition and maintenance of assets in 2012-13, customer service delivery was critical, he said.

Mr Clark says the council will soon introduce a customer system that enables better communication with ratepayers by providing work updates through texts and emails.

Last week, Tea Tree Gully’s program won an award for excellence in asset management projects and practice from the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia SA.

Software to detect asset deterioration

Another technology that’s helping councils to optimise asset management and mitigate asset risks is the CAMS asset management software, developed by RMIT University.

Sujeeva Setunge

CAMS is a cloud-based asset management and deterioration prediction software that captures data on assets and assessments of deterioration so councils can prioritise repair and renewal works.

The software includes CAMS Mobile, an application that allows asset managers to collect and upload condition data to CAMS Online, where the data can be reviewed and committed after approval.

Professor Sujeeva Setunge, deputy dean of research at RMIT, told the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) Infrastructure and Asset Management Conference last week that the technology enables councils to optimise investment by predicting failure.

“CAMS enables a risk profile to be established and prevents backlog,” she said.

Data crucial to mitigate risks

Elsewhere, Martin Schroder, change agent and former digital transformation officer at Ballarat City Council, told the MAV conference that utilising data to review and improve business practices is a key way to mitigate risk and effectively manage assets.

“Data is an essential component to understand and design better business practices,” he said. “If we fix our business practice, that leads to better data.”

Mr Schroder said that councils need to “use risk management as your weapon, risk is your friend.”

Integration key to optimising assets

Sam Ortisi, manager of strategic asset management at Maribbyrnong City Council, said that reviewing and integrating maintenance programs to ensure they prolong an asset’s life is critical.

“If you’re creating an asset you want to make sure your maintenance programs prolong its life because, if maintenance strategies meet the requirements, you’ll see the rate of wear won’t vary from what designers tell us,” he said.

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