South Australia’s smallest metropolitan council says adopting predictive technology to monitor the condition of its infrastructure has made asset management less costly and more efficient for the resource-strapped organisation.
The Town of Walkerville, northeast of the Adelaide CBD, covers 3.5km and has a population of 8,000. Its infrastructure assets are valued at $220 million, including a 35km road network, 55 buildings, 80km of footpath, parks and other facilities.
Group Manager of Assets & Infrastructure James Kelly is one of the council’s only two asset managers. He says maintaining existing or building new infrastructure can be a challenge for councils like Walkerville, which have limited resources and stretched budgets.
That’s why council recently took the decision to use innovative technology to identify and predict the life of roads, which Mr Kelly says is helping managers and councillors make better informed decisions about infrastructure investment.
“The more we look longer-term across our suite of assets, the better decisions we can make and it costs us less in the long run,” Mr Kelly said.
“We’re trying to stay as a small council and remain as independent as we can, so we wanted to ensure financial and generational equity by making evidence-based decisions backed by real data.”
The technology was brought on board in 2017 to collect data and establish a dynamic assets database that can be updated and reviewed as the condition of assets and budget outlooks change.
“We had a whole bunch of asset registers and condition scoring for our assets sitting spreadsheets and isolated databases in the organisation,” Mr Kelly says.
What we’ve been able to do with that data is centralise it through an asset management solution which includes the predictor software, so every time we recondition or assess our roads, our footpaths, we’re able to update that information … along with long-term financial information.James Kelly
“What we’ve been able to do with that data is centralise it through an asset management solution which includes the predictor software, so every time we recondition or assess our roads, our footpaths, we’re able to update that information into the predictor along with long-term financial information.
“As budgets change we’re able to update that database to reflect what impact budget changes will have on the condition of the asset network over time.
“We’re able to see how our assets will trend if budgets are increased or decreased over that long term financial plan.”
The system uses two platforms, including software that’s installed on devices and a cloud based solution that presents data as user-friendly graphs and infographics – something Mr Kelly says has been particularly useful for councillors.
Walkerville is investing about $100,000 a year in the system but Mr Kelly says it removes the need to manually trawl through pages of data, as well as saving on consultant costs.
He says the initial process of pulling together asset data from registers and spreadsheets was the biggest challenge in establishing the new system and took ‘a couple of years’.
However, he says Walkerville’s experience shows that engaging with new technology can pay dividends for local government.
“With technology the way its going, and a lot of cloud based solutions, access to these tools is easier than ever before and there’s a lot of expertise in asset management in companies, where they understand the needs of local government.”
In selecting a vendor, Mr Kelly said Walkerville looked to councils that were similar in size and stock as benchmark.
“We found being able to share stories with other councils about their asset systems was crucial for us,” he says.
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