Asset owners need to think long-term when developing their asset management strategies
There is overwhelming evidence that the development of new, technically sound, engineered and fit-for-purpose critical physical infrastructure is vital for economic growth and stability.
With many countries targeting significant levels of capital investment in energy, transport, communications, flood management and water and waste water infrastructure, there is a vital need for asset management frameworks that can provide both robust and resilient asset support.
Increasing demands on infrastructure combined with declining budgets, particularly for operation and maintenance, means asset owners worldwide are working towards improving their asset management processes by optimising resources, minimising risks and ensuring a better level of service to end users.
Currently, asset management tools focus predominantly on data management, deterioration modelling, condition assessment and risk, as well as economic factors (such as whole-life costing and maintenance). Some also consider the vulnerabilities of a network to climate change and extreme weather events such as flooding.
However, rather than taking a long-term view, asset management strategies are often short term, typically five years or so. What is needed is a long-term approach, which will ensure assets are safe, secure and resilient to what the future may hold in 20, or even 50 years.
“Resilience of an asset can rarely - and should never - be considered in isolation”
By considering long-term resilience at the planning and design stage, a range of factors can be taken into account, including natural and man-made risks, changing demands, demographics, urbanisation, climate change and limited resources. It must be remembered that resilience of an asset can rarely – and should never – be considered in isolation; it usually is a part of a network and its surrounding environment, which cannot be ignored in any design.
Research undertaken by the University of Birmingham, in partnership with Amey, has resulted in the development of a “Resilience Assessment Tool” which aims to address a key question: “Will the proposed geotechnical solution continue to perform in the light of changing future conditions?” The aim is to provide a methodology to assist in planning and strategic decision-making by assessing the future resilience of geotechnical solutions (specically for transport infrastructure). It is hoped this will stimulate long-term planning and management of geotechnical assets and help future proof transport infrastructure.
So what will happen in the future and how do we prepare for it? The answer will always be: it depends. The goal of any asset management framework is to be fully customeroriented, based on sound economic and engineering principles with long-term sustainability at its core.
What is clear is that it will be vital for asset owners to determine whether or not their asset management systems and practices are fit-for-purpose and consider a wide range of factors – including natural and man-made risks, changing demands, demographics, urbanisation, climate change and limited resources – over decades, not years.
Janvi Shah is a geotechnical engineer in Amey’s Consulting, Rail & Strategic Highways team.