Asset management needs a narrative for the future #IPWEA2015

By pwpro posted 08 June 2015 20:50


New Zealand has been held up as a bastion for asset management over the years, but is that reputation still deserved?

MWH Principal Consultant Tony Urquhart returned to New Zealand after working in the US for more than a decade, so was well-placed to appraise the country’s famed asset management sector in his session this morning at IPWEA’s conference in Rotorua.

Asset management, he told delegates, needs to change it story to help people understand the importance of investing in infrastructure.

“Asset management is pretty boring. We need a more forward-looking narrative to [get people to] want to build a country with more cities, urban areas … I think that narrative is very important.”

Having worked in New Zealand prior to moving to the US, he was around during the early days of asset management planning, but questions whether anyone ever really understood the role of an asset management plan.

“I do not even think we knew what we were going to do with it [the asset management plan],” he admitted. “We didn’t create a vision for what we wanted to achieve.”

His prescription for the asset management industry included:
* Create a forward-looking narrative – to rally people behind the idea of AM
* National perspective – create national methodologies/standards
* Public-Private Parnerships – New Zealand lags the rest of the world in these
* Open data and information – Help the public understand

For the latter point, he gave the example of an aeroplane where the plane has been grounded on the tarmac for hours. In the first instance, the pilot says nothing, whereas in the second instance, the pilot explains the situation and keeps passengers informed – which produces the better outcome?

In order to get the most out of our assets, he said that a greater focus should be placed on understanding the life span of assets. For, he suspects, many assets could last longer than originally anticipated.

“The holy grail of asset management is knowing exactly how long something is going to last. If we could do that, [asset management] would be easy.
“I think the thing is we are conservative as engineers. I think we need to get out and understand those asset lives clearly.”

He therefore questioned anyone’s ability to create 30-year plans, as has been legislated in New Zealand at the moment.

“I think 30-year infrastructure strategies are great, but do we realistically create 30-year plans?”



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