By Scott Akenhead for Trilogics Technologies, Inc.


A performance indicator, thwarted

Consider the manager of an ultraviolet water treatment facility who
is looking, as always, for ways to cut back on asset maintenance costs. He interested in monitoring the hours of life for his UV lamps, and the maintenance labour costs for those lamps. It occurs to him that a useful performance indicator would be labour-dollars per lamp-hour. Comparing this indicator between types of lamps might show clear differences in life-cycle cost between lamps. Graphing this indicator with time might show important trends in labour efficiency.

Alas, he has to push this good idea aside, saying "Very nice to have, but… it’s just not going to happen." To create and track this performance indicator requires linking a SCADA system (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition - for lamp replacements) to an EAM system (Enterprise Asset Management - for activity, labour costs, lamp model). This is not a side-of-your-desk project.

The point is that the primary barrier to calculating the performance indicators that you need to optimize asset performance is simply assembling the necessary data, because it is so often stored in disparate IT systems. For many organizations today, our imaginary facility manager has to manually assemble and calculate desirable performance indicators – perhaps they will be calculated once a year. It might be a long time before a problem with the life-cycle cost for an "apparently cheap" UV lamp is discovered. The accumulation of this forced inefficiency across all of the facilities in a city or utility presents a significant problem. To the extent that our frustrated manager is representative, this inability to provide important asset performance indicators is a failure of asset management technology.

The goals visited upon asset managers typically include maximizing service, safety, and reliability while at the same time minimizing capital spending, energy use, pollution, operation costs, and maintenance costs. The need to balance these conflicting goals affects management decisions down to the smallest resolution of assets, activities, and reporting. To plan for optimal asset performance in this context, and to manage daily and monthly progress toward attainment of these plans, requires a new approach to tracking and using performance indicators.

Objectives of APM

The objective of Asset Performance Management (APM) is to deliver comprehensive, real-time views of your organization’s infrastructure performance, so that you have the ability to drive forward-looking decisions that will help you:

Streamline the asset planning process;

Improve the quality of asset management reports;

Budget optimally between capital works, maintenance, and renewals so as to meet the greatest need;

Align the organization for tighter operational execution in relation to strategic goals;

Keep stakeholders, analysts, and executives better informed of your organization’s operational status; and

Ensure your infrastructure investments are being used to their maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

How do you implement Asset Performance Management (APM)?

Every city today has a strategic performance planning process to link their overarching goals and objectives to each department’s projects, budgets, and activities – as in the accompanying figure. In turn, each department tracks financial and operational performance indicators, Acquiring and integrating the many indicators resulting, and relating these to larger goals for effective decision making by asset and service managers, is problem for most cities and utilities. Considering all of the assets, activities, and services that will accumulate in a daily history, millions of indicator values have to be acquired, standardized, organized, archived, and summarized.

Happily, inexpensive computer systems are emerging to provide a rich and integrated array of performance indicators, by taking advantage of new internet technology. This new generation of asset management technology delivers the depth, breadth, and connection of information that you need to discover, understand, and solve asset management problems.

Clever technology is only part of the solution. It will always be important to ensure a thoughtful selection of key performance indicators (KPIs), ensuring that they are a reliable basis for improved strategic decisions. If performance indicators are to be maximally useful, then they must:

1. provide an up-to-date snapshot of the entire organization;

2. allow users to drill into and cross-connect indicators to discover and understand problems;

3. standardize and archive indicators to allow for historical comparisons, despite upgrades and replacement of operational systems; and

4. present multiple viewpoints of your infrastructure, whether that is by assets, resources, inventory, departments, targets and benchmarks, or work activity.

Reporting performance indicators without exacerbating the information overload of managers requires collaborative design sessions with end-users on compliance reports, dashboards, and analytical view. Providing leading indicators and indicator forecasts helps the asset manager to work in problem-avoiding mode, instead of in a reactive stance armed only with historical information (driving by the rear-view mirror).

Last Thoughts

Asset Performance Management refers to balancing the many and conflicting goals of asset management, by using detailed performance indicators to understand what is going on and plan for progress toward those goals. APM extends to "What if?" scenarios and optimizing overall infrastructure system changes. By the breadth of data included, APM addresses sustainability goals such as demand side management, CO2 reduction, and distributed infrastructure. Marshalling the required data from diverse and disparate sources has been, until recently, a show-stopper, despite the promise of a healthy pay-off in terms of better decisions and better asset performance.

Please send comments and discussion to Trilogics Technologies Inc.
Email or call 604.484.7188 x22.


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