Meeting the asset management challenge

As pressures on budgets intensify the industry is working hard to find cost effective ways to manage assets through closer integration and data led innovation said experts at the Infrastructure Intelligence/Amey round table discussion.

Political consistency, economic growth, longer term planning and clarity from clients, complimented by innovative approaches and new technical developments from the supply chain were all cited as reasons for positivity in the asset management sector. Yet challenges remain with resources under pressure, bureaucracy stifling procurement processes, key infrastructure policy decisions outstanding and a pressing need for cultural change to encourage more collaborative approaches. “There is a sense that the economy is moving in the right direction and there are elements of optimism in the industry across the board. We have seen some flagship projects move on a number of fronts; there are still lots of challenges ahead but ones we like to solve,” said David Spencer, managing director of Amey’s consulting business.

“For the first time the surface transport, rail and underground teams are working together developing common strategies and demonstrating efficiencies.”

Dana Skelley, director of asset management, Transport for London

Geographically participants said there were big differences in workload across the UK. Devolution in cities such as Manchester is being viewed with great excitement. “In Manchester devolution will see a significant element of the budget devolved and that has transformative potential,” said Mark Brown, business development director, Amey. However firms also pointed to a north south divide with Scotland and the north static compared to a booming South East. “London is a hot spot. Demand for concrete is at the highest level for some time,” said Nick Shires, regional director southern for Lafarge Tarmac.

Director of asset management for one of London’s biggest infrastructure owners and operators Transport for London, Dana Skelley, pointed to the city’s growth as being a key driver behind maximising efficiency and capital investment. “We must constantly adapt to how London is growing. That means a huge amount of investment in new assets,” she said explaining that as a client the organisation was also seeking to manage existing assets more efficiently. “For the first time the surface transport, rail and underground teams are working together developing common strategies and demonstrating efficiencies.”

At the same time the organisation is looking long term said London Underground head of asset strategy and investment Andy Jinks. “We have a strong 10 year asset management plan, so we know where we are going. We cannot turn our services off so we have to sustain investment in maintenance alongside managing capacity growth. Transport keeps London growing and the rest of the UK depends on London fulfilling its potential.”

Read the full article in Infrastructure Intelligence magazine here

Another critical dimension affecting assets of the future is the increased public awareness related to the services that infrastructure delivers. Users are able to highlight problems directly and immediately to asset owners, often in a public environment such as social media. Potholes, rail services, power supply and road availability are just some of the hot topics with users demanding better performance.”The industry is making a huge leap from being engineers to being customer service providers,” said Yogesh Patel. “Customer feedback is becoming more dynamic by the day,” pointed out Evans. “If we’re going to be part of the ever increasing flow of information around customer experience and assets then we need to develop really joined up and integrated teams – teams that are able to deliver continuous innovation. As clients we need to give partners the opportunity to deliver customer outcomes, not just ask them to build stuff.”

Such challenges, along with the increasing amounts of data means more analysis is needed said Brown pointing to a need to recreate operational research departments in companies as was once commonplace. “We need to spend less time on mechanics and more on analysis. There is a gap to fill.” Patel agreed. “There is not enough data linking inputs and outputs to value.”

At the same time clients are also battling with technology change which is too fast to predict. “We don’t know what we want infrastructure to do in 20 years time.  There is not enough future proofing happening,” said Fox.

This is coupled with customers and investors demanding that their infrastructure does more, something that other sectors are moving ahead on. “Airlines really focus on their customers, which means that an airport is also a place where customers can shop, eat and relax,” said Patel. Skelley agreed that influences from other industries were finding their way into transport. “We are taking a customer focussed vision. We want to remove the pain and delight our customers,” she said.

To do this infrastructure asset owners must therefore create a culture and a delivery model that promotes innovation and efficiency. Bringing forward the best technologies from suppliers means engaging with them early enough to benefit. Understanding the most efficient maintenance approach means analysing asset performance and planning the most cost effective strategy. Delighting customers might mean providing services before users even know that they need them. If the industry can do all of these things in an integrated, data rich environment, then asset owners and users alike are set to benefit long into the future.

If you would like to contact Bernadette Ballantyne about this, or any other story, please email