Functional, safe and reliable assets are essential for the proper functioning of urban societies. When an asset does not perform well, it can have major impacts and have a bad image of its owners, whether government or private, writes David Jenkins.
Asset management is no easy task. Professionals must have a detailed understanding of how an asset works, manage tight budgets to ensure that assets can be maintained effectively, and ensure that assets provide financial stability to owners.
The failure of an asset is one of the main risks associated with the absence of a qualified asset manager on staff to continuously check and repair the condition of an asset.
A major turning point in the value placed on asset management in Australia came in 2009, when the then Council of Local Government and Planning Ministers (LGPMC) approved the Financial sustainability of local communities – Coherent frameworks at the national level. It was a unified approach to assess the financial viability of local boards, asset planning and management, and financial planning and management.
While this is an excellent initiative, attention has since faded, and the framework needs to be reviewed and additional measures considered to support the financial sustainability of local councils. One of these important aspects that must be highlighted is the continuous improvement of the skills of asset managers.
Education is one of the measures that must be at the forefront of government concerns to ensure that today’s asset managers have the skills to be the professional stewards of existing infrastructure.
Invest in the future
In May’s federal budget, the Australian government announced an investment of $ 17 billion in infrastructure and road projects. This is a significant investment; a project part of which should be earmarked for education and training to ensure that each project has adequate resources to operate at a high level for many years to come.
Not working to prevent premature deterioration or asset failure often costs much more in the end. The National report on the state of heritage 2018 identified that Australian local councils estimated that existing infrastructure at $ 24 billion was low in capacity; which means it was not performing at optimal levels.
The same report found that upgrading low-capacity infrastructure will likely cost five times the current value of the asset, providing a clear indication of the cost of not have properly trained asset managers on board from the start-up phase of the project.
The Canadian government is leading the way in asset management and has demonstrated a great example of how governments can invest now to ensure the longevity of infrastructure projects.
In his eighth year, Municipal asset management program (MAMP) offered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), the C $ 110 million program helps Canadian municipalities make informed infrastructure investment decisions based on sound asset management practices. . It provides training, funding and resources to strengthen the knowledge and skills of asset managers. It was launched in February 2017 and is scheduled until 2025.
The Australian government should consider introducing a similar scheme, as it ensures that all upcoming infrastructure projects have the right resources and skills to maximize the capacity and lifespan of all infrastructure assets.
Provide strong returns
Governments need to see a strong return on investment in infrastructure projects to show voters that they understand the needs of the community and are investing wisely. Particularly in the past 18 months, when the economy is under intense pressure, governments cannot be seen as splurging or misusing funds.
It is important to plan ahead who will be responsible for managing the completed infrastructure assets and determine how they will be managed for the next 5-10 years – at least. Post-construction management is just as critical as the construction phase, because if not properly maintained, the asset will experience a significantly shorter lifespan and, therefore, reduce the overall value of an asset. project and return on investment.
Financial and physical management of an asset such as parks, waterways, roads, bridges, sewers and other infrastructure is a profession in demand right now. It offers stability and career development opportunities within governments and private organizations.
With major infrastructure projects underway, an increasing number of positions must be filled to ensure the longevity of assets and generate high returns for voters. The LGNSW revealed that in 2017, asset managers were sixth on the list of the top ten occupations with shortage of professional skills in its report on the workforce and future skills. This means there needs to be greater awareness of the profession and more quality education paths that make it easy for people to acquire skills in an asset management role.
I am of the opinion that the 537 boards in Australia should have at least one full-time asset manager on staff to ensure effective asset management.
It’s time for us to change our minds and focus on a more sustainable and profitable way of thinking: taking care of existing infrastructure so that it can work for generations to come.
David Jenkins is CEO of the Institute of Public Works Engineers Australasia (IPWEA).
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