Operational Asset Management: Part 1

Making asset management operational is a real challenge. Those in charge of infrastructure delivery programs recognize infrastructure upkeep is a real burden upon local government budgets. Maintaining systems is a costly affair. The additional costs associated with securing, implementing and supporting an ?asset management system? can be a show stopper. The Harris County, Texas Public Infrastructure Department used a generic interoperability approach for the development and ultimate use of an asset management system. The asset management system is now in use across multiple departments. The system allows disparate department silos to exchange information, better plan and execute programs, and address budget restraints imposed by declining tax revenues.

The three major issues that often stand in the way of implementing a cost effective asset management system are:

1. Cut across silos within an agency or enterprise.
2. Improving asset related processes within each silo.
3. Enabling far better collaboration, communication, work process integration, and analysis within each silo and between silos.

An asset management system that addresses these major issues is the unifying platform for saving agencies considerable money, far in excess of the cost of securing and supporting the asset management system itself.

The Unifying Platform

A unifying platform is a method that allows the various departments of an agency to easily contribute data sets that can be shared, utilize existing systems and associated software and optimize service delivery. So how can an asset management system become an enterprise unifying platform?

Asset management becomes the unifying platform by providing an easy method to visually present data on a map with direct drill down to specific data sets. Most government data is associated with a location. The location can be presented on a map as a point, line or area feature.

Data presented as a map with direct drill down to unique data sets provides a means to leverage existing systems and associated software to the fullest extent possible. No ripping and burning existing software. Only pulling the specific data needed from existing data sets in disparate silos into a common spatial database. No massive data dumps and read rights to data when possible.

The unifying platform allows expanding the data sets queried across silos as seen in figure 1, to view bridge, road, storm sewer outfall, park and many more data sets over aerials in a geographic area. Data sets for flood zones, roads, bridges, channels, storm sewer outfalls, and parks are presented in the map as well as a spreadsheet below the map (figure 1). The spreadsheet is exportable directly as an excel document. The map and spreadsheet can be shared as a PDF or directly with ?Map Share? allowing others to view the map exactly as one created on a desktop.

Filters for data sets are provided in the far right portion of the map platform seen in figure 1. By simply clicking on or off filters, the resulting responses to the data sets are provided in the map color coded to the prescribed symbols. The exact data by filter is presented in the grid below the map. Direct linkage to any predetermined website ?url? and existing system is maintained in the grid. Sorting any column in the grid is possible.

The ability to track underground facilities as well as above ground is presented in figure 2 Park Assets. Underground potable water lines, electrical circuits and sewage runs are presented in figure 2 along with numerous other park assets in the map with data on each easily presented in a data gird as was seen previously in figure 1.

The platform also allows for displaying directly CADD (computer-aided design and drafting) from Bentley or Autodesk to be displayed directly in the map. Figure 3 displays underground utilities that were imported into the map. Tabular information such as bid item by asset is also imported into the platform and is available for display.

Examples of Optimizing Delivery Systems:

Asset management presents information that decision makers can be better informed. Timely and accurate information is a valuable commodity. All too often, decisions are framed using poor data sets or no data at all. One example of a good data set that can contribute to creating performance dashboards is the national bridge inventory as illustrated in figure 4. The bridge count as well as the overall condition by state is shown by simple colored circles. ?

The National Highway Pavement Management System?s (HPMS) data is displayed in figure 5. Numerous gages display operating speeds, congestion factors, roughness, and other factors. Scatter diagrams spanning traffic counts, combination truck counts, Pavement serviceability ratings, etc., are presented as well. Decision makers are now better served by seeing easily a host of performance indicators.

Bridge data sets can easily be presented in dashboards that convey the overall and element level conditions. For any bridge in the national inventory, the various ratings are shown figure 6. Trend lines, repair levels and budget guidance are additionally illustrated. The benefit of repair is presented as an increase to remaining service life. Bridge populations can be presented similar to the HPMS data sets.

Performance dashboards for Roads shown in Figure 11 relate condition, remaining service life, and pavement ride along with road classification and other parameters. Figures 6 and 7 are accessible by iPad, Android, and Windows platforms.


Asset Management is an ever changing platform. The platform presented is fully operational, crossing many departments within the county. The platform ?consumes? GIS shape files from many platforms to include ESRI, Autodesk, MicroStation-Bentley, post GIS shape files, as well as those one can ?create? within the platform itself. The platform addresses the key requirements of a unifying, i.e. ease of contributing to data sets that can be shared, utilizes existing systems and associated software, and supports service delivery.
Be sure to check out UIM?s upcoming August issue for Part 2 on Operational Asset Management.

Will Puffer is the Information Systems Officer and Jackie Freeman is the Deputy Executive Director, both of the Harris County Public Infrastructure Department. William J. Jackson is the County Budget Officer of the Harris County Budget Management Department and Jeff Goalen is the Director of Harris County Applied Technology Services.?

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