Tammy Falconer Sydney WaterSydney Water has embarked on a journey to harness its massive amounts of asset data to improve its strategic decision making. Here, Tammy Falconer, Head of Asset Knowledge at Sydney Water, explores what the utility has been doing in the space and how others can use data to inform their own asset management strategies including in the exciting new world of IoT.

Asset Managers are faced with overwhelming volumes of data about their assets and this will grow exponentially through IoT. The challenge for asset managers is to interpret the data in meaningful ways that can benefit the asset and the organisation’s bottom line.

In response to this, Sydney Water are taking a new approach to leverage data across the asset management value chain to improve the organisation’s decision-making.

Ahead of her presentation at the 2019 Asset Management for Critical Infrastructure Conference, running from 20–21 August in Sydney, we spoke to Ms Falconer about their new approach and their development of a data-driven model to inform long-term capital investment strategies.

Using over 40 different datasets including demand, cost and asset information as inputs, the model tries 2.6 million combinations before reaching the optimal solution.

“The dashboard that Sydney Water developed empowers engineers and strategists to analyse multiple pathways over different regions, timeframes, investment drivers and products,” Ms Falconer said.

“In this way, it provides a comprehensive and robust input to investment planning to create prudent investment to meet the needs of our growing city.”

Sydney Water is also using data in its operations and maintenance, piloting various IoT technologies.

“One example is placing sensors in sewer manholes to enable us to detect potential overflows and address these before they impact our customers,” Ms Falconer said.

“In one case, a high impact overflow was averted, preventing impact to 4,700 properties.”

Rethinking data as an asset

Ms Falconer said the solution to converting raw data into beneficial intelligence is based on a very simple premise; treat information as an asset like we do our physical assets.

By applying the same kinds of practices, asset managers can maximise the value of that information. Ms Falconer said you can plan for your information assets by answering several pre-emptive questions.

“What information do you need to drive your business; what standards does that information need to meet; and how will new information from IoT or other sources work with your existing information to help you make better decisions?”

In the same way that managers plan for the lifecycle of physical assets, they can also plan for managing asset information through its lifecycle.

“Is your data structured in a way that you can easily join it with other data? Are you receiving it in a way that makes it easy to consume? Are you able to track and manage the quality of data against the standards you set for it?”

Ms Falconer said managers must work with IoT vendors and their asset management, data and technology teams to answer these questions. IoT on its own will provide some benefits, but the real value comes when it augments the information that you already have.

Further leveraging IoT and data analytics

Ms Falconer predicts that the organisations that will be most successful are those that see data as a strategic asset for their organisation and can link their customer, product, asset, financial and risk information to drive better decisions in the short and long term.

“This data driven approach will enable them to build confidence with their customers, stakeholders and regulators, deliver new and better services, and optimise their asset base to achieve this,” Ms Falconer said.

There is no question IoT will assist organisations to make better real-time or near-time decisions, improve customer experience, organisational efficiency and drive down cost.

However, to maximise the value of IoT, Ms Falconer said organisations must use this information as a feedback loop, informing asset planning and acquisition, and operations and maintenance plans.

“The best value will be derived from using IoT and a myriad of other data sets to drive artificial intelligence, predictive and prescriptive analytics to help us humans make the best decisions for our customers.

“As utilities, we are all aiming to become more customer-centric, and data and analytics has a key role to play in achieving this.”

Hear more from Tammy Falconer about how you can better use data in your organisation’s asset management plans in her presentation at the 2019 Asset Management for Critical Infrastructure Conference, taking place 20–21 August at Swissôtel, Sydney. Pre-sale tickets end 21 June. Register at assetmanagementevent.com.au/buy-tickets.