As it stands, asset inspections and conditions assessments rely heavily on people, onsite. In the middle of an industry-wide skills shortage, and as we face a climate emergency, transporting a highly-skilled workforce from site-to-site to perform simple checks is perhaps not the best use of time, resource or energy.
The current approach to maintenance is also highly reactive in its approach, waiting for an asset to fail before it is repaired. This inevitably means excess time and money is spent each year fixing asset failures that could be avoided with a more robust process, better planning, and a good understanding of asset condition. What’s more – when staff are called on to carry out unplanned repairs, the team struggles to keep up with routine maintenance and inspections.
It’s clear we need to find innovative ways to monitor asset condition that doesn’t always rely on sending people to site. Moving away from in-person inspections, towards a system of remote inspection and data analysis, will enable us to benefit from regular and reliable inspections and gain additional insights from collected data. This information will help prioritise resources, ensure staff are using their specialist skills where they’re needed most, and ultimately avoid unnecessary asset failure.
An automated future
An efficient and resilient future involves greater use of automation and remote monitoring to drive down the need for in-person inspections, freeing up staff for more technical jobs. This approach also brings with it a wealth of valuable asset data that can be used to feed predictive analysis, modelling, and support investment planning.
By minimising enabling activities like clearing, excavation and scaffolding, that are required to facilitate physical inspections, this multi-benefit approach reduces the health and safety risk on employees, whilst cutting costs, reducing emissions, and avoiding service disruption by eliminating a significant proportion of possessions, closures, and outages.
At Atkins we can deploy our LiDAR vegetation management system. It converts aerial survey data into 3D visual output to indicate the encroachment of vegetation, potentially identifying assets that may be difficult to inspect or locate due to overgrown vegetation, pre-empting enabling works before inspection and reducing abortive site visits.
Our Rehabilitation Automation Tool for Sewers (RATS) automatically processes coded data from remote CCTV surveys of sewers and drains, and recommends appropriate rehabilitation interventions. By detecting abnormalities, and flagging when the asset condition is not as it should be, RATS automatically exports abnormal data for engineer review. It can then be assessed to determine whether an intervention or field inspection is required. This avoids the need for numerous unnecessary site visits, and like the LiDAR system, saves time and money, and reduces emissions.
The power of data
Pre-inspection planning ensures the whole inspection process is more efficient through the design of risk-based inspection regimes, desktop assessments, optimised inspection schedules, and collection of asset information. The post-inspection phase converts raw condition data is into valuable intelligence, to support the understanding of asset health and remaining life, as well as the assessment of various interventions options. This phase also enables the power of data analytics to be harnessed to carry out trend analysis and predictive scenarios.
Atkins focuses on digital, and takes a data-driven and information-led approach to designing new inspection regimes, and upgrading existing systems. This removes in-person inspections, where possible, and delivers immediate savings.
More importantly, though, by capitalising on the power of data, our holistic whole-lifecycle approach improves overall asset management and creates significant long-term savings, creating the potential to transform the future of asset management.