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Defence & Security

Building the digital estate – not just big data, the right data

13 Sep 2018, by Amy Sarcevic

“An aging asset is more than a risk or a ‘tick and flick’ when it comes to budgeting or maintenance, it is a sleeping giant. And no one wants to wake a sleeping giant”, says Aurecon Chief Digital Officer, Andrew Maher, ahead of the ADM Defence Estate & Base Services Summit.

“Every aspect of our lives is dependent on built assets and more than likely assets that are being run to failure, not to optimum. The traditional response to managing a large and complex asset base has been either to schedule maintenance and replacement of assets on a time basis, or allow the assets to break and then replace, repair or upgrade. Then the sleeping giant wakes!”

“Even getting a handle on the scope of assets itself can be challenging. Governments, as an example, can own assets directly; hold assets through business enterprises or by other arm’s length arrangements; or be considering the sale of assets at different points, making valuation and depreciation analysis difficult to say the least. But one thing is certain: reducing the cost of ownership can generate large benefits.”

Aurecon is using digital technologies to find the ‘sweet spot’ between over spending on scheduled replacement, and the service impairment caused by asset failure.

“Our work is pertinent especially when asset owners are working on master plans, some of which are up to 30- and 40-years and include significant expansion”, adds Andrew.

“For example, for the Department of Defence, where upgrading infrastructure is key to the Defence Strategy outlined in the 2016 Defence White Paper. With rising annual depreciation costs of 15 percent and increasing pressure to prioritise spending, there is a greater need for real-time data to inform smarter decision-making”.

A 2017 report on the role of digital in improving capital project performance identified potential savings of 20 – 30 percent using digital tools to track portfolio expenditure, monitor progress, flag issues and ultimately facilitate smarter decision-making.

“We’ve been working with large asset holders in sectors including Defence, health, transport, data and telecommunications, government and aviation in the quest for asset management that is proactive and predictive instead of retrospective and reactive”.

“The solution sees us taking the information from assets – via sensors, meters, management systems and finance systems – and putting it on a digital asset register, to create a digital estate”.

“The digital estate enables a two-way flow of data: information from the system informs a ‘dashboard’ interface that shows a real time view of the entire estate; and updates are made into the digital estate, which builds the digital model and allows it to project trends and scenarios that inform better decisions”.

“Automation and algorithms mean the digital estate can develop its own secondary data (forecasts, projections, trends) and then the data becomes an asset”.

“Digital estates are complex, clever systems, but we always start with business-oriented questions. Rather than build a system that collects data from every item-type – a mistake we’ve seen in some systems – we start with what decision makers need so they can improve their asset optimisation”.

“Knowing the questions allows us to build a digital estate that doesn’t waste time and resources but allows for a vertically integrated system to enable decision making by the C-suite, asset owners and facilities managers. Focusing on the right data, not just big data, can reduce complexity and deliver better insights”.

“We see this confluence of engineering, infrastructure and digital as a key driver of infrastructure building in the future, not the least because as asset owners develop their digital estates, they’ll not just have more cost-efficient systems of ownership, but the data will ensure they know what to build in the future”.

“As the pressure builds on asset owners and stakeholders to create better but more affordable infrastructure, digital systems such as the digital estate will make ownership more efficient and capital expenditure decisions more informed”.

Andrew Maher will continue this discussion at the ADM Defence Estate and Base Services Summit – 19 September 2018, Canberra.

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