By Kevon Storie

Strategic assets—both tangible and intangible—are the assets an organization creates or acquires that are essential to its operation. Asset management is a system for collecting and organizing data on strategic assets to inform decisions on maintenance, purchasing, budgeting and more.

This data can also be used to measure the asset’s health and the risk to the organization should the asset fail. Viewed in that light, asset data is a strategic asset too, as essential to WAPA’s mission of marketing and delivering affordable hydropower as electrical equipment and construction supplies. 

The trick is turning raw data into a customized decision-making tool relevant to different WAPA program areas and regions. This has been a goal of WAPA’s Asset Management program since its inception. 

Breakdown needed

In the broadest sense, what planners and program managers need to know about a tangible asset is its condition, the likelihood of it failing and the potential effects of that failure on WAPA and its customers—health, risk and consequence, respectively. 

In its first iteration, Asset Management collected that critical data in one database. “It was basically a matter of documenting what the field crews already know,” explained Vice President of Asset Management Chris Lyles. “That gave us a lot of valuable information that, unfortunately, wasn’t easy for people outside the program to see or digest.” 

Creating a score card

To give that data more visibility to different audiences, Asset Management developed a consistent scoring system to show an asset’s risk of failure, compared to the same or similar assets in WAPA’s system. “This puts the pertinent data into a document that people sitting in a meeting can use to inform their discussions,” said Reliability-Centered Maintenance Program Manager Jackie Brusoe. 

An asset’s health index and consequence data are used to determine its risk score. Factors such as age, maintenance history, function, design and operating capacity make up the health index. “Traditionally, the age—the expected service life—of an asset largely guided decisions about maintenance and replacement,” explained Brusoe. “Incorporating this other data gives us a much clearer picture of how a piece of equipment is likely to perform over time.” 

Consequence data measures the importance of an asset to the system. A circuit breaker in a substation that could cause a power loss to 100,000 customers if it failed, perhaps including a hospital or large factory, is an example of a high-consequence asset. If that circuit breaker were 45 years old and had a history of frequent repairs, it would have a high risk score and its replacement would be prioritized accordingly. 

The consideration of consequence data was the piece that was missing from the more informal approach to asset management, Brusoe noted. 

The scoring system can be valuable to functional groups across WAPA. The Office of Security and Emergency Management can use it to prioritize improvement projects on physical substations, while maintenance managers can focus on the transmission lines that will cost WAPA and its customers the most if they are not in service. 

Building better reports 

Now that a scoring system is in place, Asset Management is tackling the challenge of refining the data to better meet the needs of its users. “We are always looking for more intuitive ways to share asset management data analyses with stakeholders,” said Lyles. 

Currently, scoring data is mined from the same database that maintenance crews use to record the work they do. Reports are then generated in Excel spreadsheets. “These software programs will give you all the information you need but in a pretty basic way,” Lyles said. “We are looking to get away from using tabular data in reports and moving toward more visual displays that quickly provide valuable information to key decisions makers.” 

The Asset Management team is exploring more advanced reporting tools that are designed to help end-users visualize data better. Talking with employees in different departments and regions will help to further shape the program’s reporting techniques. 

“The more we are able to tailor the reports to show stakeholders how all these different factors interact with each other, the more they will use the data to make strategic decisions,” Lyles said. “That’s when data truly becomes a strategic asset.” 

Note: Storie is a technical writer who works under the Wyandotte Services contract.

Last modified on September 12th, 2023