5 Considerations to Make Your Campus’ Asset-Mapping Successful

Why are PG&E, Verizon, and others using digital mapping for decades to run their asset management systems spanning or covering thousands of miles, while the majority of world-class colleges, hospitals, commercial malls, theme parks, residential compounds, clubs — to mention a few — don’t have a complete virtual campus for their underground and above-ground assets?

When did asset mapping become very crucial?

Geographic Information Systems (GIS), in its advanced digital software era, has been quickly evolving after it stayed in a community of geographers and experts. Jack Dangermond, the founder of Esri (a leader in GIS software), shuttled across the globe for decades to preach the use of GIS in every vertical industry. In 1993, Marc Andreessen and colleagues eased Internet access through Mosaic browser and then Netscape Navigator which changed how the world published and consumed information. GIS became a major ingredient in Internet services. Google Maps came to be a defacto proof of concept for location-based systems and services, and countless industries kept changing.

What are the benefits of asset mapping and is this a must?

Digital transformation brought many indispensable benefits to all industries. You cannot imagine, today, running a business or any kind of organization without digital records. Digitizing physical assets started with the purchase records, depreciation, and maintenance, and such functions have been provided, for a long time, by EAM software systems like IBM’s Maximo. As location-based software advances, huge ROI lies in visualizing your assets and in deriving new info from proximity, overlap, dimensions, and other factors. These were never possible before bringing all your assets into two connected components: A Geo-location system and a database. Early adopters list some use-cases for asset-mapping: Planning new construction projects; Reducing possible construction accidents, and thus, making multiples in ROI on insurance premiums reduction(like with AON); More efficient fieldwork in operations and maintenance; Taking preventive action and avoiding break-downs; Easy access to all engineering drawing elements in their location; Viewing all utility networks and showing overlap; financial planning using assets life expectancy and replacement cost; Faster emergency response; O&M contractors and subcontractors management; Adding IoT data streams on top of asset networks; visualizing your assets in Augmented Reality; Remote visualization of networks including underground — a big advantage in the post covid-19 world.

5 recommendations to consider in getting your organization’s Buildings and utility networks mapped

1- If you insist on a do-it-yourself asset mapping project, think again! Doing the mapping yourself often means a multi-million-dollar budget and a years-long project. The world of software is now cloud-based and the private-and-in-house die-hards have everything to lose in terms of opportunities, time, and budgets. Moreover, building your own system creates unnecessary load and frustration: Create a GIS software and data team, an asset management software development team, buy all the necessary HW and SW resources, and manage this internally as a big deviation from your core business, chasing the software companies in features, compliance, interoperability, and know-how. If you have enough reasons to do it yourself, make sure to check how does that project scale on your ROI calculator? With a cloud solution including unlimited free data, work is a no-brainier with an ROI’s of 6-month of use, an in-house project may cost two-figure multiples in time and budget.

2- Do not question the need to map your assets, look at your options, and get started. There is no clearer answer to asking yourself: Do I really need to see a virtual representation of all my assets and networks below and above the ground? Do I need to have a 3D Augmented Reality view while doing construction or maintenance? Do I want to be able to deduce my foretasted maintenance budget by aggregating the status and replacement cost of my tens of thousands of assets and not from history or guesstimates? Do I need to monitor a large construction project through drone images and realized progress and have a live system with all the networks and assets for the O&M operator afterward? Those who already have a virtual mapping of their utility networks ask themselves how we managed before.

3- Get the data in, all kinds of data. Most of the organizations keep in some drawer or locker, rolled or lying flat, sets of paper maps (design blueprints, as-built drawings, etc.) They also may have a variety of AutoCAD or MicroStation drawings. A few might even have a number of Shapefiles or OGC’s KML. They would also have some bills of quantities with the manufacturer’s SKUs or specs that allow them to know what dimensions/model/material an underground asset is, and when was it replaced. This information may or may not exist, and if it does it could or could not conform to reality. It is absolutely necessary to have all this information, digitized where needed, entered, Geo-located, corrected through Hi-Res ortho-rectified imagery, verified where possible in-lieu by a surveyor, and securely saved in a database for ease of access.

4- Get the right software to serve your needs. Look at ready systems to serve your data back to you on the cloud. These vary from a platform where you can store data and display it, but you need to create your own data structures and your own interface, to ready to use systems for asset management and anything in between the two approaches. The best way to evaluate software is: a) See it working for a similar organization and do some reference checks; b) Ask for a pilot which is normally done is a week or two (for example ask for digitizing and uploading your water network before going full scope). c) Make sure your data is going to be stored in an OGC-compliant data model and can be exported and made available for you if you decide to stop using the SaaS product.

5- Get your project up-and-running in weeks and stay updated. In today’s agile environment, if you have already selected the cloud software that satisfies many of your organization needs, there is no reason to take more than a few weeks to get all your system working. Moreover, have a condition to get your data uploaded multiple times per year to keep it current, and negotiate a multi-year contract in order to guarantee favorable conditions on price, data uploads, and support SLA.