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Five reasons why linear assets are different.

March 1, 2010

I’ve recently been doing some work on linear assets and the functionality an Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) system needs to support the management of linear assets.  Sure we need the basics – we need to be able to ‘reflect’ the technical object structure in the computer system and we need to be able to plan and execute work against the technical objects and we need to be able to record information (failure codes, costs, measurements, inspections etc) against the technical objects.  But there’s more, once we get to a lower level of detail, once we start defining the asset structure and the information that needs to be recorded it becomes apparent why this:

Is different to this:

Linear assets are prevalent in many industries from railways to roads, pipelines to electricity distribution networks and canals and waterways.  I’ve identified five areas that need to be assesed when selecting and implementing a linear asset management solution.

1.  Structuring.  Long and straight is different to up and down.  There is always much discussion during any EAM implementation on how to structure the organisation’s technical objects and this is usually related to the level of detail needed to support the operational and reporting requirements.  It’s no different when we structure linear assets and we need to answer the two questions – what level of detail do we need to capture maintenance history and costs?  And what is the organisations capacity to support this level of detail? 

2.  Linear is not GIS – linear asset management pre-dates Geographic Information Systems and they are not the same thing.  The two concepts complement each other, GIS does not replace LAM.  Linear assets can have geo-coordinates and can be represented as a line or points on a map but most organisations maintaining linear assets still use non-map based linear representations to manage their assets and plan and record work on those assets.  The one area where there is good synergy between the information collected by a LAM solution and GIS is in the area of reporting.  Information extracted from a LAM system to a information warehouse is a good starting point to overlay linear information onto a map and run reports which answer questions such as which section of road has the highest number of potholes, etc.

3. Dynamic segmentation is the ability to defined changing characteristic features along the length of an asset.  For example a segment of rail track will have changing features along its length.  A segment of rail might be anything from 5km to 100km long and through this length the features such as rail type, sleeper type, fastenings, alignment etc will change.  These features are not assets, the rail track is the asset and the features can change across that asset in a dynamic way as the segment of track is maintained.

4.  Liner reference methods.  The position on a linear asset (relative to the start point of the asset) could be represented in a number of ways.  The position could be an absolute point as measured from the start of the segment, or it could be a measurement relative to some defined marker such as a kilometer or mile post.  Or indeed it could be the distance from a well known marker, for example 5oom from the large oak tree.  A good LAM system will be able to translate absolute distance into relative distance.  This translation is usually needed when someone in the field reports a fault on a linear asset as a certain distance before or after a marker.  When a work request is created only this distance is known and the LAM system then convert it to absolute distance against the asset.

The diagram below from Paul Scarponcini shows some of the methods used to record distance on a linear asset.

5.  Mass changes.  Enterprise Asset Management is always static, or master data, intensive.  LAM is no different.  Tools are need to effect mass changes to the linear assets under management – this is particularly relevant where costing boundaries change and both the linear assets and point assets need to be updated with new cost collectors. 

There are many more ways that linear is different from point – these are the most important you need to consider when selecting and implimenting an enterprise wide linear asset managment solution.

Cheers, Duncan

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