With the growing influx of data and digitalisation into the asset management field, the issue of adequate information management and visualisation has become paramount to ensure the seamless operation and maintenance of assets.


But the important question is what exactly is an asset? According to ISO 55000, an asset is defined as "an item, thing or entity that has potential or actual value to an organisation." This definition is quite broad, encompassing tangible and intangible items as well as varying types of value, such as financial, operational, and social.
The main objective of asset management under ISO 55000 is to optimise the value, risks and costs associated with an organisation's assets throughout their life cycle.

However, for the proper management of these assets it is paramount that sufficient information exists in a structured and easily queried database that allows for both broad picture and granular perspectives of these assets. Another important facet is the interconnectivity quotient of the data stored. Are they mapped to a common language like VBIS, Uniclass, Omniclass or COBie for identifying, structuring, and exchanging asset data?

Uniclass, OmniClass, COBie, and VBIS are classification systems and data structures designed to standardise the organisation and exchange of information in the architecture, engineering, construction, and operation (AECO) industry. Here's a brief overview of each:

1. Uniclass:
Uniclass is a comprehensive classification system developed for the UK construction industry by the Construction Project Information Committee (CPIC).It covers various aspects of construction projects, streamlining communication and collaboration between stakeholders through better information management.

2. OmniClass:
OmniClass is a North American classification system that organises and retrieves product information used in the AECO industry. With 15 tables covering different aspects of project information, it provides a standardised approach to classifying data, enhancing coordination, and decision-making throughout a project's lifecycle.

3. COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange):
COBie is a data format and process for exchanging asset information between construction and operations efficiently. It captures structured information about a building's assets during handover, facilitating seamless transition to facility management and operations.

4. VBIS (Victorian Building Information Modelling and Specification System):
VBIS is an industry-led framework developed in Victoria, Australia, aiming to improve building information modeling (BIM) effectiveness in construction and asset management sectors. It provides a standardised classification system for built assets, ensuring consistent naming, labeling, and classification of BIM objects throughout a project's lifecycle.

Each of these systems contributes to better communication, collaboration, and information exchange within the AECO industry, supporting consistent data management across project phases and reducing errors.
The process of Asset Information Management should ideally commence at the design phase of the asset creation itself to ensure adequate information is captured that will support the management of the asset throughout its lifecycle.

However, the information captured should be so structured that it meets the varying needs at each stage of the asset lifecycle from design to construction to operation and maintenance. It needs to cater both to the capital delivery during design and construction, and the asset management team during operation and maintenance. For large organisations with a multitude of assets, it is this crucial information captured, updated and maintained at every stage that will inform decision-making and proper planning throughout the asset lifecycle.

Challenges and potential solutions:
However, there exists several challenges along this journey of asset information management, including:

1. Single source of truth:
This challenge refers to ensuring all stakeholders access and rely on the same, accurate dataset when making decisions or performing tasks. In many organisations, various departments may maintain isolated databases, leading to inconsistencies and inefficiencies.

2. Complicated information flow:
Asset management systems often involve numerous stakeholders, software applications, and processes. The complexity of these interactions and the flow of information can make it difficult to maintain accurate, up-to-date asset data and may slow down decision-making.

3. Asset visualisation limitations:
Visualising an asset's details, history, and condition can help drive better decision-making. However, limitations in available tools or integration with other systems can hinder this visualisation, stalling key insights and impacting performance.

4. Outdated historical asset registers:
Organisations may have outdated asset registers that don't accurately reflect an asset's current status, condition, or location. This knowledge gap complicates maintenance, risk assessment, and future investment decision-making.

5. Information overload:
With the volume of data generated during asset management, it can be challenging to identify and prioritise the most critical information for decision-making. Sorting, analysing, and presenting large amounts of data effectively are crucial for ensuring informed decisions.

6. Redundant information:
Duplicate records or irrelevant data in an asset management system can create confusion and increase inefficiencies. It's essential to identify and eliminate redundant information to streamline processes and maintain data accuracy.

7. Asset data cleaning:
Accumulated inaccuracies or inconsistencies in asset data can affect an organisation's ability to make well-informed decisions. Regular data cleaning and validation are necessary to maintain high-quality asset information.

8. Attribute definition:
Clearly defining and standardising asset attributes is crucial for consistent data collection and analysis. Ambiguous or unclear attribute definitions can lead to misinterpretations and inconsistencies, negatively impacting asset management processes.

Implementing modern asset management practices, through adopting standardised methods such as Uniclass, OmniClass, COBie, or VBIS, and investing in advanced information management systems can help overcome these obstacles and optimise asset management operations; helping to deliver incredible real-world results for clients.

Learn more about Beca’s digital engineering capabilities here.

About the Author
Arka Ghosh

Digital Assets Leader

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