Taking a Closer Look at Asset Management

How do you keep your facilities sustainable and functional as long as possible, with due consideration to pubic safety, safety awareness and risk management?

Time equates to age and age equates to life expectancy. Life expectancy can be applied to your recreation assets too. Time is not a good thing no matter how you look at it. However, all is not lost. You have to start planning before the definite signs of aging start – always good advice (ask some older celebrities).

Fixed assets, for the most part, have a life expectancy that is often based on a manufacturer’s recommendation, industry standards, best practices, etc. The point is everything wears out. The key is to plan for it by knowing when these assets ‘wear-out’ and reach their ‘end-of-life’.

Here is an eye opener.

Technical Safety BC (TSBC) released their Report on the arena incident in Fernie, BC. The Report states, “the incident was caused by a decision to operate the leaking curling chiller. Contributing to this decision was a failure to replace the aging chiller after it surpassed its recommended operational life-span.” The Report further concludes that “By failing to include safety risk management as an objective in the management of aging infrastructure, important safety and environmental impacts may not have been considered or fully assessed by qualified professionals.”

Although some may say “this is an unusual case and isn’t common”, I would suggest that it is NOT uncommon in our industry. Too often sucking every ounce of use out of our assets, operates them past end-of-life to the point-of-failure. Not the wisest plan given the comments above – especially when safety is not given a high enough priority over financial and political impacts.

“By failing to include safety risk management as an objective in the management of aging infrastructure, important safety and environmental impacts may not have been considered or fully assessed by qualified professionals.”

-TSBC Report on the arena incident in Fernie, B.C. on Oct. 17, 2017

How do we break this practice? Careful planning. The key is to scan the horizon and plan a course from there. I would guess that some are doing the basics now. Are you doing a capital budget plan for your facilities? Sure you are. If not, you should get started on a 5-year capital plan. Next, you are likely doing some form of depreciation of municipal assets. Combine your capital plan with your depreciation to give you a lifecycle plan.

At this point...

You should have an inventory of assets, know when they were purchased, know when they reach the end of their useful life, have carefully looked through your safety lens, have third party professional input, and have allocated funds to replace them. And, most importantly, Council has appreciated your due diligence, thoughtful planning and transparency and are funding your plan.

Now, get your preventative maintenance plan in place to ensure your assets are well cared for in your operating budgets – celebrities would call this miracle anti-aging cream. Having a preventative maintenance plan in place for your assets will help you reach the end-of-life, and perhaps a little further, but you can’t push it either.

Recommendation 2 of the TSBC Report states “Maintenance programs should be developed with professionals that have training and qualifications associated with maintenance life-cycle strategies and condition assessment.” Often, we rely on our contractors to provide that ‘professional/qualified’ opinion. The TSBC Report and background documents comment on this. TSBC touches upon the need to seek additional advice from other qualified third parties, as required, and we shouldn’t rely solely upon our contractor/supplier/ etc..

Want an example? When is the last time you had your brine tested? Your refrigeration contractor should be strongly encouraging this be done on a regular basis. If not, then what does this tell you? If you don’t know why brine testing is vitally important, read the Report to find out why. Brine testing should be one step in your preventative maintenance plan – a no-brainer, so to speak.

So where does this leave us?

Long term sustainability of our recreation facility is the shared goal for Councils (owners), operators, users, contractors, communities, etc. However, sustainability does not mean operating assets to the point-of failure and then dealing with the potential problems. This can lead to poor facelifts and other noticeable scars. It can turn beautiful to ugly.

Through good lifecycle and financial planning you can be prepared for the inevitable and keep your facilities open and operating without disregard for everyone’s safety. Your community may not notice the subtle changes, but they will notice how young your facility looks for its age. Hey, what every celebrity wants…

SPRA’s new Facility Management Module 3 course covers Capital Planning and Asset Management to help communities get started. Courses will be offered this fall and winter.

For More Information

For more information, contact me by phone at 306-780-9324 or by email at thanna@spra.sk.ca for more information.

Tim Hanna
SPRA Consultant - Facilities and Training