by Corinne Cheeseman, Head of Asset Knowledge and Paul Higham, Head of Service Planning and Asset Strategy, Sydney Water

Sydney Water has a 130 year history of asset management good practice and manages more than $60 billion of infrastructure assets to deliver world-class, essential services to its customers. To support its continuous improvement journey, the whole business will be looking towards aligning practices and standards, and better monitoring asset performance.

Sustainable asset management is an essential enabler to achieve Sydney Water’s vision.

We are committed to managing and operating our assets so that they effectively and efficiently provide services that deliver the right quality and quantity of water; manage wastewater and stormwater; examines resource risk and opportunity, as well as contributing to the liveability of the city.

Our approach has been a combination of people, process and information initiatives over the past few years, which has seen Sydney Water achieve increased asset management capability. This has led to improved outcomes for our customers.

People: diversity and inclusion

People are our most important asset and, with an aging workforce at Sydney Water and changes in customer expectations, we need to tap into a range of talent and improve our culture.

One of the ways Sydney Water is doing this is by focusing on gender diversity. Sydney Water launched its Diversity and Inclusion Plan in 2016 and has introduced gender diversity metrics which are reported monthly at the Sydney Water Executive level.

Several cross-organisation programs have targeted diversity issues over the past two years, including:

  • Establishment of a Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce
  • Women in MBA Program in partnership with the Macquarie Graduate School of Management, where Sydney Water is providing three scholarships to women
  • Gender diversity workshops by Dr Michael Kimmel, who advocates engaging men and women in gender equality issues
  • Mandated 50 per cent women successors for leadership positions in succession plans
  • Target to achieve a zero per cent gender pay gap by 2020 – Sydney Water’s current gender pay gap is three per cent, compared to an average 17.7 per cent across other water utilities

As a result, Sydney Water has achieved measurable improvements in women in leadership with more than a 10 per cent increase in females moving into leadership roles in the past two years.

Sydney Water is also on track to achieve its 40 per cent ‘women in leadership’ target by 2020.

This positions Sydney Water to respond to a challenging external environment with significant growth and enables us to be innovative by attracting and retaining the talent needed for planning and delivering new water solutions for Sydney.

Process: asset renewals

Sydney Water has improved unplanned and ad-hoc treatment plant asset renewals to provide greater transparency and longer lead time for scheduling work and forecasting investment needs.

Unplanned projects generally cost more to deliver, consume more resources and create safety and environmental hazards.

Asset renewal at Sydney Water aims to maintain our assets so that they deliver the agreed level of service, at an acceptable level of risk and lowest lifecycle cost, which collectively delivers maximum customer value.  

The renewals planning process was designed to use asset ‘consequence of failure’ and condition assessment grade to trigger asset renewals and generate prudent rolling investment plans for treatment plant assets.

The three key drivers for the process design were:

  • Customer value and transparency
  • Risk and asset lifecycle management
  • Operational efficiency and effectiveness of key asset management processes

The renewals planning process aligns with our asset management policy and forms part of our asset management system. Sydney Water has committed to our regulator that our asset management systems will be consistent with ISO 55000 by June 2018 and certified by June 2019.

Financial, productivity and strategic benefits were delivered through the project to improve the renewals planning process, including a more robust allocation of funds to assets over a five year period.

Over this time, $470 million was allocated to renewals through capital expenditure, with a $150 million overhaul of operation expenses.

Sydney Water is now looking to standardise the process across all asset classes. This enables us to justify the right investment on the right asset at the right time, and has reduced costs to the business.

Information: data driven asset management

This includes information held within asset management information systems; the geospatial representation of assets; models; drawings and other content such as photographs, video and reports.

Asset information is categorised into eight layers to organise information and represent inter-relationships.
(Figure 1).

The information layers are:

Sydney Water produces and uses data, information, content, records and knowledge to manage its assets.

What – Descriptive asset information including physical and functional data

Where – Location data relating to physical and geospatial attributes

Capability – The ability for an asset to perform activities or specified tasks

Work – Information related to future or historic maintenance activities

Utilisation – Data related to the efficiency of use for assets

Performance – Time dependent measures of how the network, system and asset is performing against the targeted outputs

Condition – Time dependent state of an asset throughout the asset lifecycle

Cost – Finance data related to capital acquisition, operation, maintenance and cost of disposal to determine whole of life cost of an asset

Sydney Water identifies information used to support key business processes and asset management decision making and develops corresponding data standards to ensure this information is governed.

These standards enable Sydney Water to apply a consistent way to capture, update and monitor asset information throughout its lifecycle.

Sydney Water uses its data quality capability to regularly report compliance with the standards and to identify targeted programs to improve data quality.

The future

Our asset management capability of people, processes and information enables Sydney Water to deliver on our corporate objectives and commitments to our customers and stakeholders through our assets now and into the future.

Corinne Cheeseman is the Head of Asset Knowledge at Sydney Water. She has over 20 years’ experience in the water industry having worked at water utilities, in the private sector and with national bodies. Corinne has built and led data and analytics teams that have increased the use and access of data and insights for planning, building and managing assets at Sydney Water.

Paul Higham is the Head of Service Planning and Asset Strategy, which supports Sydney Water’s infrastructure investment portfolio and drives the development partnerships that contribute to Sydney’s liveability and growth. Paul has more than 20 years’ experience in regulated and non-regulated businesses across the whole asset value chain, including strategy and planning, asset acquisition, operations management and maintenance delivery.

Charlotte Pordage is Editor of Utility magazine, a position she has held since November 2018. She joined the team as an Associate Editor in October 2017, after sharpening her writing and editing skills across a range of print and digital publications. Charlotte graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2011 with joint honours in English and Latin. When she's not putting together Australia's only dedicated utility magazine, she can usually be found riding her horse or curled up with a good book.

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