Infrastructure Maintenance Requires a Methodical Approach

Condition assessment allows public sector agencies to guarantee the
delivery of safe, reliable, and efficient service to their constituents

By Steve Beard

All local public sector agencies face a common set of challenges. They need to ascertain the condition of organizational assets to monitor and maintain performance, make intelligent capital investment decisions regarding aging assets, and secure necessary funds for re-investment from city council. Ultimately, condition assessment allows public sector agencies to guarantee the delivery of safe, reliable, and efficient service to their constituents.

Maintenance and operations teams of public agencies aim to maintain a high level of asset reliability, provide a clean and attractive plant with efficient services, and create safe working conditions for employees. Additionally, they seek to manage facility assets through infrastructure stabilization and manage the design, implementation, and construction of capital projects and physical improvements along with all maintenance programs.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, condition assessment is “the process of inspecting an asset to collect data that is used to measure its condition and performance.” This includes regular inspections and evaluations of an asset’s condition, performance characteristics, and the risks of failures.

There are three essential elements to condition assessment:

Inspection: A physical and visual examination of the asset is necessary to begin. When an agency has thousands of assets, this can present a significant challenge in both time and labor.

Assessment: The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) created a suggested condition rating scale for transit agencies called the Transit Economic Requirements Model (TERM). TERM is a numeric rating scale from 1-5, where 5 is excellent and 1 is poor. An asset is in a state of good repair when its physical condition is at or above 2.5. Based on the inspection, agencies can create their own assessment approach, but must be able to justify the rationale.

Estimation: Evaluating the investment requirement to rehabilitate or replace assets in less than good repair is the final step. This is considered the most difficult part of the process.

To begin, it is important to determine why condition assessment is valuable. This helps agencies make decisions on resources, time, and energy. For some organizations, this question is not answered by regulatory and compliance requirements, but by goals of migrating to a condition-based monitoring and predictive maintenance strategy rather than a reactive maintenance strategy.

The next step is to establish who will participate on the project. Creating a balanced team ensures the condition assessment process will benefit from different skills and points of view and avoid preferential treatment. Teams should consist of individuals with a strong working knowledge of their domain and the entirety of plant operations.

Following the creation of the team, public sector agencies must determine what needs to be assessed and how. Identify what assets will be assessed initially. Phase one of the assessment should include the most critical assets and determine the actual assessment method. This is done by configuring mobile checklists and designing reports that will be used to provide city council with the rationale behind investment requests.

Assets should be assessed on physicality, performance, probability, and productivity.

Physicality: An assessment of physical condition. Teams should look for oil leaks, rust, water leaks, cracking/fractures, and deterioration. This means walking the grounds, locating the equipment, and performing a visual inspection using the mobile checklist. Mobile devices make processes more efficient and less time-consuming. Condition ratings are then input for each asset on the mobile checklist, which automatically feeds the scores into the EAM system.

Performance: Assessing characteristics inherent in this organization’s unique set of assets, including: current and future capacity; mechanical efficiency; retention time; adequacy of mixing; process stability; control; and level of storage. Answers to these performance metrics are based on operational systems data combined with maintenance history stored in the EAM system.

Probability: Scoring the asset based on its frequency of failure, or MTBF, based on a systematic review of equipment maintenance history stored in the EAM system.

Productivity: Ask: If this asset goes down, how will it impact our plant productivity? Service? Safety? Financial position? The answer to these productivity questions should be based on each asset’s criticality, risk, and historical performance.

The collection of the assessment data is only the first step. The goal is to use the combinations of ratings to prioritize reinvestment in the rehabilitation or replacement of assets. Completing the analysis also involves gathering other types of data such as life cycle attributes and maintenance history.

Having this data available in a single repository, i.e. EAM systems, helps agencies formulate algorithms and report output in a meaningful way that is easy to explain.

Steve Beard is Senior Principal of Program Service at Global EAM. He may be reached at