However, the nature of mega projects has changed over the years with the available technologies, financial landscapes, and environmental issues. It soon became clear that new and more mature operating models were required to ensure that the assets could not only improve the project’s lifecycle but also reach better operational goals.
Engie Solutions, an international leader in accelerating the transition towards a carbon-neutral economy, provide environmentally-friendly energy and innovative integrated facilities management solutions for communities, industries and properties, gives an insight into how the inclusion of a digital asset is the key to a sustained asset lifecycle performance.
Asset Lifecycle Changes in the Digital Age
Managing an asset lifecycle is of utmost importance as it directly correlates with the asset-related investment decision making. It is also the key to achieving sustainable results in asset performance. While different assets have different strategies, in terms of the built environment, effective asset management usually involves reducing operational costs through optimizing performance, as well as extending the asset’s life far beyond its economic life by correct servicing before the asset is shut down and decommissioned.
Bart Holsters, General Manager, Engie Solutions, says that this is where effective operations and maintenance plays an important role. “A short-term vision, in general, does not pay off. Yes, it is easy to save a few dollars by cutting down on technical services, but the ultimate price is high. The immediate impact is felt through increased utility costs. Clogged filters, mechanical friction, harmonics, and left building controls may go unnoticed in many cases, but it will silently raise the utility spent to almost as high as 45% and more. The second impact will not go unnoticed. Premature breakdown will start creating endless frustration for the occupants, along with the costs of repairs and overhauls. Complete asset replacement will weigh heavily on the budget and render once mighty investments to money eating nightmares,” he cautions.
What is critical to the success of the asset lifecycle is to provide a holistic approach that addresses not only infrastructure assets but also supports resources, business processes, data, and enables technologies.
“Such a holistic approach to life cycle asset management enables vast amounts of asset data to be effectively managed and leveraged on a practical day-to-day business level,” says Holsters, who adds that ENGIE Solutions institutionalizes asset management and make it a focus of their day-to-day business.
So the question arises, how does one ensure the longevity of an asset? “Many think of buildings and infrastructure as being very permanent structures. Cities are filled with them, in some cases, some decades or even hundreds of years old. However, just like anything else in this world, the built environment also depreciates over time. A building has life cycles, and if that building is not correctly maintained, operated and retrofitted, that structure will not survive, nor will it reach its economic life,” says Holsters.
For an efficient asset life cycle management process to take place, it is essential to define a maintenance strategy and have a plan for the performance operations. Furthermore, an asset is required to be monitored, analyzed, and both tangible and non-tangible value has to be measured. “In other words, you need engineering expertise and asset management platforms to collect, interpret, and turn vast amounts of asset data into value. This is exactly what ENGIE Solutions do through their iCEE platform (Integrated Controls for Engineering and Environment) - a high-tech, smart building platform full of gizmos and goodies to get the best out of an asset in terms of comfort, efficiency, reliability, and total cost of ownership,” contributes Holsters.
Through this, Engie Solutions can forecast where and when intervention is needed and when critical investments should occur in an asset’s overall performance. Understanding the data helps the decision-making and budgeting of the usual, limited, CAPEX and OPEX budgets. “Without understanding the condition of a building or infrastructure, it will be a difficult to predict future performance. A good understanding of the cost and risk associated with implementing or deferring system improvements is critical. Emerging technologies provide that capacity to look into the future and predict accurately what is likely to happen, and can thus prevent disaster and elevated costs for both operation and repair,” says Holsters.
The ongoing pandemic has surely changed a lot of things. When it comes to the lifecycle management of an asset, there are bound to be challenges involved. But, Holsters says that the pandemic also proved that one can use technology to tackle any problem.
One of the key lessons learned from the pandemic is to work from home, and Holsters says that they never imagined that this would be so easy to accomplish. “At ENGIE Solutions, we had already understood that remote monitoring through our centralized Operations Control Centre is of significant value to optimize performance at zero cost. The new normal will only accelerate such remote management of buildings; there will be less human involvement on site, and the reduced travel time will also add to a significant reduction in costs and result in carbon savings,” he adds.
The power of centralized, remote control where machine-learning techniques accurately highlight issues that are immediately assessed by a team of expert engineers, will result in rapid scaling up of the number of connected buildings. Smart building infrastructures, the Internet of Buildings (IoB) will become the new normal and driver for effective asset life cycle management, saving millions of dollars instantly.
Engie Solutions’ Initiatives
The first important step of managing the lifecycle of assets in a building is ensuring that all the required parameters are collected accurately. Traditionally, this was a laborious process that was exposed to time restrictions and human error. However, ENGIE Solutions utilizes the latest smartphone application technology to identify, measure, and record key attributes and ensure a solid foundation for asset management in the future.
Robert White, Head of Technology and Innovation, Engie Solutions, says that the key to life cycle management is to understand both the goals of the client and advise them on a strategy that combines both technical and financial management. “Asset life cycle and maintenance strategy are intrinsically linked. ENGIE Solutions provides automated asset lifecycle assessments as part of our Computer-Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) services, driven by smart building technology platforms. These reports give our clients visibility and control over asset cost by forecasting spend by year and replacement costs by system and condition,” adds White.
ENGIE’s smart building technology has driven life cycle management to another level by improving the availability of data and process efficiency, allowing swift deployment and decreasing the manpower required for management. Tasks that would have been traditionally completed in weeks can be completed in hours or days and to a higher standard.
Future for asset lifecycle management
The accuracy and success of an asset management strategy ultimately depend on the multiple parameters that are input. This is a combination of assets, facilities management, and energy data. “Historically, this has been collected at scheduled intervals or using spot measurements. As a market leader in technology and innovation, ENGIE Solutions utilizes Smart Building Technology to collect the data live from existing equipment on site; which is then aggregated and analyzed in our Operations Control Centre,” says White.
As the digital world continues to grow at an exponential rate, asset management and IT are continuing to converge. Digital Twins are a virtual representation of assets that can be used to forecast performance and predict issues. These solutions will become even more prevalent in the future as part of cloud-based solutions.
In the future, when all assets become smart, the traditional approach to asset management will become obsolete. However, it is important to remember that an existing asset’s life can be 15 – 20 years. ENGIE Solutions is bridging the gap by utilizing the latest IoT technology to collect additional information from existing assets and make data-driven decisions on asset performance and lifecycle.