An important aspect of any construction project is asset management - properly looking after the building once it is operational.

The key to good asset management is asset data management - organizing and looking after all the warranties, plans, drawings and documents from the build and having them available for reference to best operate and maintain the building and its equipment throughout its life cycle.  

There is only so much profit to be had in any construction project, and all of the many stakeholders are in competition for their slice of that profit. That makes them susceptible to short-term thinking. Having the vision to invest in setting up proper asset management from the very start will save you money in the long run.  

What Is Asset Management?

Huge amounts are invested in constructing and fitting out a building with top quality equipment, so if something breaks down it's going to cost money. However, the manufacturer doesn't want to pay for it and neither does the installer, and each might deny liability. This is why the owner must have their documentation in order - so there is traceability, to prove whoever is responsible for the problem is liable.

For example, if there is a problem with your boiler, you would take the issue to the supplier/installer first, and then they can take it back further to the manufacturer. So with proper asset management you can look into your document database and find all the supplier or manufacturer information that you need.

Mechanical and electrical suppliers are probably affected more than many other stakeholders by this process, but building owners are affected most as they are ones with most to lose.

What Are The Common Problems With Asset Management?

If asset management isn't handled properly, there are two major problems that commonly arise.

The first of these is down-time, when your building is not functioning. Whether they are offices, hotels, shops or anything else, if there's a maintenance problem serious enough that you have to temporarily shut your building and you don't have your assets properly managed, then you have a very big and very costly problem.

But probably even more serious is if you want to sell your building and you don't have all the asset information stored and detailed, because then you're not going to be able to sell it - you need to have all the assets accounted for.

Other problems can arise around knowledge and information ownership. It could be the case that all the institutional knowledge about a building could lie with one person, but they may move job or retire.

On mega-buildings, they use a third-party facilities management supplier to look after the building. Sometimes an owner can have a commercial problem with this third party and want to change them but find they can't because they don't have all the original data to set up a full maintenance strategy for the building.

The traditional method of collecting and keeping all this information was on paper. This meant huge amounts of it were stored in a room or basement. In particularly large buildings, such as airports, there might be a huge warehouse full of paper documents.

The reality of working with paper was that someone would say, "I need to fix the boiler", they would take a piece of paper from a file, take it up to the boiler, spill tea on it, and then forget to put it back in the file so the next time they go to fix the boiler the information they need is gone. Paper is unreliable, little things can go wrong and  keeping track of updates is very difficult.

How does the Zutec platform assist with asset management?

These problems became irrelevant with cloud management. With a digital solution employed throughout the construction period, all of the data is being gradually accumulated and handed over to the owner as stages are complete. In the end, they have a single source of truth, securely stored in the cloud, easily accessible and searchable.  

"We provide a centralized, configured, searchable, relational database full of all your asset data," says Zutec chief executive Brendan O'Riordan.

Immediately, maintenance is much easier - if you need to do some work on a part of the building, you can easily access all the plans, drawings, documents, warranties, etc, that you need through a simple search. And there's no risk the documents you use can be damaged or lost.

It allows you to service your assets as they should be serviced and to match that against the warranties. "So if we are looking after your building and doing your maintenace, the warranty is covered," says O'Riordan. "It protects your assets so that if something goes wrong, you can go back to the provider and say 'we followed the steps you gave us, therefore the problem goes back to you'."

Actually owning the asset data from the start allows for the easy transfer of knowledge. If you were using a paper solution and had to get rid of your third-party supplier, but didn't own all your own asset data, then you'd have to spend a lot of money bringing in a consulting engineer to rebuild that data for you. They would make lists of everything you have, talking to your suppliers, etc, and this could take up to a year. Rebuilding this knowledge base can be hugely expensive.

Working with Zutec, the owner would have all this asset data from handover, and then can transfer that data over to their own asset management software, and still hold on to Zutec as back-up. The data is alive, organic, and grows with the building - and management of this in the cloud is much easier.

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