The Town of East Gwillimbury has established a holistic approach to asset management, implementing good governance and data management practices, that has set the stage for the continuation of their asset management program. The Town is currently working on solidifying their processes for information management and roles and responsibilities for their staff, integrating asset management into the day-to-day activities of the organization.
1. How Asset Management is Becoming a Priority in East Gwillimbury
The Town of East Gwillimbury is located approximately thirty minutes north of the City of Toronto within York Region. It has a diverse range of assets, as it is made up of both urban and rural spaces. The Town has planned for growth for over 30 years and when allocation for serving became available the Town saw a growth boom, increasing their population by 28 percent throughout 2016-2018 alone (from approximately 22,000 to 28,600). Managing this level of growth became the corporate priority for the Town, with asset management slowly emerging from its shadow. While it was unable to be top priority, Town staff understood the importance of asset management and its ability to assist with the management of the growth of its core infrastructure portfolio.
East Gwillimbury began its asset management journey like most Ontario municipalities: through completing its mandatory road and bridge needs studies, requiring the completion of many core asset management practices (condition assessments, lifecycle management, risk analysis, etc.). These studies forced many Ontario municipalities, through funding requirements, to engage in asset management for the first time.
In 2009, the introduction of PSAB reporting requirements made it a requirement of municipalities to account for their tangible capital assets on their financial statements. East Gwillimbury acquired CityWide Asset Manager (AM) software in order to streamline its tangible capital asset reporting. The focus at the time was simply to get the information uploaded into the software, but not to further advance asset management practices. Following the implementation of the CityWide AM software in 2014, the Town began developing the first iterations of its Asset Management Plan (AMP). The first AMP consisted of two separate documents: the first document was made up of core infrastructure assets (roads, bridges, water, wastewater, and stormwater) and the second document contained other asset classes such as facilities, fleet, land improvements, etc. Subsequently in 2015, East Gwillimbury began phase two of its asset management program development through implementing an Asset Management Roadmap, meant to consolidate the existing information into one overarching AMP and further enhance its asset management reporting and long-term planning for asset intervention.
The Town has consistently worked to not only adhere to asset management regulations, but also to advance its practices in order to effectively manage continued growth. While the Town has faced several challenges in effectively prioritizing asset management with competing priorities and limited capacity, it has made considerable strides in its asset management program development.
2. Overcoming Asset Management Challenges
Every municipality experiences unique challenges when implementing asset management practices – East Gwillimbury is no exception. The Town struggled with internal capacity and effectively executing all of its asset management priorities. In short, given their competing priorities, asset management remained on the periphery.
When the Town began its original AMP project, the focus was meant to be on creating the final plan. However, the scope of the project quickly evolved to include the implementation of a customer relationship management (CRM) and work order management system. Implementing and prioritizing a complex initiative was difficult to do in an effective manner and staff are still working towards fully implementing their original asset management project priorities. Having to balance opportunities and desire with reality, the Town focused on prioritizing what is needed for today.
In 2017, staff capacity began to grow as the community grew as well. During this time, an asset management champion was introduced into the organization, which marked a fundamental switch in philosophy to approach asset management holistically. Prior to 2017, the majority of asset data was legacy based and drew from original PSAB financial data, stored in a tabular, spreadsheet format and difficult to navigate. Information was collected for limited purpose – little consideration was given to how this data could be used to assist in various day-to-day functions across the organization. This resulted in a heightened awareness for Good Information Management.
East Gwillimbury set out to implement new philosophies, firstly in the Community Infrastructure and Environmental Services Department, generating staff buy-in of new asset management practices. The focus was intended to switch from simply collecting and loading information, to a more holistic view of how the organization can benefit from the practice of asset management. Denny Boskovski, C.E.T., Asset Management and Capital Project Manager, works as the Town’s asset management champion, bringing in new ideas that would assist in moving their asset management program forward.
The philosophy behind East Gwillimbury’s program considers four key elements: people, process, information, and technology.
In addition, the Town understands the importance of operational needs. While operational is a broad overarching term, it emphasizes the importance of understanding everything from an asset’s service life, having access to proper information, as well as how seemingly unrelated functions are related and are dependent upon one another. Foremost, this was meant to mitigate the lack of consideration for how asset work impacts multiple business functions, and rather to see the work being done as a way to not only assist in present priorities, but ensure that it is building a sustainable future.
These core values are assisting to advance the Town’s overall asset management practices with a new, heightened awareness. In order to effectively move forward, staff are working to re-engineer data sets and evolve the initial Roadmap project. Through newly structured data, the Town has realized many new opportunities within its asset management and work order systems. The philosophical shift has allowed for a more robust implementation of its systems and realization of new capabilities. With asset management as an emerging priority within the organization, East Gwillimbury is making considerable strides towards a mature program that will greatly assist with many aspects of municipal business.
“As a manager, the vision I am seeking to implement is a high-performance corporate program that drives change for an integrated approach to deliver services that maximize benefits, manage risk, and are delivered at their lowest cost.”
-Denny Boskovski, C.E.T., Asset Management and Capital Project Manager
3. Moving Asset Management Forward in East Gwillimbury
The Town is completing an updated Asset Management Plan and Roadmap – a multi-year process for developing a sustainable asset management program. The process has elevated asset management within the organization and includes completing the necessary data restructuring work to move the program forward. The Roadmap process has had a substantial impact on building awareness about the importance of asset management practices and a move to advance practices across the organization.
The activities within the Roadmap have contributed to not only better and more usable asset data, but have supported more data driven activities and decisions. These include making data and data analytical support services readily available, automation for Minimum Maintenance Standards Road Class, and consolidating and automating the Traffic and Parking By-law, as well as developing and implementing risk models that use a series of criteria that take into account the probability and consequence of failure for its assets. In effect, asset attribute data is used to drive risk-based decision making.
Figure 1. Road Network Risk Rating
Figure 1 is an example of a risk rating and the type of data that is being used to evaluate risk for East Gwillimbury’s road network. The probability of failure is based on the current physical condition of roads, whereas the consequence of failure looks at four separate risk parameters: Economic, Operational, Social, and Health and Safety. When developing these risk models, East Gwillimbury attached unique indicators for the different risk parameters for the consequence of failure. The risk rating produced by this model provides insight into its most critical assets and how the Town can best prioritize them within capital plans and with limited funding. This is but one of many examples of how the Town has benefitted from the Roadmap process and has been able to develop more effective asset management practices.
As the Town completes the Roadmap process and finalizes its updated Asset Management Plan, they have several things planned to continue developing their practices. The Town plans to focus on deeper integration and automation from when assets are put into service or renewed, tangible capital asset reporting, complex customer relationship and work orders. They are fortunate to have a genuinely engaged workforce that wants to use the tool and unlock its full potential. Staff are actively wanting to use the system for its basic functions and finding innovative ways to improve day-to-day operations. As the asset management journey moves forward, East Gwillimbury wants to get to a place where its conducting proactive maintenance planning and execution through the use of its work order system. Staff are restructuring and aligning data to this and many other business driver ends.
In order to comply with Ontario Regulation 588/17, which prescribes that Ontario municipalities must have an asset management policy in place by July 1, 2019, East Gwillimbury will finalize its asset management policy. This will assist in creating a common framework, governance structure and corporate vocabulary, all to embed asset management practices throughout the organization and further advance their priorities throughout 2019 and beyond.
In 2019, the Town will also seek to integrate its updated data sets into various systems (i.e. dashboards, capital budgeting, asset management, CRM, work order, etc.), enhancing data management and analytical practices. East Gwillimbury has found that systems architecture design and how asset information is being managed and used is pertinent to staff’s effectiveness in their roles. Therefore, the Town is taking a holistic view that will lead to more solid processes to manage information that have standard operating procedures behind them to ensure that they are sustainable. East Gwillimbury will continue to work towards improving its data and the use of its systems, embedding philosophies and asset management practices into day-to-day activities and over time, becoming the institution.
There have been several challenges that the Town has overcome to establish its asset management practices. And, while East Gwillimbury will continue to iron out its processes and improve its asset data, the Town has made significant strides towards having an organization-wide approach to asset management.
One of the main lessons learned throughout the process has been that proper project planning, collaboration, and design before execution is integral. Taking on more than your organization is able to implement will not benefit your overall program and with better planning, many of these issues can be mitigated. Further, proper data management practices can be extremely beneficial for your organization. East Gwillimbury has been fortunate to implement robust data management practices for its asset management program and has staff that are committed to updating their data and using their systems to their full capacity. With the realization that proper use of asset data can have positive impacts on your overall organizational priorities, asset management benefits are becoming more apparent every day.
Asset Management Champion
DENNY BOSKOVSKI, C.E.T., Asset Management and Capital Project Manager, has been with the Town of East Gwillimbury since 2017, working on furthering their asset management program. He has established himself as their asset management champion, set out to consolidate their asset management practices and introduce an organization-wide approach to asset management.