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The role of proactive infrastructure asset maintenance programs in civil unrest recovery

Author | Julia Mamakoko, Business Development Executive

With an estimated R 50 billion cost to the economy, there is no doubt that the July 2021 civil unrest in KwaZulu-Natal, and certain parts of Gauteng, has left South Africa poorer. While more than 300 lives were lost, the excessive looting also resulted in the destruction of infrastructure.

The memories are painful, but life goes on, and so must the services that organisations deliver. Social unrest is a global phenomenon. In some respects, the global COVID-19 pandemic has served as a catalyst to exacerbate issues already in play before the pandemic. Whether on climate change, income inequality, refugees, race and gender equality, every type of activism is more intense than ever before. It is a stark reality that organisations should consider and prepare for as best they can. The way forward is to apply a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to managing all crises. This approach includes a sound asset management strategy.

For those with a sound maintenance plan in place, picking up and carrying on servicing their clients are easier. So what are the elements to look out for in a good maintenance plan that will help asset and facilities owners to recover faster from such disruptive events?

What to look out for in a good maintenance plan

At a minimum, a good maintenance management program will have the following:

  • A comprehensive, up to date asset register that includes maintainable and non-maintainable assets.
  • Maintenance tasks against each maintainable asset, including instructions and required resources. For instance, what must be done, by who and how, and whether additional resources such as spare or certificates are needed.
  • Maintenance schedules for the tasks identified, including replacement details
  • The maintenance costs against each maintainable asset, including labour and spares
  • Provision for compliance or statutory requirements for specific assets

To ensure that the correct maintenance is done on the right asset at the right time, all of the elements mentioned above should be configured into a computerised maintenance management system (CMMS) or enterprise asset management system (EAMS) such as On Key (add link). With the right system of record and business intelligence reporting tools such as On Key Insights, asset owners get a better understanding of the asset life cycle costs of their assets.

In the event of unrest, natural disaster, or unforeseen events such as fire, information such as the asset register and associated activities, or tasks, becomes critical for assessing the damage, costs and competencies required to repair or replace. As most web-based programs often come with a hosting service, accessing information after a disaster becomes easy. However, this maintenance plan should not be treated in isolation from emergency, disaster recovery and business continuity plans. Therefore, the ability to resume services depends on how well your maintenance management plan and program are integrated into the other plans within your organisation.

Think about what infrastructure does rather than what it is (Casier, 2015). For instance, a road is not just a thing that connects two places. A road helps to improve access to services. Considering the number of ambulance trips on a specific road puts its value into greater perspective and amplifies its value. For this reason, asset management should be applied to improve the resilience of infrastructure, or in other words, the ability of such infrastructure systems (including their interconnected ecosystems and social systems) to absorb disturbances and still retain their primary function and structural capacity.

Steps to ensure assets and facilities safety when resuming services

From a maintenance management perspective, these steps are crucial in ensuring assets and facilities are safe to operate when resuming services:

Step 1: Asset identification, verification and condition assessment. This will give you extend of the damage and costs to repair.

Step 2: Review of maintenance tasks and schedules as loaded into the maintenance management program. This will give an overview of what was budgeted for and allow budget reprioritisation to attend to critical assets. Some of the budget could come from insurance covers.

Step 3: Get repairs done on critical assets that are needed immediately to resume services.

The agility in executing these steps depends on the environment, whether it is public or private. For example, municipalities and state-owned entities are governed by the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) and Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) which can prolong the appointment of resources where services are outsourced. In contrast, private entities have flexibility in appointing the same resources. In both environments, a sound maintenance plan for facilities and assets is important.

Pragma has over 30 years of experience in developing asset management strategies and plans for clients in various sectors. For more information on our services per sector, click here

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