What is infrastructure asset management (IAM)?
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What is IAM?

Infrastructure asset management (IAM) is an integrated, multidisciplinary asset management system for sustaining public infrastructure systems through their entire lifecycles, from design to decommissioning or disposal) of critical infrastructure and physical assets. 

Infrastructure systems such as wastewater treatment plants, telecommunications networks, sewer lines, roads, utility grids, bridges, and railways are all managed through infrastructure asset management.

In 2022 alone, the United States spent more than USD 36 billion on infrastructure projects, transferring another USD 94.5 billion to state governments.1 From the roads and bridges we drive on, to the electricity networks that power our homes and workplaces, infrastructure is critical to everyday life. If not properly managed, the consequences can be costly and severe, ranging from service disruptions to catastrophic failures that result in loss of life and/or damage to property.

But IAM isn’t just about maintaining and repairing assets. It also enables organizations to optimize assets and service offerings by encouraging strategic decision-making and targeted risk management practices. By managing infrastructure assets strategically and systematically, organizations can improve service delivery, extend asset lifespan, reduce lifecycle costs, and minimize the risks that are associated with asset failure.

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Key elements of IAM

The infrastructure asset management process is a complex ecosystem of components and practices, including:

  1. Asset inventory
  2. Condition assessment
  3. Level of service (LOS)
  4. Life cycle costing
  5. Risk management
  6. Long-term financial planning
  • Asset inventory: When executing an asset management plan, it’s essential to compile a comprehensive inventory of all infrastructure assets. This includes information about the asset's location, age, condition, capacity, and other important characteristics.
  • Condition assessment: Condition assessments are systematic processes that evaluate the current state of an asset. Maintenance teams use this information to predict when an asset needs repair or replacement, which is crucial for effective planning and budgeting.
  • Level of service (LOS): The performance requirements for an asset are called its “level of service.” LOS can be based on the quality, quantity, reliability and/or responsiveness of the service provided by the asset. 
  • Life cycle costing: Life cycle costing accounts for all costs associated with an infrastructure investment over its lifespan, including planning, design, construction, operation, maintenance, rehabilitation, and disposal costs.
  • Risk management: Risk management in IAM involves identifying and assessing risks that are associated with the failure of infrastructure assets. Once risks are identified, maintenance teams can develop strategies to manage them. 
  • Long-term financial planning: Many infrastructure assets are built to last decades. Therefore, IAM requires long-term financial planning to ensure that the necessary resources are available for the operation, maintenance, and replacement of infrastructure assets.
Lifecycle of IAM

Naturally, asset management strategies vary from organization to organization, depending on each facility’s unique needs. However, the IAM lifecycle comprises roughly seven steps:

 1. Planning

The IAM process begins with identifying asset needs (for example, new asset requirements and/or asset replacement), keeping in mind the organization's strategic objectives and how the asset will serve them. The planning stage also involves a cost-benefit analysis, feasibility studies, and the development of an initial asset design. 

 2. Design and procurement

The next step in the IAM lifecycle is designing the asset and procuring the necessary resources to build it. This should include creating detailed designs and specifications, determining all necessary materials and resources, locating those resources and developing detailed cost estimates.   

3. Construction or acquisition

In this stage, the organization builds or acquires the asset, implementing the design plans and specifications from the previous phase. This phase also includes testing the asset to ensure that it meets design specifications and organizational needs.

4. Operation

Once the asset is built and installed, it moves into the operation phase, where it’s used for its intended purpose. Organizations should conduct regular asset monitoring to ensure that the asset is performing as expected throughout its lifespan.

5. Maintenance and upgrades

Maintaining the asset is a critical part of the IAM lifecycle. Maintenance is an ongoing process that includes scheduled preventive maintenance to keep the asset running efficiently and effectively. As well as reactive maintenance to repair any issues that arise unexpectedly along with upgrades and improvements to enhance asset performance or extend asset lifespan.

6. Renewal/replacement

Eventually, every asset reaches the end of its life. And over time, assets can become less effective or even obsolete. When this happens, the asset is either renewed—wherein the asset undergoes major repairs or refurbishment to extend its useful life—or is replaced. Replacing an asset involves safely dismantling and disposing of the old asset and installing a new one.  

7. Review and audit

The final stage of the IAM process involves reviewing and auditing the entire process to identify any areas for improvement, ensuring continuous IAM lifecycle optimization.

IAM use cases

Organizations across a range of industries in the public and private sectors rely on IAM to get the most out of infrastructure assets. Some noteworthy use cases for IAM include: 

Municipalities and cities

Cities and municipalities are responsible for many public works assets, including roads, bridges, public real estate, parks, water supply and sewer systems, and more. They use IAM to manage these assets in a systematic way. For example, a city might use IAM to prioritize road repairs based on factors like road condition, traffic volume and available budget, ensuring that the most urgent repairs are completed first. IAM can also help state and local governments implement sustainable development initiatives, as populations start to shift and relocate due to climate change.

Utilities

Utility companies manage extensive infrastructure networks that deliver essential services like electricity, gas, and water. They rely on IAM to ensure reliable utility service and minimize outages and downtime. A water utility can use IAM to predict when a water main is likely to fail and schedule preventive maintenance to avoid a disruptive and costly water main break.

Transportation agencies

Transportation agencies manage highways, railways, airports, and seaports. These organizations use IAM to maintain assets and ensure safe, efficient transportation. In a highway system, for instance, IAM can help manage everything from pavement condition to signage and safety barrier functionality to rest stop efficiency.

Energy sector

In the energy sector, IAM plays an integral role in managing assets like power plants, wind turbines, solar panels, and power transmission and distribution networks. For instance, predictive maintenance—a key component of IAM—can help energy companies anticipate and mitigate failures in their energy production and transmission infrastructure. By identifying potential issues before they occur, companies can avoid blackouts and ensure a reliable supply of energy to stakeholders.

Healthcare facilities

Healthcare facilities like hospitals and clinics rely on infrastructure to deliver critical services. This includes not only the buildings themselves but also the complex medical equipment, HVAC systems and IT networks medical and administrative staff use. Therefore, using IAM, these organizations can ensure asset reliability and availability, and enhance patient care and health outcomes.

Educational institutions

Schools, colleges, and universities own and operate a wide range of assets, from classrooms and laboratories to libraries and sports facilities. These institutions use IAM to ensure that these facilities are safe and well-maintained, providing a conducive environment for learning and activity. With an effective IAM, schools can plan for future capacity needs, manage maintenance and repair schedules to minimize disruption, and ensure compliance with safety and other regulatory standards.

Data centers

Implementing IAM programs can also pay dividends at data centers, which house companies’ IT infrastructure. Managing assets like servers, storage devices, network equipment and power and cooling systems is vital to the performance of these facilities. Data centers can use IAM to monitor the condition of data assets in real time and help managers optimize connectivity and asset use.

Waste management facilities

Waste management facilities (for example landfills, recycling centers and waste-to-energy plants) use infrastructure assets to handle and process waste. IAM can help these facilities optimize assets, manage risk, comply with regulations, and ensure the sustainability and environmental safety of waste management practices.

The future of IAM

As we look to the future, Industry 4.0 technologies like AI, machine learning, and Internet of Things, along with process innovation, will have a profound impact on asset management practices. Making process automation and standardization the industry norm.

Advanced technologies can help automate and enhance various aspects of IAM. For example, geographic information systems (GIS) captures, stores, analyzes, and visualizes geospatial data (for example, maps, satellite imagery, aerial photographs, survey data, and so on). Integrating GIS with IAM systems adds spatial context to asset data, helping managers better understand the relationship between assets, their location, and their surrounding environment.

Furthermore, countries and regions around the world (like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, among others) have started to adopt international standards and best practices for effective asset management. The ISO 55000 series, for instance, provides guidelines and frameworks for asset management processes, helping organizations worldwide establish consistently effective IAM practices. 

IAM is a critical to ensuring sustainable, efficient infrastructure asset usage. And the field is set to become even more sophisticated, paving the way for smarter, more resilient infrastructure systems that serve us well into the future.

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Footnotes

1 What does America spend on transportation and infrastructure? (link resides outside ibm.com), USA Facts