Civil Engineers Digitally Manage Utility Assets1 Dec, 2021 By: Andrew G. Roe
Civil Engineering: Software helps agencies match repair actions with risk.
Utility owners are often challenged to operate and maintain aging systems with limited budgets. Water, sewer, and other pipes may be out-of-sight and out-of-mind to the average citizen, but owners and engineers are faced with determining when to repair or replace pipes and other components--preferably before they break, leak, or fail in some other manner.
Recent software advancements are helping agencies better monitor utility assets and prioritize renewal projects. By assimilating data from numerous sources and analyzing failure risks, agencies can make better decisions and proactively maintain their systems, rather than reactively fix systems after failure occurs.
Staying Ahead of Deterioration
One software tool, InfoAsset Planner from Innovyze, allows users to build renewal and replacement roadmaps to track asset deterioration and prioritize renewal projects based on available budgets. Innovyze, acquired by Autodesk in early 2021, also recently introduced a cloud-based version, Info360 Asset, that brings real-time data and additional features into the picture.
With clean water availability and environmental stewardship gaining attention globally, software tools are playing key roles in maintaining water and sewer systems. Owners are seeking ways to methodically analyze their systems and avoid problematic events such as sewer overflows, which can be major headaches and also lead to pollution of waterways.
“The importance of water from a societal perspective is increasing. The level of environmental awareness and the emphasis on sustainable goals have really come to the forefront,” said Brian Deeley, Innovyze’s director of product management.
Info360 Asset shows asset summary information for sewer pipes, including asset connection, risk results, and associated video inspections. Image source: Innovyze.
InfoAsset Planner can use data from video inspections, electronic leak location, acoustic sensors, and other sources to assess failure risks and prioritize asset repairs. Users can build deterioration models to statistically predict future pipe failures and prioritize actions with decision tree tools, considering condition, risk, and budget.
Consultant West Yost & Associates recently used InfoAsset Planner to perform a risk assessment of sanitary sewer creek crossings for a client in California. The work included evaluating likelihood of failure (LOF) and consequence of failure (COF) for more than 300 crossings.
West Yost senior engineer Anne Girtz said InfoAsset Planner helped identify necessary repairs and other actions for the crossings. “We had a ton of information embedded into our LOF and COF, such as condition information and spatial information,” said Girtz. “From that we were able to develop our capital and maintenance actions. Actions ranged from putting crossings on a CCTV [closed-circuit television] watch list, to spot repair, to slope stabilization.” The actions were then phased based on LOF/COF scores and prioritized within each phase by overall risk score.
West Yost & Associates used InfoAsset Planner to assess risks for more than 300 creek crossings in California. Image source: West Yost & Associates.
Risk management can take an even more real-time approach using the new cloud-based Info360 Asset. With this tool, released at Autodesk University in October, users can integrate cloud-based data from sensors and other sources in real time, leveraging the most current data available to help owners make operations and maintenance (O&M) decisions. Info360 Asset also includes a direct, field-to-office workflow for bringing in video inspections and determining pipe conditions.
“A user in the field can log in through a simple web-based interface and upload inspections, ultimately connecting that data directly to the utility,” said Mike Maylone, Innovyze’s principal product manager for Info360 Asset. “This can ultimately help determine likelihood of failure on individual assets, so we streamlined workflow to get that condition data available to the asset planner in a real-time fashion.”
Info360 Asset’s Verification app allows field personnel and utility operators to review individual inspections and associated observations, as well as playback attached media files. Image source: Innovyze.
The cloud-based features enable engineers and owners to take a new approach to risk management, one called “live risk management” by David Totman, Innovyze’s vice president of asset management. “[With Info360 Asset, users] have a living, breathing concept of risk,” said Totman. “We're constantly managing operational risk and asset integrity risk. Those [analyses] have to be live and that's what the cloud brings to the table.”
Still More Tools for the Toolbox
The Innovyze team sees even more change in the months ahead. “In the asset management world, we've evolved,” said Totman. “We've been reactive. Something breaks we fix it. Then we became preventive and focused on maintaining things. Then we became predictive. Now we're becoming prescriptive. Not only do we have an idea when and where, but also, how and why we're fixing something.”
With the Autodesk alliance “we're just on the cusp [of new capabilities],” added Totman. In the future, he sees additional use of digital twins to manage underground assets. Pressure and flow data, along with pipe sizes, materials, and other attributes can help model scenarios such as extreme flood events.
More two-way data exchange features are also forthcoming. Innovyze’s asset management tools, which are built on top of Esri’s Arc Map software, already import and export GIS data, but more direct data exchange could soon be available. This would allow users to more fully leverage GIS data and perform geospatial analysis, according to Maylone.
“[With more geospatial capabilities,] you can look at the proximity of your assets to critical infrastructure or environmentally sensitive habitats,” added Maylone. “For example, is my sewer pipe directly under a road? If so, what type of road is it under — a subdivision road or an arterial road or busy freeway? Is it next to environmentally sensitive habitats? If so, there's a whole geospatial element to risk planning.”
The asset management tools are one of five main product lines Innovyze adds to the Autodesk portfolio. Other products offer tools for drainage design and analysis, stormwater and flood modeling, water distribution modeling, and artificial intelligence. The drainage products include tools to integrate with Autodesk Civil 3D in developing drainage designs.
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