David Simpson
Asset Management and Products Director, Business Unit Project Structuring, Operation and Services – Infrastructure Management
Published on May 05, 2021

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Digital in infrastructure management: A response to the health crisis

Asset management is not a new subject. The infrastructure sector has utilised asset management for decades. At its core, it focuses on creating long-term value from assets through the management of people and processes, which is increasingly underpinned by IT solutions. Typically, the value created from infrastructure concerned economic performance, environmental impact and ever-improving health and safety for asset users and workers.

Pre-pandemic challenges for infrastructure operators

Even before the global health crisis, infrastructure operators were facing challenges in asset management. Times were changing and the notion of value in infrastructure management was evolving. Infrastructure is moving away from being seen as a static, unsophisticated commodity. In recent years, questions have been asked about how infrastructure could communicate with vehicles, how it could be part of intelligent multi-modal transport systems and how it could report on its condition and performance to operators. The term ‘augmented infrastructure’ captures this expectation of a more intelligent and connected infrastructure.

We are seeing infrastructure users are becoming more demanding. Users expect real-time information on journey times and predictive maintenance approaches that ensure constant access and asset use, as well as information on the environmental impacts of constructing, maintaining and using these assets. This is not just a phenomenon in the infrastructure sector. It’s in step with socio-economic changes in wider society, with technology is seen as the key enabler in this Fourth Industrial Revolution. As summarised in the 2019 PwC Global Consumer Insights Survey, “the technical tools available to [consumers] have put them in a position to demand a tailored, channel-agnostic, socially conscious and social-media-powered experience”.

The impact of COVID-19

Despite shifting demands and perceptions, infrastructure proved vital in enabling continued essential movement during the global health crisis and underpinning complex supply chains that have been critical for nations to support their populations. But the coronavirus pandemic has radically changed the way we live, work and communicate. The crisis has changed people’s attitudes and behaviours, with one of the most notable changes being the accelerated adoption of digital technologies.

Within the infrastructure sector, COVID-19 has forced both asset owners and users to rapidly embrace technology for communicating, collaborating and sharing information. At Egis, we have seen the keen implementation of smaller tools such as video conferencing through to larger, fundamental changes in ways of managing infrastructure such as operating virtual control rooms. This forced implementation of IT solutions – not just in the infrastructure sector, but across all sectors – has created a greater appetite for wider digitalisation and shown what is possible.

Asset management beyond the health crisis

Looking beyond the pandemic, digitalisation has a vital role to play in the future of asset management and how infrastructure delivers value for society. For this to be realised, digital must be fully embedded within asset management. Where digital solutions are procured and managed in isolation from the global asset management approach, these solutions are not implemented or utilised to their full potential. In the same way we consider a bridge as part of a wider transportation system, the focus when implementing IT solutions must be first understanding the objectives of the wider system architecture and the role each system and interaction can play within that. This is increasingly important as we witness the number of technology solutions used by infrastructure managers expand by the year.

As infrastructure owners are faced with increasingly complex ecosystems of digital solutions, we find asset management and IT operating in two different worlds. At Egis, we bring these two worlds together through our holistic approach to infrastructure asset management, combining both our digital and technical expertise. We have teams who understand asset management methodologies and lifecycle stages of all major infrastructure types, but who can also successfully structure and implement extensive IT projects. These teams are used to working in complex infrastructure environments where it is critical that a line of sight is maintained between the target digital solution and the processes and people the solution is looking to support, which ultimately create the value from the asset base. Together, our asset management teams provide end-to-end digital and technical support to infrastructure managers around the world.

Opportunities emerging from the pandemic

Against the backdrop of augmented infrastructure, the opportunity for post-pandemic infrastructure management lies in further harnessing the potential of digital that we’ve seen so readily embraced during the pandemic, and fully integrating it to enable a long-term asset management approach. This could be achieved through the application of a digital twin, which integrates multiple data sources and digital technologies into a single platform to provide asset managers with a real-time virtual representation of the physical infrastructure. Egis has utilised the digital twin in infrastructure design and planning for some years, but we are also now exploring how best to realise its benefits for operation and maintenance, as Laurent Charles-Nicolas, Head of Innovation (Business Unit Project Structuring, Operation and Services – Infrastructure Management) explains in his article.

While the notion of infrastructure asset value and user demands had already begun to evolve before the pandemic, the crisis has served to further accelerate these changes. Egis stands ready to support infrastructure owners in assessing how digital solutions can further improve their asset management approach and how relevant solutions can be implemented and integrated into their specific asset management contexts to create value aligned with the needs of the post-pandemic world.

Find out more:

Learn more about how Egis is exploring the benefits of the digital twin for infrastructure operations here.

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