/ Profile / Future Forward: A Holistic Approach for Asset Management Takes Shape

Future Forward: A Holistic Approach for Asset Management Takes Shape

Matt Ball on June 7, 2015 - in Profile

Thomas W. Smith, MS, is director in the Department of Engineering Professional Development, University of Wisconsin–Madison. He received his BS degree from Dartmouth College and MS degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He served as a U.S. delegate and task-group leader for the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Standards Committee on Asset Management (ISO 55000:2014). Smith is also an author, instructor and presenter on the topic of asset management, with an emphasis on continuing education for practicing engineers. He has 30 years of experience teaching and researching energy, environmental issues and engineering leadership.


The Department of Engineering Professional Development at the University of Wisconsin–Madison has been focused on continuing education for the practicing engineer since 1949. The asset-management curriculum (<I>epd.engr.wisc.edu/2015assetmanagement<I>) covers water and wastewater utilities, the ISO standard, transportation, lifecycle accounting, maintenance and opertion and supports a unique course on citywide asset management. In addition to his work on education and engineering leadership, Smith also serves on the faculty of the Institute for Asset Management in the United Kingdom and as an advisor to the Asset Management Council in Australia. He is part of an effort currently underway to form a chapter of the Institute of Asset Management in the United States.

Applied Research

Smith and his colleagues teach asset management within the organizational leadership curriculum. Asset management is aligned to finance, program and project planning, coaching/mentoring, teamwork, and team leadership, as asset management requires a broad set of skills and a strong team.

Smith helped develop the International Standard 55000 for Asset Management, which provides a framework for better management. A fresh look at organizational assets, the purpose for acquisition, current condition and location, and opportunities and risks sheds new light on performance. The ISO 55000 standard was released in 2014 and quickly gained acceptance within a wide variety of industries.


Asset management has evolved to encompass more than a lifecycle view of components—it’s about how each piece of a larger system relates to others. For a transit system, the approach isn’t to just look at trains and tracks, but also at stations, ticket machines, turnstiles, etc. Everything that goes into making a successful system is important to capture and monitor and relate to the whole.

“The holistic view certainly is what drew me to asset management, and I think what drew most of us to it is the idea of creating a lifecycle view and vision, and managing to that vision,” says Smith. “We all know the design determines a lot of the lifecycle cost and impact. The idea of taking a holistic view, not just a lifecycle view, but a view of all systems is important.”

Aiding Operations

Asset management’s U.S. history has been mostly in infrastructure. In the rest of the world, there has been significant interest from extraction industries, particularly oil and gas, and mining. Smith foresees rapid expansion in the United States into process industries (food and pharmaceuticals) as well as manufacturing and utilities.

“The critical infrastructure areas are where we see some of the greatest interest in the standard,” says Smith. “We’ve had quite a bit of interest from transit agencies, including New York Transit, which is committed to it, and Atlanta Transit, which is on a path to certification. Port authorities and airports, such as Denver, are also looking at this.”

The ability to be more efficient and effective with physical assets is a critical issue.

The predominant driver has been the serious change to the risk profile of physical assets, which are subject to pressures of climate change and heightened security concerns as well as rapid economic changes. Assets are also subject to budgetary pressures and increases in service demands.

Another major driver for widespread adoption is that large engineering firms are adding operations and management divisions to manage the assets they’ve built. Building Information Modeling (BIM) is helping to facilitate this transition, as these firms also can pass along the data and a system for greater understanding of what they’ve built for operations and maintenance.

“I talk to a number of people in operations and maintenance that don’t yet see or feel the value of BIM,” adds Smith. “We need to demonstrate this value and create a pull for BIM as I don’t think we can drive it from the design side.”

Technology Advancement

There have been a variety of asset-management activities in the United States, but nothing approaching the comprehensive nature implied in the new ISO 55000 standard.

“The interest in asset management is twofold,” notes Smith. “One is improved efficiencies, and with new technologies for systems management, our ability to monitor and control is growing exponentially. Two, there are huge external pressures. The two have come together: the need and the opportunity.”

Read the full interview here.


Matt Ball

About Matt Ball

Matt Ball is founder and editorial director of V1 Media, publisher of Informed Infrastructure, Earth Imaging Journal, Sensors & Systems, Asian Surveying & Mapping and the video news site GeoSpatial Stream.

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