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Geographic Information System

A Geographic Information System (GIS) captures, sorts, displays and manipulates data that are spatially referenced. Its products can be reports, maps, charts or diagrams.

It is through the integration of data and maps that decision-making is vastly improved for asset managers.

A GIS consists of:

  • Computer hardware and software programs that enable the data to be input, accessed, manipulated, analysed and reported
  • A database of geographic information, including location and description.

The implementation of this module will depend on the needs of the organization and the overall benefit/cost of the project, which will be influenced by:

  • Existing plan quality
  • Availability of digital data
  • Needs of the organization
  • Degree of accuracy required.

Many organizations have commenced their asset management work by the conversion of their hard copy plans into digitised spatial data systems such as GIS. This has the unique benefit of electronically relating properties to assets, and to positioning assets from a spatial database.

Benefits of a GIS

The greatest benefits are in knowing what the assets consist of, their attribute details, their condition, and being able to carry out manipulative analysis on the databases to derive the most cost effective investment opportunities.

A GIS is useful for generating information to support decision-making and policy requirements.

The range of applications with the GIS is considerable and is used mainly as an overlay or mapping tool. They can extend from road management and property registers, environment reporting, to emergency and land use planning.

The GIS can also be used for modelling, scenarios and hypothecs testing.

The main advantage of GIS, when integrated with other systems, is that they can:

  • Provide an easier method of keeping maps up-to-date and available to all staff
  • Show the size and location of all underground utilities
  • Show systems that have not been serviced within a specified period
  • Show the identify and location of all outstanding jobs
  • Report on asset management
  • Report to the public on the state of the environment
  • Support environmental management and planning decisions
  • Provide a land capability analysis for an area
  • Indicate road maintenance priorities and manage work projects.

Limitations of GIS

Organizations must ensure that they do not base their asset management information system around a GIS.

GIS does little to assist financial management, however it can assist in the provision of asset services through distribution networks, such as electrical distribution or water reticulation or drainage systems.

Key problems in basing asset management systems on a spatial data system relate to the time and resources required to digitise the spatial data. The investment required and the associated timeframe for return on that investment are critical factors in assessing the overall benefits of such systems. The cost to set up digitised spatial data systems is dictated by the accuracy of data required. If survey accuracy is required, this dramatically increases the resources required to implement the systems.

GIS Functionality

Through the use of digital mapping systems such as LIS, GIS etc. asset managers can relate the spatial (location) of assets to other data held in textural data files, for managing assets.

This module should be capable of storing spatial (location) data and displaying it graphically, recording and displaying different asset types and features in separate layers to form an overall map or picture.

Some of the attributes include, where applicable:

  • Utilities, eg electricity, communications, gas, water, sewer
  • Roads
  • Drainage
  • Topographical features, eg contours and features
  • Land ownership
  • Cadastre/title
  • Land usage (town planning/zoning)
  • Geological (ground conditions/salinity)
  • Buildings/structures
  • Environmental issues
  • Transportation routes.

The system must interface or integrate the asset with other systems for recording asset information. This is critical to achieving Best Practice asset management. Interfaces include:

  • Technical systems
  • Asset register
  • Condition databases
  • Strategic management systems (asset management systems)
  • Renewal works programs
  • Maintenance management
  • Job/resource management
  • Inventory control system
  • Performance monitoring system
  • Finance/administration systems
  • Property/customer databases
  • Rating/income charging system
  • Financial management system (asset costing)
  • Complaints system.

The system should be capable of interrogation to display assets related to any aspect from the above information systems. An example might be: "show all water supply pipelines that are made of AC and are located in expansive clays that serve customers with water supply costs over $10,000 p.a. and have recorded two failures in the last 5 years."

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