After a three-year absence, it was great to be able to obtain a leave pass from fortress WA to attend the Asset Management Council’s annual AMPEAK conference in Canberra. The venue, the National Conference and Exhibition Centre, was ideal for this event, being centrally located with all conference rooms being in close proximity to each other and the right size to create an energizing environment, with lots of opportunity for interaction.

Around 350 people attended the event, including a small delegation from Indonesia, with some other overseas delegates attending remotely via video conference. Indeed, the presentations given at the conference by the representatives of Indonesia Power highlighted the world class nature of their asset management practices, and were hugely insightful.

“Asset Management for a Resilient Future”

With an overall theme of “Asset Management for a Resilient Future”, there was, unsurprisingly, a significant focus on climate change and the associated implications of this for asset management. Somewhat disappointingly, though many presentations clearly outlined the challenges (including one of the keynote speeches offered by Dr Jill Cainey of Erne Energy), few offered guidance or advice regarding practical solutions to address those challenges.

It would appear that most organisations are still early on in their journey towards achieving the challenging carbon reduction goals that they have set themselves, and while there are some isolated pockets of improvement activity, organisations are yet to fully embrace a strategic approach towards meeting those targets.

Travis, Angel and Sandy at AMPEAK 2022
Travis, Angel and Sandy at AMPEAK 2022

Digital advancements in asset management

Other themes to emerge during the conference related to digital transformation, the development of digital asset management plans, the automation of business processes and data analytics. It is interesting to see how the presentations in this area have matured over the last few years. The blind optimism that pervaded these presentations in the past has been replaced by a more measured, sanguine approach as the technical, data quality and people challenges associated with these initiatives have come to the fore.

There is no doubt that the huge advances that have been made in the capabilities of digital technologies have the potential to yield benefits, but technology is no longer being presented as being the sliver bullet to cure all ills. Dr Catriona Wallace, in her keynote, outlined the major changes that are coming our way with the impending development of the Metaverse, and in doing so raised more questions than she answered.

The potentially adverse social impact of this, and the almost complete absence of regulatory oversight of the Metaverse raises real issues. And the impact of this on the management of assets in the real world (as distinct from those in the Metaverse) was not really explored during this presentation.

On the other hand, Johan Snyman from Southern Ports outlined the huge range of technological innovations that they are undertaking in the asset management area, ranging from digital asset management plans, through to automated drone monitoring of road condition.

The importance of effective leadership

Another key theme that repeated throughout the conference related to the importance of effective leadership and change management as organisations attempt to improve their asset management practices. Chris Huet (who self-admittedly looked like he could give you advice on cufflinks while shoeing your horse) gave an excellent presentation, based on his RAAF experience, on communication and leadership.

Meg Hooper, an Organisational Psychologist shared her experiences and expertise in a joint presentation with Stewart Kiely from Fraser Coast Regional Council and in a separate workshop on the psychology of stakeholders. It was great to see someone from a non-technical background presenting at AMPEAK.

Sandy speaks at AMPEAK 2022
Sandy speaks at AMPEAK 2022

The multi-disciplinary nature of asset management

And that was another thing to note regarding AMPEAK and the Asset Management Council in general; as the discipline of asset management is maturing, there is a growing realisation that asset management truly is multi-disciplinary, and slowly but surely, there is a broader spread of the backgrounds of people that are attending AMPEAK and joining the Asset Management Council.

There is work currently being done by ISO’s TC251 committee to update ISO 55000 and ISO 55001, and Martin Kerr led a workshop which provided an update on the status of those initiatives. The key message out of that workshop is that cat-herding would probably be an easier activity than trying to coordinate the opinions and inputs from the huge number of stakeholders around the world. Huge respect to those who are involved in that activity. At this stage, don’t expect updated standards to be issued until the second half of 2023.

Recognising asset management excellence

As is usual at AMPEAK, the annual Asset Management Awards dinner recognised those individuals and organisations that are leading the way in asset management practices around Australia. Transgrid walked away with several of these awards, and Tom Carpenter was recognised for his contribution to the development of asset management competence and competence standards by being awarded the MESA medal, as the top individual award at the event. Congratulations to all the award winners.

Overall it was a successful event – one of the two conferences in Australia that Assetivity always tries to attend and exhibit at. It was great to be able to catch up face-to-face with the network of friends, acquaintances, current and past clients from across Australia. The informal discussions between sessions are always interesting and insightful, and we had a number of people come to our booth that we look forward to being able to help at some point in future. We are looking forward to AMPEAK 2023.

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