Mount Ayr's Physical Asset Management Journey

Client: City of Mount Ayr, Iowa

The Challenge

Citizens interact with a city’s capital assets every day: roads, water utilities, parks, waste, and so on. They expect that these assets will function. In fact, they don’t even think about them until something is wrong. Then it's angry phone calls and public comments until the city resolves the issue. Citizens want a vibrant, resilient community to raise their families, conduct business, and display hometown pride.

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City Leaders want this type of community, too. Iowa’s well-documented aging infrastructure is putting this goal at risk. Failing infrastructure pushes both people and businesses away. Officials recognize this risk and are identifying capital projects to improve capital assets in their city. Equally important is maintaining those assets so that a city gets the best return on investment possible. A strong ROI affects the city not only financially, but also contributes to a healthy quality of life and positive economic activity in your community. A Physical Asset Management program is citizen-focused and helps deliver better customer service.

Enter the City of Mount Ayr (population 1,700) in southwest Iowa. Like many Iowa cities, Mount Ayr did not have a Physical Asset Management program. They were reactive and dealt with issues when someone called, something broke, or something failed. Tracking maintenance work on assets was cumbersome and time consuming. Field technicians would go into the office 10-12 times per day to retrieve paper work orders. Once they completed the work orders, the techs would have to go back into the office to provide them to the office staff. Occasionally someone would misplace the paperwork which resulted in the Clerk’s office having to try and recreate them from memory, if possible. To find historical records, city staff would spend hours searching for old paper work orders that were lost in various filing cabinets (or on people’s desks) to respond to complaints, provide work completion verification, or service general information requests.

With a $4 million major water system overhaul looming, Superintendent Brent Wise knew he had to get a Physical Asset Management program in place.

The gWorks Solution

Once you begin a Physical Asset Management program, it will likely feel overwhelming. Physical Asset Management is not only about servicing your infrastructure. It also includes your plan, asset inventory, all asset-related activities, document management, GIS mapping, and data analysis for further planning, budgeting, and decision-making. With so many components, Physical Asset Management can seem daunting.

gWorks’ SimpleCity® Physical Asset Management has helped thousands of cities and towns - it is a cost-effective spatial web-based asset management application that is accessible anytime, anywhere, and on any device. SimpleCity® allows a city to create and access a complete inventory of a municipality’s infrastructure. It includes asset activity and work order management, condition assessment tracking, and reporting for compliance and budgetary planning. Perhaps most importantly, SimpleCity® is an accessible visual repository in a simple, easy-to-use application.

Mount Ayr’s Mr. Wise has taken a measured approach of viewing Physical Asset Management as a long-term investment. You cannot implement this framework overnight. It takes time, persistence, and discipline. Therefore, Mr. Wise focused first on his asset inventory, on activity management, and on GIS mapping via Physical Asset Management software. These three components enable the city to have complete awareness of their infrastructure with the documented story of what is happening to those assets planned or unplanned and its visualization in an interactive GIS map.

SimpleCity® allows the city to identify and quantify the significant return on their initial investment. In a City of 1800, it runs with a minimal staff, yet faces the same challenges that a larger city would suffer.

Mr. Wise is now ready to move forward on the next phase of his Physical Asset Management program. With the 1,000 overhead hours avoided annually, he’s able to redirect those hours to preventative maintenance. Additionally, Mr. Wise would like to start his document management in SimpleCity®. He will associate documents, such as as-builts or permits, with assets and parcels so that those documents will be readily available electronically whenever they are needed. Finally, Mr. Wise will add additional data to his asset inventory, including such items as conditional ratings and useful life.

The Benefit

The benefits of implementing SimpleCity® are numerous: reliable performance of assets, fewer stoppages, reduction of risk exposure, and economic development support to name a few. Having information readily available for both the management and the field techs, along with the cost savings associated with the engineering company for the water main project, the City of Mount Ayr received a Year 1 ROI of 700%. After two years of executing these three components of Physical Asset Management using SimpleCity®, Mount Ayr has experienced many benefits:

  1. Using digital work orders accessible in the field has reduced overhead hours annually by 1,000 hours. Old paper work orders were often lost, hard to track, and a field technician had to drive into the city offices several times a day to pick up the paperwork and look up where to go.

  2. Office staff avoids 108 hours annually searching for old paper work orders, which translated into an annual savings of $2,700. Electronic work orders are simple to issue and find.

  3. Having an asset inventory has simplified capital improvement planning and saved the city thousands of dollars. By providing third-party consultant access to their asset inventory for the water system overhaul planning, the city saved more than $20,000 in consultant fees.

  4. Documenting work has made the city defensible. Before having a Physical Asset Management program in place, Mount Ayr would forgive $10,000 in water bills annually because the city could not defend the bills’ costs. With their Physical Asset Management software, the city has an electronic paper trail of its meter-related work orders and can protect its billing. This defense has reduced its water bill forgiveness to a de minimis amount.

  5. Office staff and field staff are accustomed to and excited by the new and growing Physical Asset Management culture within Mount Ayr.

In addition to direct savings described above, the city was able to identify areas where they were able to avoid extra overhead costs and improve productivity with more proactive management. With the use of SimpleCity® the techs are using their mobile phones to receive digital work orders without having to return to the office. All details about the work order are then submitted through and stored in SimpleCity®. The City was able to determine that the time savings has provided an average of 5 hours in productivity savings per week per field technician. With four field workers, this results in an annual savings of 1,000 overhead man hours and $22,000 per year in reduced overhead. Both the city technicians, as well as the Deputy Clerk, are now able to spend more of their time on planned work, setting the city up for continued proactive activities, where more benefits will continue to be realized.

At gWorks, we have the software solutions, professional services, and expertise to help you every step of the way on your Physical Asset Management journey. Get in touch with one of our experts today to see how gWorks can help your community!