How to Manage Lighting Structural Assets Part 1 – Setting the Foundation
Historically speaking, retail, utility and public transportation companies, as well as parks and recreation, schools and universities that have only pursued inspections can and should cover so much more than just inspections.
It’s time to move beyond asking the question “is it working?” and focus on the structures in place. True lighting asset management ensures structural soundness, so you can have confidence in the longevity of your assets.
Perception vs. Reality
Many lighting companies fail to recognize the importance of ongoing structural asset management because of the perception that inspections are unnecessary if lighting functionality works. Some common arguments we hear are:
It’s not important:
Your lighting cannot function without proper structures in place. If there’s corrosion, weld defects, design errors, or poor installation, there’s potential for real danger.
If it’s working, it’s fine:
This is one time when the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” does not apply. Even if your poles do not appear “broken,” they still need your attention. Typically, failing structural components are not visible with the naked eye; that’s why you need to go a little deeper and inspect the materials you can’t see to ensure everything is set up for success.
It doesn’t affect me:
Lighting asset management may not affect your daily job, but the consequences of overlooking this can have a long-term negative impact on your business and brand, as well as your employees and customers.
What the Numbers Tell Us
In September 2018, a light pole fell at an elementary school in a Chicago suburb, injuring three children. While the superintendent did not comment on the school’s pole maintenance procedures, the news report identified significant rust buildup on an additional pole on campus, indicating a lack of structural attention. This is just one of thousands of lighting pole structural failures that occur each year in the U.S., resulting in property damage, injuries, and in some cases, even fatalities.
In a retail lighting inspection project covering 1,400 sites across the country, Exo discovered that 53% of lighting poles required some sort of maintenance – with 8% of those being at a critical or near critical stage. Aside from compromising human safety, asset owners also risk lawsuits, increased insurance premiums, and damaged reputations when they don’t maintain of their assets.
The situation at the Chicago elementary school could have been much worse, but it also could have been prevented. A regular maintenance and inspection program is one way to mitigate risk — and it is more cost-effective than making emergency repairs and replacements, saving you thousands of dollars per affected structure.
It’s All About Priorities
Now that you’re more fully aware of the importance of pursuing a structural asset management program, it’s time to make it a priority in your organization. This is easier said than done, as there are a lot of other needs competing for your leadership’s attention, especially with regard to facility management. And because there are no regulations requiring traditional lighting inspections, they are very often overlooked; more than 90% of companies do not have an adequate structural engineering inspection program in place.
Keep in mind that just because an electrician does a visual inspection, you cannot just check that box and move on. That only offers a false sense of security. An electrician’s primary concern and expertise is on the functionality of the unit, not the structural integrity of the asset. In all likelihood, this inspector would not possess the training, tools or credentials to uncover the myriad of potential issues not visible to the naked eye.
Your leadership may have also fallen prey to the “chasing the new, shiny penny” condition that is the allure of converting to LED lighting. While it’s certainly a worthwhile pursuit with many advantages, placing new lights on top of at-risk poles is the equivalent of building a house on sand. Whatever the latest craze in lighting becomes, it’s easy to make lighting technology a priority and lose sight of the structures and assets that make lighting possible.
While structural asset management may not appear to be a necessity, there’s a lot at risk in maintaining the status quo. If you’re constantly in a “repair and replacement” mode, you never have the chance to be proactive with your valuable structures.
The Impact on Planning
Each of these considerations should influence your asset planning and budgeting process. Whether these concepts are completely new to your organization, or more of a reminder, the important thing to do is formalize an asset management and inspection program so you can take care of your structures for the long haul.
The key to a successful lighting asset management program is being proactive. Rather than waiting for your structures to fail, you want to get out ahead of them and take critical steps that prevent failures. This is the difference between a “replace” approach vs. “maintain” approach.
Consider these tips for taking care of your current, immediate needs, and building a long-term asset management program for your lighting company.