“Something breaks down—we make a plan, we optimise things, we make sure it doesn’t happen again. That’s all asset management is.” 

We had the pleasure of chatting with Kanishk Garg. He is an emerging member and Graduate Network Management Engineer at WSP and Wellington Transport Alliance.

Kanishk is a true innovator who thrives on saving time, money and carbon for clients. He is one of our star Digital Badge students, who has harnessed his knowledge to streamline processes and make major efficiency improvements.

What was your favourite Digital Badge?

AM 304 – Asset Management Strategy. At WSP, I actually work with three people who contributed to this Badge. Damien Douglas, Gary Porteous, and Obinna Akaa. Currently, I’m continuing Obinna’s work. Since doing Āpōpō Digital Badges, it was pretty easy to grasp what Obinna was doing.

With AM 304, what was the biggest takeaway?

Asset management is something that you don’t really study for, when you’re in uni. Imagine if you’re just out of school, and going into tertiary education. Usually, you’d go into something like engineering. A lot of the people in WSP are civil engineers. I’m not a civil engineer. I studied chemical and process engineering at University of Canterbury. I was working as a process engineer for climate change last year in Westland Milk Products. I did a lot of work with EECA (Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority). So it was all about decarbonisation for me.

However, turns out, a lot of what I used to do is asset management—managing assets and optimising processes.

An Āpōpō Digital Badge is like a crash course. WSP is a fast-paced environment. So, when you start showing your capabilities, people will give you opportunities to show more capabilities. My manager said these badges are pretty useful to try. In the first two weeks at WSP, I started doing Āpōpō Digital Badges.

It’s very cool that you’re working in the climate change space. What motivated you?

While I was studying chemical and process engineering, I did minors as well. Unlike other people, I did two minors—I started with bioprocess engineering, and then I went on to do renewable energy, which is a pretty big space right now.

To be honest, and it’s going to sound a little childish, but I got into it because of Elon Musk. Every organisation in New Zealand is looking into this space. I think it’s proper use of my skills. At WSP, I’m involved in a lot of sustainability work.

Did you know that we have a digital badge called “CC 102 – Reducing Carbon Emissions through Asset Management”, coming soon? 

Interesting! Because decarbonisation in asset management is very new. People don’t really understand what a professional in decarb and asset management is supposed to do.

It must be challenging in the maintenance space, with assets already there, so what difference can they make?

It is! I’ll give you an instance—I’m working for Wellington Transport Alliance (WTA—Waka Kotahi, Fulton Hogan and WSP) four days a week right now, doing sustainability work for them. Most of the time when they’ve got a certain asset and they want to renew it, they make decisions based on risk, how much money it’s going to cost to replace it, and how much labour will be required.

We consider what the climatic risk is—climatic risk is basically rainfall and stuff like that. Two of the team in the sustainability space and I have thought carbon emissions can become a decision-making factor in asset management.

While we’re doing those renewals, if the carbon emissions of a certain, let’s say, road barrier is too high, then we can probably go for another barrier, which is also safer and a better alternative.

CC 102 talks about how 70% of the carbon emissions’ potential savings are in the planning stage. That’s essentially the work that you’re doing now—thinking about the options. 

Yeah, a percentage of your cost is in the planning stage as well. Doing the planning right makes a huge difference in a range of different long-term effects.

So, I agree with that. With planning, there are so many assets, especially with WTA. They’re the ones who are looking after all the renewals and maintenance in general for the whole highway network around Wellington.

What was your favourite thing about the experience of doing independent online learning with Āpōpō Digital Badges?

It’s self-paced, you can do it whenever you do get time. You don’t have to be in the office to do it either. You can do it from home.

I was a little insecure that I’m not a civil engineer, seeing all these civil engineers around me. Gary said, “Oh, you don’t really have to be a civil engineer to be an asset manager”. And he was right. Most people who are in the asset management space are not civil engineers.

What is your asset management speciality? 

I’m working on something called the NLTP [National Land Transport Programme]. Which is a three-year plan of what you’re going to renew. I’ll give you an instance—I’m creating a plan that includes a lot of factors to help people decide what drainage assets to look at.

Because there are thousands, and no matter how many network inspectors you get, they can’t really go around inspecting all of these places. So you must have a short list, depending on the age or the risks.

I’m creating a new way of planning in WTA. It’s going to be very efficient. I’ve already done that for barriers—so what used to take them three days is now taking them half an hour. It’s a lot of automation. I’ve started Phase Two of what Obinna did when he was here.

So the automation—is it in Excel, or is it in another software?

It’s Excel, but a little bit more advanced. You got to care about this particular thing— a lot of people who are going to be using these plans, even me, won’t have time to manoeuvre through an Excel sheet. And we need more time to look at the assets and less time in the spreadsheets. Excel is just an enabler, I’d say. You’ve got several other enablers as well, like Junoviewer. So, it is an Excel sheet… but it gets the RAMM data, and everything happens automatically. You don’t click on anything, other than just importing RAMM data into Excel.

I’ve given the liberty to allow people to import RAMM data however they want. But what I’m creating in Excel and Power BI (sometimes I use Power BI to make it a little faster, in terms of calculations), basically picks up all the relevant data from RAMM, regardless of how it was imported.

Data inconsistency is one of the most common pain points for asset managers. How do you ensure that everyone who inputs the data speaks the same language and does it consistently?

There are a lot of gaps. Sometimes transport network inspectors have different levels that they’re inspecting. That’s why I consider data consistency quite a lot when I’m making these plans.

What are your thoughts on AMDS, Asset Management Data Standards?

I think it’s very essential. It’s a good thing that they’re called standards and not guidelines because guidelines are something that you may or may not follow, haha. It’s good when you follow it, but it’s fine if you don’t. But standards—you have to comply. It becomes a compliance issue if you’re not following a standard.

Right now, when asset managers are making their plans, they have to consider the possibilities that there are a lot of gaps in RAMM. So—take several factors into account, go out yourself, and inspect these places that you’ve shortlisted yourself. And if the data is good, things will become more efficient.

I’m interested in your experience going from studying engineering to the workplace.

EECA has a graduate programme and hired its graduates themselves. EECA is the main source of funding when it comes to industrial decarbonisation. They call this funding GIDI—Government Investment for Decarbonising Industry. They’ve been spending millions of dollars on getting rid of coal—you may have heard about New Zealand Steel. Getting rid of coal was what I was doing in Westland Milk Products as well. So I was optimising a lot of things there. They don’t have to use as much energy. I increased energy intensity, which is product made per unit of energy.

How do you think we can encourage more people to work on renewable energy and asset management? 

I don’t think you have to encourage anyone to do renewable energy. Everybody who is working on anything has to work on renewable energy now, because New Zealand government has got a target for 2030. There’s no one in WSP who’s against the fact that there’s climate change going on, and that we need to work on renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions.

How can we raise awareness for asset management?

One way to raise awareness about asset management would be to connect the dots between what people are currently doing and what asset management is.

Even in WSP, there are a few asset managers who don’t realise that people coming from different fields—let’s say a mechanical engineer who was working at some other company—has been doing asset management, just not according to IIMM. They just don’t call it asset management, but they’re doing asset management.

Something breaks down, they got to make a plan, they got to optimise things, they got to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That’s all asset management is.

That’s a great summary of asset management.

When you get into the asset management space officially, you’re following the ISO standards, and you’re following IIMM (to a certain extent). If you’re a good asset manager, then you know that you got to do some stuff yourself. This is why a lot of people like Damien and Obinna and all these people that I’m working with—they do it all! They follow IIMM when it comes to reporting, but when it comes to actual asset management and analysing the situation (which involves a lot of economic analysis as well) they do their due diligence too.

You’re in the space between all the different sections and you bring them together. Asset managers are in the perfect position to break down the silos.

Yeah! Asset managers cannot work alone. We get to collaborate with a lot of people. When I’m looking at drainage or barriers or delineation (which are road markings), I’m collaborating with a pavement asset manager. I’m talking to him every day, to make my plans better.

Awesome! For WSP, is there a dedicated asset management team, or is it more discipline-specific?

I work for a team called Asset and Network Performance. Asset and network performance includes the transport and building assets.

So I’m also working with another client right now, and it’s not related to roads, it’s related to buildings. We do all kinds of assets. That’s what’s good about WSP, you get to do all these different projects with different people. And get some good experiences.

What are you finding exciting about asset management?

You save a lot of money. If you’re in a business or if you’re working for a client as a consultant, the client cares more about saving money than giving you money to do things. Asset management requires close-to-perfect planning. And the closer you are to perfect planning, the more money you save and the more time you save. And of course, the more carbon emissions you save, which I’m all about as well. That’s the most exciting thing about asset management in general. You get to be involved in the big picture and actually save a lot of money, time and carbon.

It’s very important for the government, in general, and important for people, even on a household level.

Brilliant! Thanks so much for your time Kanishk. To wrap up, can you share a fun fact about yourself? 

I’m a singer-guitarist as well. I do play sometimes when there’s not a lot of audience, of course.

What kind of music?

It’s not one kind. It’s just whatever song I like. I make some of my own as well and I’m testing something new. I’m using ChatGPT to write a song. I just want to give it go. I want to see how it works.

How do you see the future of ChatGPT in asset management?

Oh, you can do so many things! I’ve worked on Power BI, and I do AI builders as well. In Power BI I use AI to basically navigate through my data very fast. Once you’ve built an AI in a Power Automate kind of thing, then you can do a lot of things with that. So, Excel, for example, has already got a feature called Excel Labs. And you can integrate ChatGPT in Excel and ask ChatGPT to extract data from any database in the world.

Oh, I have to check that out. That sounds amazing.

Yeah, but don’t check it out until you have the paid version of ChatGPT. It’s actually very dangerous, because of the risk of data and IP leaks.

Gotcha. Sounds like it’s a great way to streamline asset management workflow. 

Asset management is a very major part of what WSP does. We’ve been working on a lot of things that help asset managers, to get some good data.

— Thanks for the interview, Kanishk, and for sharing a lot of interesting facts.

You can hear more about Kanishk’s insights at the WSP Research Hub in Petone, at our branch meeting Thursday 27 July!