2024 Global Buried Asset Management Congress

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  • Supporting GLWA’s Pipeline Management: Research Efforts and Insights By John Norton

    Presentation Summary of John Norton’s Presentation

    John Norton’s presentation at the GBAMC event centered on the innovative practices in asset management and energy efficiency at the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA). He discussed GLWA’s role in managing a significant portion of Michigan’s water and wastewater treatment, emphasizing their status as one of the largest primary wastewater treatment facilities globally.

    Norton detailed GLWA’s approach to energy management, highlighting their substantial weekly electricity and natural gas usage. He mentioned engaging with companies like Xylem at industry events to explore potential energy-saving technologies and solutions. Norton also touched upon his interest in acoustics for pipeline assessment, reflecting his broader focus on utilizing advanced technologies for infrastructure management.

    He shared anecdotes and examples from his work, including efforts in acoustic monitoring to distinguish between healthy and damaged pipes. Norton described the innovative approaches GLWA is exploring for pipeline assessment, such as using electromagnetic and acoustic methods to identify and address pipeline issues proactively.

    Norton also discussed collaborations with universities and industry partners in research and development projects. He emphasized the importance of these collaborations in advancing GLWA’s capabilities in asset management and infrastructure resilience. Norton’s presentation underscored the significance of continuously seeking innovative solutions and embracing new technologies in the water and wastewater sector.

    Norton concluded by reiterating the importance of data-driven decision-making and the need for utilities to remain open to new technologies and approaches in asset management. His talk highlighted the intricate balance between operational efficiency, technological innovation, and the need for sustainable management practices in the water industry.

    Key Points Covered

    1. GLWA Overview
      • GLWA is the largest primary wastewater treatment plant in the world, treating 40% of Michigan’s water, including Flint.
      • They manage significant water and wastewater treatment operations and face unique challenges given the scale and complexity of their infrastructure.
    2. Research and Innovations
      • Norton highlighted GLWA’s commitment to research, particularly in acoustics for pipeline assessment. Acoustics are used to detect and evaluate the condition of pipes, distinguishing between broken and live wires.
      • He emphasized the use of electromagnetic methods and the development of new acoustic techniques to improve pipeline monitoring and maintenance.
    3. Energy and Resource Management
      • GLWA uses significant amounts of electricity and natural gas weekly, necessitating innovative energy management solutions.
      • Norton discussed efforts to reduce energy costs and improve efficiency, referencing a humorous interaction with a company claiming to cut their energy costs by 50%.
    4. Pipeline Failures and Management
      • Norton shared anecdotes and data about pipeline failures, including a notable incident on Halloween, and the impacts of these failures on the community and infrastructure.
      • He discussed the use of various repair and rehabilitation techniques, including carbon fiber repairs and internal lining methods, to extend the lifespan of aging pipes.
    5. Collaborative Research Projects
      • Norton highlighted collaborative projects with universities and other organizations, emphasizing the importance of partnerships in advancing pipeline technology and management practices.
      • He mentioned specific projects with the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, focusing on pipeline integrity and management.
    6. Innovative Approaches and Future Directions
      • The presentation included a discussion on the importance of innovation in the water sector, drawing parallels to historical innovations and the necessity of embracing new technologies.
      • Norton encouraged collaboration and open-mindedness in adopting new methods for pipeline assessment and repair.
    7. Engaging and Humorous Delivery
      • Norton’s presentation style was engaging and humorous, using props like crystal glasses to illustrate points about acoustics and pipeline conditions.
      • He made several jokes and personal anecdotes to keep the audience entertained while delivering technical content.


    Dr. John Norton is Director of Energy, Research, and Innovation for GLWA, a combined water/wastewater utility in Southeast Michigan. GLWA treats more than 40% of the water, and 30% of the wastewater, for the state of Michigan. Norton leads GLWA’s research efforts to understand, extend, and enhance its linear and process infrastructure and directs projects ranging from source water monitoring and distribution system water quality, through to energy extraction from biosolids. GLWA owns over 388 miles of PCCP, and over 800 miles of transmission main, 4 ft diameter or greater.

  • Key Considerations In Building A Data-Driven Asset Management Program

    by Heather Himmelberger

    Assess Current Practices and Identify Issues

    Analyze current asset management practices and identify inefficiencies or recurrent problems. This could be a routine that seems overly costly or a maintenance strategy that doesn’t deliver the expected results. Think about asking yourself questions, such as: Why do I do this activity? Why do I do it this way? Why on this schedule? This activity or asset maintenance has a high risk of injury or safety problem, is there another way to do the job with a different asset or less hazardous approach? Asking questions is a great way to start building data-driven decisions. 

    Data Collection and Integration

    Once you choice what issues/assets/activities to work on, gather relevant data from multiple sources including operational records, maintenance logs, and system performance data. It’s crucial to integrate and centralize this data to form a cohesive analysis platform.

    Data Analysis and Visualization

    Use data analysis tools to evaluate the effectiveness of current practices. Visualizing data, such as through mapping, tables, graphs, charts, or time-series analysis, can help identify patterns, trends, and problem areas that may not be apparent from raw data alone.

    Cost-Benefit Analysis

    Conduct detailed cost-benefit analyses to compare the costs of existing asset management practices against potential improvements or replacements. This includes calculating long-term savings versus short-term expenditures. This can also include benefits that are non-monetary in nature, such as environmental or social benefits. Examples include: improving health and safety for employees or customers, preventing the discharge or disposal of a hazardous material, using less of some type of material or supply, improvements to energy or water efficiency, improved customer service or satisfaction, reduced customer inconvenience, or eliminating a difficult job to perform.

    Developing and Implementing Solutions

    Based on these data-driven insights, develop strategies for improving or replacing assets or changing procedures (e.g., operational or maintenance). Implement solutions that are projected to enhance efficiency, reduce costs, or improve service delivery.

    Monitoring and Adjusting

    Continuously monitor the outcomes of implemented changes to ensure they deliver the expected benefits. Adjust the strategies based on real-world performance and additional data collected to optimize asset management continually.

    Stakeholder Engagement and Training

    Engage with all stakeholders, including operational staff and management, to ensure there is buy-in for the new strategies. Provide training and support to help staff adapt to new tools or practices. Additionally, this is a great time to recognize the staff who asked the original question or pushed the analysis at the beginning and to celebrate the improvements, cost savings, and other benefits achieved. If appropriate the benefits should be shared with the customers in some way (e.g., through the web site or on a consumer confidence report). 

    Creating a Culture of Continuous Improvement

    Foster a culture that values data-driven decision-making and continuous improvement. Encourage staff to question existing methods and propose data-backed solutions to operational challenges. Consider adopting Level of Service goals to drive additional work in this area.

  • Celebrating Jim Anspach’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Launch of 4M’s Real-Time Utility Data Platform

    On May 22, 2024, an event hosted by Kiewit in Denver, Colorado, sponsor by CDOT, T2 Utility Engineers, Trimble, Infraday Kiewit, and 4M Analytics brought together industry professionals to celebrate utility industry pioneer Jim Anspach, also known as the ‘Godfather of SUE,’ and to unveil 4M’s AI-powered real-time utility data platform.  Wei Liao, representing BAMI-I, participated in this event.

    Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE):

    Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) focuses on identifying and mapping underground utilities, such as pipes and cables. It uses technologies like Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and Pipe and Cable Locators (PCL) to avoid conflicts and ensure safety in construction projects. SUE is critical for managing the complexities of underground utilities, especially in urban areas. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has established guidelines, such as ASCE 38-22, for investigating and documenting existing utilities.

    Jim Anspach

    Jim Anspach, known as the “Father of Subsurface Utility Engineering,” has significantly advanced the field of SUE. He played a key role in developing the ASCE’s Standard Guideline for Investigating and Documenting Existing Utilities (ASCE 38-22). Throughout his career, Jim has promoted SUE practices, managed contracts at several organizations, and developed training programs. His contributions have been recognized through various awards, including the prestigious Jim Anspach Lifetime Achievement Award.

    Jim’s Contribution to Education and BAMI-I:

    Jim Anspach has been instrumental in education through his work with the Buried Asset Management Institute – International (BAMI-I). As the Chair of ASCE 38 , 2018 UESI President and Board of Director in BAMI-I, he developed the curriculum for the Utility Investigation School (UIS). This program, conducted by BAMI-I, covers geophysics, utility systems construction, and ASCE 38 risk-based presentations, providing hands-on experience with technologies like GPR and PCL. BAMI-I has successfully conducted the UIS program 22 times across various locations in the US, emphasizing the importance of accurate utility location and mapping for effective asset management.

    Jim Anspach’s dedication to education, innovation, and collaboration continues to inspire professionals in the industry.


      4M Analytics

      4M Analytics, founded in 2019 by Itzik Malka (CEO), Yoav Cohen (CTO), and Nir Cohen (COO), specializes in subsurface utility mapping using AI technology. Initially focused on mine detection, the company pivoted to utility mapping to meet the critical needs of the construction and infrastructure industries, including sectors such as oil, gas, electricity, and water.

      4M Analytics integrates satellite imagery, remote sensing, and public records, verified through AI and computer vision, to create precise and comprehensive utility maps. This platform helps engineers and project managers identify and locate underground utilities early in the project lifecycle, reducing risks and improving project planning and execution. Since its establishment, 4M Analytics has raised significant funds, including $30 million in a Series A extension in 2022, led by Insight Partners and ITI Venture Capital Partners, bringing their total funding to $45 million.

      The company aims to map thousands of square kilometers daily, aspiring to be the “Google Maps for underground.” In 2023, 4M Analytics mapped 100 billion linear feet of utilities across all 50 states, demonstrating their capability to provide reliable and up-to-date utility data.

      This spring semester, Joseph Eberly from 4M Analytics delivered a lecture for Purdue University’s course led by Dr. Iseley. Additionally, 4M Analytics has joined BAMI-I’s volunteer team for the Switz City project, providing free mapping and location services to assist in developing an asset management plan. 4M is also an active sponsor for BAMI-I UIS. This collaboration highlights 4M Analytics’ commitment to supporting educational initiatives and contributing to the advancement of SUE and Buried asset management practices.

      Event Highlights

      At Kiewit’s campus in Denver, the evening was filled with engaging discussions, networking opportunities, and a shared appreciation for the strides being made in utility mapping and infrastructure development.

      The event commenced with attendees arriving and enjoying a networking session accompanied by food and drinks. The atmosphere was vibrant, as professionals from various sectors mingled and exchanged insights. In Jim Anspach’s heartfelt speech, Jim expressed, “I couldn’t be here without all of the people in the industry!” He also shared reflections on the unpredictability of future technology and emphasized the importance of striving to make the best predictions despite unforeseen developments.

      4M CEO Itzik Malka delivered an inspiring speech, highlighting the deep connection he shares with Jim Anspach. Itzik recounted how he first met Jim and the profound impact Jim had on his understanding of utility mapping. He expressed heartfelt respect and gratitude towards Jim, acknowledging his pioneering work and the invaluable mentorship he provided. Itzik also emphasized the strong belief that investors have in the founders and their vision for the future of utility mapping, underscoring the innovative advancements 4M Analytics is poised to achieve.

      One of the key moments of the evening was the presentation by  Raz Ezra rom 4M Analytics. Raz captivated the audience with his assertion that “data is the new oil,” highlighting the critical role of accurate and real-time utility data in modern infrastructure projects. He discussed the distinctions between confidence and accuracy in utility mapping, underscoring the innovative capabilities of 4M’s AI-powered real-time utility data platform.

        During the event, various panelists, including representatives from CDOT, T2 Utility Engineers, Trimble, and Kiewit, shared their testimonials and expressed their gratitude for Jim Anspach’s contributions to the industry. Their words highlighted the profound impact Jim has had on utility mapping practices and the broader field of civil engineering.

        The evening concluded with an after-party hosted by T2 Utility Engineers, attendees continued to celebrate, network, and reflect on the advancements showcased during the event. T2 Utility Engineers, a leading company in the SUE industry, is dedicated to promoting and advancing the SUE field. When discussing funding various industry activities, especially sponsoring BAMI-I UIS school, Robert Ramsey vice president of T2 Utility Engineers, mentioned that their goal is to enable industry professionals to build credibility. Whether they are competitors or part of the same company, each professional represents the overall interests of the industry.

        This event underscored the importance of innovation and collaboration in driving the future of utility mapping and infrastructure management. The event not only honored past contributions but also looked ahead to the exciting possibilities that lie in store for the industry.

      “The growth of the trenchless technology industry has been remarkable. In the initial phase, the industry pulled together to form a support structure through the NASTT and ISTT organizations. The technical envelope for most of the solutions expanded at a rapid rate. Education, training and research programs expanded to meet the needs. Now we are realizing how asset management will help utility owners make sure that they are spending the right amount of money at the right place at the right time. This helps make sure that the rates users pay are the right rates.”

      – Dr. Tom Iseley


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      Photo by Chait Goli: https://www.pexels.com/photo/bird-s-eye-view-of-city-during-dawn-2093323/
      Buried Asset Management
      Institute – International (BAMI-I)