Burns & McDonnell delivers technology systems for its clients through Integrated Technology Project Delivery, providing a vendor-independent review and selection process.
Total cost of ownership (TCO) — the ultimate measure of business and facility sustainability — is a common topic for engineers, project managers and facility owners. It is the opportunity and obligation to assure that a new facility can be maintained and operated for the desired number of years without loss of function and performance.
Most airport operators are intuitive about the snow removal expenses, pavement remarking, janitorial services, utility costs, and preventative maintenance. But the operation and maintenance of technology-based facilities or systems are often overlooked. Airports risk acquiring technology systems without the operating budget and staff to sustain their function and performance in the long-term.
How It Happens
Several factors contribute to the tendency to deploy unsupported technology:
- These systems offer true operational advantages and are highly desirable.
- They are relatively new to airports and have limited tactical history.
- Plentiful system integrators and declining hardware costs keep the initial costs low.
- Technology marketers are not always forthcoming about maintenance requirements.
- Rapid change in the technology industry makes keeping up difficult.
This is most obvious — and important —with data networks. Small networks often operate for years without problems, but large networks that integrate a variety of technical systems have exponentially more opportunities for failure and cyber attack. A simple failure or intrusion can render the network and all dependent systems non-functional.
A Management Plan
An airport operator evaluating technology system selection, operation and maintenance must first assess the quantity and capabilities of its existing technical staff. Capabilities can range from superb to non-existent. These assessments should determine if the staff can be trained for the new technology or if new staff must be recruited.
During the system selection process, airport operators must challenge designers to present solutions in harmony with the availability and skill level of the existing staff. If a more complex technology is required and trained staff will not be available, outsourcing and system-specific maintenance contracts can fill the gap.
Collaborate for Success
An experienced technology designer works in close partnership with airport operators to go beyond system selection and installation strategy, properly preparing for long-term operations and maintenance of new technology systems. The initial project assessment should include airport operation and maintenance resources as a significant factor. In most cases, the evaluation of these resources drives the type and level of technology deployed. This approach yields a TCO for the systems under consideration. TCO includes the capital expense plus operation and maintenance expenses, typically for five to seven years. From the TCO, the client’s preferred financial analysis process can determine the return on investment.
Addressing airport technology systems in an end-to-end process, evaluating the systems’ entire life cycles in light of both the facility and the staff, is a complex but highly beneficial process. Burns & McDonnell delivers technology systems for its clients through Integrated Technology Project Delivery, providing a vendor-independent review and selection process. Through Facility Operations Services, Burns & McDonnell provides the ongoing expertise and experienced manpower to handle systems that are outside the realm of airport staff. Burns & McDonnell staff members work as an extension of the client staff, delivering day-to-day oversight to maximize efficiency.
These programs combine to create a partnership for end-to-end services: design, build, contract, deploy, integrate, operate and maintain. But regardless of the delivery and operations methods implemented, measuring the TCO is a critical step in managing technology systems.
When Disaster Strikes
When a mission critical system or component fails, remaining operational and minimizing downtime requires the proper combination of two resources, redundant equipment and an emergency staff.
Redundancy offers the flexibility to take a systematic, deliberate approach to resolving the problem. System performance may be degraded some, but the end user is still able to work. Redundancy is capital intensive — you have to buy two or more of everything — but it is the only way to achieve zero downtime.
If some downtime can be tolerated, a highly trained staff immediately available to swarm the problem and restore operations can be effective. However, this implies a manpower commitment 24-7, year-round, and its associated costs.
Practically, both resources combined specifically for the client's needs are necessary for effective technology system operation.