Shellfish between the windmills

"Keep what you have and take care of it as much as possible."

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Meet Rob Schoenmaker (61) from Zoutelande. If you ask him, everyone is involved in asset management in everyday life. So it doesn't seem that difficult. How about that?

What did you study?

Originally, I graduated as a marine engineer and integrated officer, before major shipping. Later, following the common thread of my career, I obtained my PhD at TU Delft at the Faculty of Technical Public Administration.

The high speed, that sounds like an exciting boy’s book. Do you also fascinate asset management in this way?

Hell yes. I followed my dream of working on ships and sailing all over the world. There I quickly discovered that maintaining assets, capital goods, fascinated me. Later I was able to apply my knowledge to all kinds of assets, from ships via a drinking water installation, soil cleaning and ICT to locks and roads. Maintaining such installations fascinates me more than new designs or building. You only build once, after which it must continue to work for often a very long period. Usage, requirements and technology change over time. Wear occurs. How do you deal with that?

How do you do that at home, do you also apply asset management there?

Everyone actually does that. Especially implicitly. Everyone weighs an investment or maintenance of, for example, the car or bicycle, or chooses between new carpeting or a new garden furniture set. The question that always plays in the background is: What do I enjoy the most? For companies this is called: What adds the most value? And then we look at whether that can be financed.

What is the best project you have done and why?

A fun project is characterized by enthusiastic people, involvement, a nice complex problem and depth in the matter. In addition, such a project must contain something new. Fortunately, there are enough of them. The most challenging project I did was for Rijkswaterstaat in collaboration with the English Highways Agency, the performance-driven outsourcing of maintenance on highways. That eventually led to my PhD research.

Which projects are you currently involved in?

Various challenging projects with asset managers in Zeeland, ranging from residual life determination of sheet piling to zero on-site maintenance for wind turbines where we work on the question: Can you perform unmanned inspections and repairs of windmill blades? The largest project we are currently working on is a two-year project, subsidized by SIA, to implement risk-driven, data-driven asset management in sewer management in all Zeeland municipalities.

When is a project a success for you?

It is bland to say: according to agreed quality, within the time and costs. But what really matters at an educational institution is when we have gained new knowledge, applied it and been able to process it in education. And, not least, if the customer has become wiser and has taken a step further in professionalizing asset management.

What do you read to stay informed of developments in your field?

Trade magazines, scientific ones such as Assets, Sewerage, Civil Engineering and specific articles from various journals, mainly aimed at smart and data-driven asset management and outsourcing. In addition, I mainly follow the knowledge of trade unions such as Institute of Asset Management (IAM). I sit through their knowledge base, participate in working groups and annual conferences. For example, I am involved in translating the English-language information about IAM into Dutch.

What is your greatest ambition?

A stable group of lecturer-researchers who conduct research into risk-driven, data-based asset management, for organizations in Zeeland, and which incorporate the results into their education. In such a way that all technical students at HZ are introduced to asset management and that we can offer students who want deepening interesting projects.

Here the lecturer speaks. What challenge do you see with that work?

Just as with the organizations we work for, finding and keeping good employees is a major challenge. Designing new big things seems more challenging to many, but the challenge for the coming decades is to maintain what we have, ensure that it continues to work despite all the changes that come our way, so asset management.

Finally, what do you want to give your students?

The whole world, from city to countryside, from process industry to dikes and locks, depends on technology for its functioning. Of technical assets that must continue to work in a changing world. Asset management is the discipline that ensures that this actually happens. In a systematic, rational, economic and goal-oriented manner. The Asset Management research group pays specific attention to a risk-driven and data-based way of substantiating decisions for maintenance, renovation or renewal. And what time is best for that. Now or later.