GIS Blog Series – Part 6: The Challenge in Linking Asset Health to Environmental Factors

This is number six in a series of blogs designed to address Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in conjunction with SAP. We will do this by addressing the most important customer challenges.

It is mostly common sense that tells us environmental factors will have an impact on asset health.

Just think of car batteries in cold weather climates such as Northern Minnesota.  It’s not unusual for outdoor parking lots to have outlet plugs available to keep batteries charged. 

Beside cold temperatures, other climate and environmental factors can influence asset health and asset longevity such as:

  • Extreme heat / arid conditions

  • Freezing and thawing cycles

  • High wind areas

  • Earthquake zones

  • Mountainous regions

  • High vegetation areas

  • Geographical locations prone to snowstorms, landslides, tornados, hurricanes, etc.

  • Fresh or Saltwater shorelines

  • Underwater

Without spatial analysis, maintaining and prolonging asset health and integrity can become somewhat of a guessing game.  If climate and environmental factors are ignored it can be a forgone conclusion that asset health will decrease and/or asset risk will increase at an unacceptable rate

When SAP and GIS are integrated, layers of environmental data can overlay asset location to highlight factors affecting asset health.  In summer seasons for example, the hotter it becomes, the more power-lines expand and droop. By overlaying temperature or temperature forecast over your service territory, you know where to go out and inspect more often to make sure that your power-lines have adequate clearance.  Similarly, high forest growth areas may also need more frequent inspection than urban areas due to the increased likelihood of vegetation encroachment.



Many different types of data can be integrated into GIS and represented as a map layer. Examples can include: streets, parcels, zoning, flood zones, client locations, competition, shopping centers, office parks, demographics, etc.

When these layers are drawn on top of one another, undetected spatial trends and relationships will emerge. This allows us to gain insight about relevant characteristics of a location.




Underground assets, such as metal pipelines, can be prone to corrosion.  Soil conditions can have a direct impact on corrosion rates.  Knowing these conditions, pipe can be pre-treated with a protective coating designed to inhibit corrosion.  Likewise, pipelines can be installed in conjunction with additional equipment designed to protect against corrosion (cathodic protection) to prolong asset health and mitigate asset risk.

Having SAP as your system of record for asset maintenance means that the system can be used for routine inspections, preventive maintenance, and corrective maintenance.  When assets need to be maintained or replaced, SAP provides the ability to capture a great deal of information in a Maintenance Notification.  The information captured is most valuable for analysis when it can be recorded with simple codes as opposed to plain text.  Standard SAP code categories include Cause and Damage.  As assets are repaired and replaced over time, cause and damage factors should be recorded.  SAP Maintenance Orders can automatically capture material and labor costs.

Now armed with spatial analytics tools: causes, damage, frequency, costs, etc. can be compared with climate and environmental factors listed above.  Ideally, companies would strive to only locate their assets in environmentally favorable or neutral locations.  However, due to customer locations and/or resource availability, that may simply not be feasible.  Nevertheless, knowing detailed asset history and the impact of the climate and environment, maintenance engineers should be quite capable of designing an inspection and prevention plan that will maximize investments and prolong asset health.


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