Industry Insights: Hugo Zaat

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Hugo Zaat is the Service Manager Asset Management at Te Whatu Ora Southern, who provide healthcare services in New Zealand’s South Island.

Hugo is an expert in asset management, and is currently completing a Masters degree in Applied Management with an Asset Management in a healthcare environment focus. A proclivity for data and all things technical is behind the success he’s achieved to date in asset management.

In October 2022, we sat down with Hugo to chat all things asset management and understand his experience.  

Can you tell us a little about your role, and how you got there? 

I’ve been in asset management for about six years, previously the Asset Management Co-Ordinator at Te Whatu Ora Southern, and now in my new role of Service Manager Asset Management.

Prior to moving into asset management, I ran security services. There I noticed everything we did was paper-based, so took it upon myself to digitise our processes.

I’ve always been interested in technology, so it made sense to improve our reporting and processes better by using databases and a front-end user interface. After that, I was tapped on the shoulder and encouraged to apply for the Asset Management Co-ordinator role.

Why is asset management important for your organisation?

Our organisation is about enabling people to live better, healthier lives, and our facilities are critical in achieving that. The focus of our asset management program is maintaining service delivery, by minimising disruptions and delays.

Hospitals have always needed working equipment to do what they need to do, so asset management has always happened in some capacity. What has changed now is that it’s more formalised and gaining broader understanding.

Asset management is about taking a long-term view of everything. Determining when your assets are going to fail, whether they should be refurbished or replaced, and planning for that. Good asset management should lower capital expenditure while reducing the risk of delays and disruptions occurring.

We want a situation where condition assessments support informed decisions with respect to replacement or refurbishment of an asset. We can plan ahead, apply for budget when we need it, and try to avoid breakdowns of critical assets.

How has asset management changed over your career? 

Over time we’ve seen greater buy-in from stakeholders at every level. Reporting has helped this a lot, particularly at the executive level.

When we’re able to get the right data, identify gaps, and advise on the resources and structure we need, we can really make things happen.

Increasingly there is recognition that asset management isn’t just the job of a single person, but something everyone needs to understand. Our senior leadership team are even doing a course to learn the fundamentals of asset management.

How does your team interact with the broader business? 

In healthcare, there are so many departments you need to interact with. From clinical staff to administrative and contractors, everyone needs to be involved in asset management.

Maintaining relationships with all those departments really comes down to stakeholder engagement. We need to be able to communicate where we are, where we want to be, and how we’re going to get there to our stakeholders.  

Nobody ever gets this right 100% of the time, but we’re working towards creating processes surrounding stakeholder engagement which will improve information flow.

There is so much scope to improve data flow between services, and it’s a key focus for continual improvement. Fundamental to this improvement is a generalised understanding of asset management. The more buy in we have for the vision, the better we’ll be able to engage stakeholders to comply with the processes.

It’s important to communicate with people in a way that makes sense to them, and drives home why this matters to them. Additionally, we’ve tried to make complying with processes as simple as possible.

How does your team leverage software for asset management?

When we started using our solution, it was about managing work orders. As we developed our asset management program, we started utilising additional capabilities.

The solution has always had the fundamental capabilities we’re looking for. We could manage work orders and planned maintenance, and make existing processes more efficient.  

Use of our software helped get initial stakeholder buy in, and as we move forward, helps us attain compliance with processes. The more complete and accurate our data, the better insights we’re able to provide.

These insights help improve the broader understanding of asset management, and encourage stakeholders to be more compliant with processes.

You're currently doing a Masters Degree in Applied Management with an asset management focus, can you tell us a bit about your thesis? 

My area of research is on asset management and levels of service in the healthcare industry. The aim is to develop a levels of services framework, and to measure asset performance and appropriateness (i.e. fit-for-purpose) with the end user in mind (patients, visitors, staff and contractors).

There’s very little literature on this, it’s a big gap in existing research. What little I could find wasn’t specific to healthcare, so I knew it was an important area to investigate.

My research focusses on the link between asset management and customer needs. Going beyond looking at “this is what we have and what condition it’s in”, to consider “how does this particular asset improve the experience of the customer”.

My hope is the research helps other organisations. The aim is to develop the framework, and to share our learning, so we, and other healthcare providers, can assess how assets are performing.

What do you love about working in, and studying, asset management? 

In terms of working in asset management, I love the challenge of coming to work every day with a different problem to solve and different people to talk to. There are constant learning opportunities for both myself and my team, and I like bringing people along for the journey.

I love the study side of it in general, it’s good personal and professional development. I like to push the boundaries of known academic knowledge. If you can create something that holds value for your organisation as well as others, that’s the best possible result.