Once you know what assets you own, it is important to know where they are located. This component involves mapping the assets that are in the field and recording the location in the inventory file.
The most important factor in mapping is having a visual picture of the asset locations, especially for buried assets. The map can be as simple (hand drawn) or as complex (Geographic Information System) as the utility is capable of. The inventory map can help operators, managers, elected officials, and owners conceptualize the utility as a whole.
The most important considerations in selecting the type of approach to use for mapping are:
- Ensuring that the map is comprehensive (covers all the known assets)
- Having the ability to keep the map updated over time
- Establishing a process to correct any inaccurate or incorrect data on the map
- Being able to track asset failures or other relevant data on the map
A utility should choose the type of mapping system that best meets the needs, capabilities, and resources of the utility. Choosing a more sophisticated computerized mapping system, like GIS (geographic information system), has the benefits of being able to more easily sort and evaluate data, linking asset attribute data (size, type, condition) to the map, enabling remote use, and more accurately representing the data. However, this type of system can be expensive to create and maintain and the utility may not have the personnel to handle this task. A more simplistic approach of a hand-drawn map or a hand drawn map based on a free base map from an internet site (e.g. Google, MapQuest, Bing maps or similar), has the advantages of being extremely low cost and easy to generate. But this type of map is much less portable, less comprehensive in terms of asset data, and less accurate. The key is to balance the needs of the utility, the benefits the utility wishes to achieve, and the resources available for the task. A utility can also start with simpler maps and move to a more sophisticated approach later.