Asset Management in Utility Organizations

Milind Nazare, Vice President Operations & Delivery, Avertra Corp
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Milind Nazare, Vice President Operations & Delivery, Avertra Corp

Assets are the lifeblood of the utilities industry. Power and Gas stations, Distribution and Transmission Lines, Storage Wells, Generation Plants, Exploration, and the list goes on. Apart from gas, water, electric and waste carrying assets, there are assets like, buildings, fleet, heavy equipment, technology infrastructure, and other assets that are a part of running any modern utility business.

Utilities; electric, natural gas, water and wastewater industries are looking for ways to get the most from their assets and maximize ROI. Additionally, regulatory changes, new legislation, policy uncertainties and sharp increases in cybersecurity incidents; the industry also have to deal with the revenue changes caused by a tougher economy and the volatility arising from the increased deployment of distributed renewable generation sources.

Clearly, in this challenging environment, one way to meet the public’s expectations for safe, affordable, continuous power, gas and water along with stakeholders’ need for higher returns and optimal corporate performance; is to focus on operations. Utilities are investing in innovative ways of improving asset performance and reliability using technology.

  Waves of technological advancement like IoT, customer self-service, cloud computing and real-time information availability at fingertips is compelling the Utility Industry to adapt and adopt quickly 

Enterprise Asset Management in utility organizations comprises of the below major areas:

• Capital Work Management involves replacement and extension of pipeline or electric cable lines, transmission stations and distribution infrastructure. The cost associated with work done for new construction and infrastructure improvements is capitalized as assets in financial books.
• Utilities are required to do inspections and surveys of the gas, electric and water carrying lines for leaks, corrosion, vegetation growth etc. These regulatory compliance and maintenance activities are operating expense in the financial books.
• Customer Service Management is another EAM area which is an important aspect of running any utility organization. The work relates to getting water, gas, electric and sewer service to the customers, performing turn-ons and turn offs, appliance connections and startups etc. Majority of the utility organizations charge the customer for these kinds of services.
• Running a field construction and maintenance requires vehicles. Fleet Management is another area of utility EAM which involves purchase to retirement and everything in-between related to vehicles, tools and equipment. Running and effective fleet maintenance organization ensures reduction in downtime, increased fleet life, confirming to regulatory requirements and reduction in overall operation and maintenance costs.

One of the major challenges for utility organizations is managing linear assets. Linear assets have linear properties and often connect with each other by their relationship with the linear infrastructure itself. They can be preserved and restored in place, and in segments. Linear Asset Management deals with assets in the field with length and spatial coordinates. These assets are subject to dynamic segmentation and multiple characteristic combinations, and can be defined with any portion of an existing linear feature independently of where it begins or ends. The asset management software systems available in the market supports discreet assets. A combination of Geographic Information System (GIS) software integrated with Linear Asset Management software are getting popular to manage these assets.

Utility Organizations are looking at innovative ways to improve efficiency and enhance maintenance.

• Track all functions related to the operation and maintenance of assets, including repair and preventive maintenance (PM)
• Reduce ownership costs while extending the useful life of assets
• Make informed decisions using powerful, customizable reporting and business intelligence tools such as dashboards and key performance indicators (KPIs)
• Integrate asset data from enterprise resource planning (ERP) software’s

Utility enterprises are asset intensive organizations with a combination of discreet and linear assets. To manage asset performance, improve compliance, reduce operational cost, improve equipment reliability, maintain worker safety and increasing the reliability of the network requires a comprehensive set of software which are integrated with each other. A good Enterprise Asset Management solution with GIS, ERP, Mobility and Reporting functionality is required for increasing the return on the valuable assets.

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