There is no point in fixing bits and pieces, when it’s the big picture that matters. Benoit Mallen, business area director at Trimble Energy North America, is driven by helping utilities transform their overall business functions to be more effective, whether that be about software or internal processes, staking or outage management, investments or maintenance - it all counts.
To break down some of those barriers, Benoit explains, you need a solution that integrates all relevant information in the organization and satisfies the needs of each different division – in a way that doesn’t interfere with the day-to-day operations. This means looking at asset management from a financial planning perspective and bringing data in from other systems, such as the system of record and the enterprise resource management system (ERP). “You also need to be able to push information back once the asset management group has done their analysis,” Benoit describes. What’s more, the roles must be clarified within the data flows, so that each division only sees what they need and have the specific tools they require.
“You need to be able to understand what the financial impact is of all the decisions you make around your assets.”
The utility industry is now facing a paradigm shift for having mobile field solutions for logging maintenance and inspection data. “Instead of storing paper-based information in a filing cabinet somewhere, the data needs to be available in a usable way. And then it's about what you do with it,” Benoit points out. Traditionally, field solutions have been too cumbersome and difficult to use for field technicians to embrace them. To break that, there has to be an easy way to collect the inspection results and generate reports to gain situational awareness from the asset planning point of view. “Finally, you need to be able to share that information with others in the organization,” Benoit continues. “If the data is just sitting in a database somewhere and nobody is able utilize it easily, it’s not going to help.”
Reflections: Utility maintenance and investments
That said, having the data in a digital system of record allows utilities not only to access and reference it, but also compare the data across other systems within the organization. “Maybe you see you’ve got a problem with a certain transformer type, make or model, and once you’re further able to identify the problem, for example, by performing a spatial analysis or reliability analysis, you can start to plan around fixing that with a much more holistic approach across the entire network, rather than just focusing on a single fault.” Similarly, the long-term planning group can prioritize development projects also based on reliability data, assuring the revenue coming in also from the outage perspective.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
“Finally, and very importantly,” Benoit continues, “to get return on investment, you need to be able to understand what the financial impact is of all the decisions you make around your assets, to decide on the best course of action.” That is to know the costs and the benefits of a given project for the organization as a whole, and to see whether the project can increase the distribution reliability and reduce the overall maintenance cost in a specific area. “So you need to drill down to the financial benefit of your decisions,” Benoit concludes.
Wise words, say I. Who’s with me?
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