Streamlining and Simplifying Asset Management for the Transmission and Distribution Industry

Posted by Richard Pike on February 22, 2021



A case study on how we used compatible unit estimating within Maximo to reduce cost, resources, and error.

Challenges in the Transmission and Distribution Industry

Asset Management programs in the Transmission and Distribution (T&D) industry are challenged with keeping tabs on a large number of distributed assets that each contain specific characteristics, produce large amounts of data, and have dynamic changes associated with each.

Naturally, another challenge that stems from the high number of assets T&D organizations manage, is the need for other systems to fully understand, locate, and maintain these assets. Additionally, these other critical systems (such as ADMS (Advanced Distribution Management System), OMS, etc.) also have their own dependencies on the real time accuracy of the asset and network information as well as current state.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are critical to utility organizations, especially in transmission and distribution. These systems provide a digital model of the electric network and specific data around asset characteristics such as wire size, spacing, placement, and load capacity.

Another foundational system for asset intensive organizations like T&D are asset and work management solutions. These systems track the physical asset from purchase and install, through service, maintenance and ultimately, end of life and replacement.

It is typical in utility organizations for these systems to be updated independently of each other.

However this poses two large problems for the organization:

  • Co-dependent systems updating independently leave large room for error and disparities. Having the right data to make decisions is critical. Having current and accurate data helps improve decision making and response time. It also avoids making the wrong decision.
  • Co-dependent systems updating independently results in increased workload. This can be in excess of twice or in some cases three times the work, decreasing efficiency for the organization.

The chain of information from Supply Chain to procuring the assets - engineering, design of new assets, installing new assets, setting this up in the asset management system, and GIS having a graphical representation all become siloed activities. We know that working in a silo both with information systems and across teams in processes, leads to inefficiencies.

Streamlining Asset Management with Compatible Units

We recently worked with a large investor owned electric utility to help them implement IBM Maximo as their asset, work management, and supply chain solution. During this project we also integrated solutions for graphical work design – they used Schneider Designer, and Maximo Anywhere as a new mobile solution for field execution. Similar to other clients, GIS was already in place as a standalone system.

When it came to the relationship between their GIS system, and their asset management database within IBM Maximo, Compatible Units (CU) and the lack of process and technical integration between the three systems posed a very specific challenge to the integrity and efficiency of their processes.

A large contributing factor to their challenge was around estimating, and using compatible units to bridge the design process, the GIS process, and the asset management process together to increase efficiency and reduce error.

Part of our work with the client was using Maximo’s Compatible Units to create this bridge, tying together the design, GIS, an asset maintenance management database in a seamless automated process.

Compatible Units are a staple in the industry, but what most organizations lack is the ability to create the assets and keep the platforms all in sync. We solved the problem by leveraging and expanding upon the process of the design and modification of assets that takes place with Compatible Units, to also create the change transactions needed to keep the systems in sync, and set up the information needed by the installation crews to make it both easier and extremely accurate.

The industry is increasingly challenged to do more with less, and do it better than before. Removing as many manual steps as possible from the process is critical to driving this type of continuous improvement.

The End Result for the Client Looked Like This:

If the client were going to swap an existing transformer, they use their graphical work design tool to access in GIS where the transformer exists.

GIS tells them the asset and location information. Through the design tool, I would change the existing asset to its replacement.

Maximo would now know that it needs a new transformer put in place and the old one removed. This would be completed through a work order.

Maximo knows which location, the asset number that needs to be removed, and the placeholder for the new asset that has yet to be issued from inventory.

Maximo sends a work order to the field. The crew has the ability to see which transformer needs to be removed, issue the new serialized transformer asset, and update the asset number in their work order.

Maximo then executes a move swap.

With this seamless and automated process, GIS is satisfied because it has a representation of the current asset. The graphical work design drew-in the change, and Maximo has the new transformer’s GIS information, asset characteristics, install record, and future maintenance work order plans for the asset.

For the client, this resulted in:

  • Improved Accuracy
  • Improved Efficiency
  • Increased Data Integrity

This is an example of the type of integration we performed, which was a small part of the 18- month project we did for this utility client, but certainly a unique approach to solve a common problem in the utility industry.

By aligning people, process, and technology, we can help asset intensive organizations achieve the challenges of doing more, faster, safer, and more reliably, while also reducing cost.

Learn more about our work in helping Transmission and Distribution enterprises streamline their operations and increase efficiency.

Topics: Utilities, compatible unit, transmission and distribution

Written by Richard Pike

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