by   |    |  Estimated reading time: 4 minutes  |  in Business Agility, IFS Cloud, Utilities   |  tagged , , , , ,

With the decentralization of the energy grid and the rise of the energy prosumer, asset management is even more challenging for utility companies that are already swamped by operational data and a lack of actionable intelligence.

Today, there is an increased reliance on utility companies. To better manage operations and transition to sustainable practices, many of these companies are turning to risk-based predictive asset management strategies over traditional and reactive approaches.

Not all assets are created equal, and the criticality and impact of asset failure is a fluid phenomenon, subject to change depending on environment and a place in time.

Any asset can and will fail at some point and impact does not always equal criticality. For example, California’s deadliest wildfire in 2018 was sparked by a failed “C-hook” purchased for 53 cents around the end of World War I. It’s not always the most expensive or visible asset that ends up being the most critical.

As we continue down the path of a worldwide energy transition, organizations must become responsible stewards of their operations. Globally, we need to take a proactive approach to predictive asset maintenance.

Why is this the case? The current climate means we need to do more with less, both in terms of capital and resources. Utility companies need to respond more rapidly to an ever-increasing number of unplanned outages, fueled by an increased reliance on their networks.

There is also a suite of competing objectives that require greater structure to asset maintenance strategies – from decarbonization, financial pressures, and aging infrastructure, compounded by the integration of new technologies. Simply put, it’s a much bigger challenge than when the grid was first constructed.

This is all while managing an increase in consumer expectations for organizations to deliver in the moment of service.

We know utility companies are in a precarious position where modernizing operations is fraught with the risk of fragmented integration within legacy systems and disparate data. To this end, many utility companies find it hard to justify the investment – with a perceived lack of tangible return on investment and the perceived fogginess of the energy transition.

In 2021, we partnered with Zpryme to deliver the Predictive Asset Maintenance for the Decentralized Utility report to assess the utilities landscape. The report includes recommendations for the industry, but also identifies a range of challenges faced that prevent adoption of a predictive asset maintenance model:

These are all valid and common perceptions. But the way I like to see it, if you do a maintenance program well, the best you can hope for is…

…nothing.

There is no grand result, but mitigation of risk through these models is worth much more than it may seem.

If a “C-hook” from circa 1920 with perceived low impact and low criticality can cause the devastation seen in California in 2018, then the return on investment of predictive asset maintenance models is already clear.

Beyond this, the return on investment of these programs comes down to the efficient use of resources – whether it is human capital, assets or financial investment that goes into the operation of the grid. The effect is the extension of the lifecycle of each of those assets and therefore an incremental improvement in resource efficiency.

This combines to create the flow on effect of freeing up capital for other projects. So, while maintenance is not that exciting with a flashy, tangible outcome; it creates availability of resources to be able to look at transformations that improve reliability and sustainability, enhance consumer experience and maintain network affordability.

It comes down to a three-step process: inform, analyze, act.

Build a repository of data about your operations to break down silos and drive collaboration. Analyze the data to make informed risk management decisions, and then act on the identified areas. Ultimately, this combines to improve efficiency and financial control.

Utility companies of the future are challenged to improve reliability and sustainability, enhance their customer experience and maintain their networks and affordability.

They need to do more with less. Taking the risk and pressures of asset failures out of the equation is paramount to delivering on service excellence.

To learn more about predictive asset maintenance, visit www.IFS.com.

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