For many utilities, asset management has become unwieldy. Often, each asset category has its own system; for larger utilities, this could mean 15 to 25 independent systems, databases, and spreadsheets for capturing asset information. A single maintenance event may require interacting with several of those asset tracking systems. Most companies with a collection of asset management solutions do not link these systems to ensure that the current status of the asset is appropriately synchronized across the systems.
To improve asset management, many utilities are seeking to consolidate this function into a single system. This reduces some of the duplication of effort in the asset management process, but it stops short of the significant meaningful change that is possible. Utilities have a significant opportunity to leverage the additional non-operational data that is becoming available through smart grid deployments to enable asset management solutions to reduce costs through more efficient management of their assets. This approach offers tremendous benefits by capturing proactive and predictive maintenance opportunities, as well as improving employee productivity and extending the life of their assets.
Where should you start?
A good first step is to examine and then reengineer as necessary your asset management processes. What do your purchasing, inventory management, deployment, re-allocation, and retirement lifecycle processes look like? Is your utility taking into consideration all the available data that could help uncover issues with asset health? What is the optimal process for each asset? Are there nearby or related field assets that can be checked, replaced, or upgraded at the same time as a service event involving the primary asset?
The goal here is to convert the asset management process from an incident-driven or scheduled mode to a proactive mode, with predictive analytics leading to preventative management. For example, the addition of smart grid elements requires monitoring asset performance metrics that can signal error conditions. This type of asset management approach enables cost-effective predictive maintenance that can be scheduled during normal hours and minimize or avoid emergency responses.
It is also helpful to analyze purchasing, maintenance, and field service processes to determine the lowest-cost method. Often, it is possible to drive up to 20 to 30 percent of costs out of the product lifecycle—and that is before considering field service operations and the social benefits of improved SAIFI.
After determining your asset management gaps, you can then begin to shape and re-engineer your business processes into desirable and efficient future-state processes. The specific requirements for applications will fall out of the business planning process. Future-state processes should include the opportunity to manage assets through proactive and predictive analytics that enable reduction of scheduled management tasks.
After you have captured your requirements and defined your new asset management planning procedures, a utility can design and select the optimal solution to manage your assets and their maintenance more efficiently. Note that we have not used the term, “technology selection.” That is intentional, because the right answer could be a variety of new systems, technology, and services, such as an outsourced asset management application delivered in a cloud solution.
Two other related areas of critical importance for asset management are:
- Incorporating the evolution of new technical skills that are required to support the new technologies you are deploying
- Managing the organizational changes required to transition and successfully adopt new processes, technologies, and solution requirements across your enterprise.
West Monroe Partners specializes in enterprise, telecom, and software asset management process improvement, solution design, implementation, and training. We can help utilities analyze current asset management strategy and identify and capture opportunities for improvement.