As asset management becomes an expected practice within the utility industry, more utility companies are looking to asset management software solutions to streamline tracking and documentation, optimize resource utilization, and improve overall service levels. While there are many asset management software solutions available, not all software programs are created equal, particularly when it comes to the unique requirements of utility companies.
Goals of asset management for utility companies
The water industry is just one example of a utility industry facing the need for a massive infrastructure overhaul. Angela Godwin, Chief Editor for WaterWorld, explains, “It’s going to take a lot of money — perhaps trillions by some accounts — to repair and replace our aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. In the meantime, utilities are tasked with deciding which assets need the most immediate attention so that they can effectively manage costs.”
Godwin points out that while emergencies such as water main breaks always take precedence over longer-term goals, the overarching goal for asset management in this and other utility industries is “to understand where each asset is in its lifecycle so that deliberate, predictive maintenance (or replacement) can become part of a utility’s overall capital investment plan.” There are essential features and capabilities utility asset management software solutions should have to enable utility companies to achieve this and other business objectives.
Work order management systems
Most utility asset management software solutions have well-developed work order management capabilities. This is one technology that’s been supported by software for some time. In fact, many utility asset management software tools started out as work order management solutions. Because this is an established functionality, there’s typically little differentiation in work order management capabilities between utility asset management software solutions.
Most utility companies already rely on software to support other core business functions, so choosing a utility asset management software application that integrates with the tools you’re already using means a more seamless, comprehensive workflow that better integrates essential data from department to department. Integration with fixed-asset accounting solutions, mobile workforce management, and even design tools can be beneficial. Seamless integration with Esri GIS, which holds a substantial share of the overall GIS market, is key.
Crew management and HR features
Asset management solutions with built-in crew management functionality and other HR functions is helpful for fully integrated workforce management and asset management. Utility asset management software solutions such as IBM Maximo offer enhanced crew management with the ability to manage both crew type and crew makeup, as well as tracking functionality for labor skills and certifications, making allocating human capital resources as seamless as physical asset allocation and monitoring.
Project and contract management
Another capability to look for in utility asset management software is project and contract management. It’s not uncommon for utility companies to contract with a variety of third-party vendors for field work and other business functions.
Vendor contracts for parts and materials are within easy access and in some cases, automated part reordering can be triggered when certain supply thresholds are reached. When a field technician checks out a replacement part, dropping the inventory count below a designated threshold, a reorder is triggered without the need for phone calls and emails between the field and the home office.
Planning, budgeting, and forecasting
With the looming need to update infrastructure, planning, budgeting, and forecasting capabilities are essential. Utility companies are under constant pressure to maintain minimum expected service levels while facing rising costs. These demands make it increasingly challenging to keep cost increases to a minimum, yet that’s exactly what consumers expect. With planning, budgeting, and forecasting capabilities, utility companies can maximize the use of infrastructure and assets to balance service delivery with costs as efficiently as possible.
These are just a few of the key features and capabilities utility companies should be looking for when evaluating utility asset management software solutions. With Big Data and analytics exploding, utility enterprises are already beginning to take advantage of the many capabilities Big Data solutions can offer. These sophisticated solutions will continue to saturate the market, driving smarter decision-making, minimizing costs, and optimizing service delivery, empowering utility companies to meet business objectives while simultaneously meeting consumer demands.