Utilities invested trillions of dollars building the infrastructure needed to create and deliver services like energy and water. Traditionally, these companies have had little visibility into their physical foundations once installed. Deploying tags, barcodes, and software systems provides them with visibility, making it easier to conduct preventive maintenance, identify the source of issues, determine whether equipment is operating at the ideal capacity or if it’s under stress, and more, thereby optimizing their asset utilization and maximizing the useful lifespan of their assets. Here are seven procedures that can help utilities extend and improve their infrastructure’s lifespan.
The volume of items that utilities should track is large and steadily increasing. The first step in the process is, therefore to have a detailed understanding of the equipment they now have. Power generation and distribution systems are complex and comprehensive, and many of these items were installed years — and even decades — ago. At that time, configuration information was written on paper, spreadsheets, and sometimes on sticky notes.
Therefore, conducting an inventory is the first step to better management of these resources. Typically, the power generation list includes electric switches, detaching switches, flow and voltage transformers, estimating instruments, transports, dischargers, and electrical reactors. Distribution networks rely on lightning arrestors, high voltage fuses, high voltage insulators, high voltage circuit breakers, towers, and poles to move electricity from its source to its destination. While some of these assets are more vital to service delivery, a problem with any single asset can have a domino effect.
Utilities are moving from old to new energy sources. Out go fossil fuels; in come renewables. However, they bring a new set of expensive devices that also need to be observed.
Solar assets include PV solar panels, inverters, charge controllers, storage batteries, bi-directional utility meters, racks, and mounting. Wind solutions rely on horizontal-axis wind turbines, vertical-axis wind turbines, turbine sensors, subsystem sensors, SCADA systems, geographical Information systems (GIS), and video equipment.
A utility cannot monitor what it does not see. They have options when determining which type of utility asset tags to use, with each being designed for specific application requirements. Durable asset tags are capable of withstanding the harsh outdoor weather conditions that utility assets are often exposed to. Tagging also provides utilities with the foundation needed to layer on other features to help effectively monitor those assets.
Having labeled their equipment, utilities then take steps to better manage it. When asset tags and barcode labels are coupled with sophisticated asset management software, such as maintenance management software or field service management applications, energy companies gain new insights. These solutions become the catalyst for enhancements that enable the company to become more effective. For instance, the data gathered becomes an information pool, one that not only tells the utility how the device is performing but also its individual history.
Thanks to these benefits, energy companies are investing billions in such solutions. In fact, worldwide revenue from the asset tracking and inventory management industry reached $14.2 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach $39.5 billion in 2025, a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 13.8%.
Utility companies then put asset information into an asset register or database with a wide range of categories. They label the items with consistent, easy-to-understand number and naming conventions and include information that may be needed in the future, such as asset IDs, asset numbers, asset names/descriptions, serial numbers, equipment locations, date of purchase, purchase prices, warranty info, depreciation details, and spare parts sourcing information.
In many cases, a company needs help determining what information to collect and how. Camcode offers asset management services, including on-site consultation and project management to help you develop and execute a robust asset management strategy.
An asset tracking system does more than simply tell a company how many assets it has. The system provides additional information that is critical in keeping the equipment up and running, allowing utility companies to track the condition of their equipment over its lifespan. Examining a group of assets paints a picture of how well the system typically works. With this information, utilities gain a deeper understanding of current challenges and can project future performance.
To help answer such questions, they can put together an inventory and systems map. They can develop a rating system that identifies the current condition of that asset and how many more months or years they expect it to last.
Another plus is that utility companies can quickly and easily understand where each asset is located, making it possible to send someone there to troubleshoot it. If an employee needs more information about the asset, they can drill down and gain more granular data to address the issue. For example, employees could review when maintenance was last performed or if it might be time to replace the asset.
Additionally, smart data collection provides the means to compare where assets are now and create a plan to understand lifetime performance and cost. Companies know when to invest in new equipment rather than wait until the equipment fails and frantically search for replacements while customers are experiencing service outages.
Utilities deploy large volumes of complex equipment that are the foundation for their services, but many energy corporations have limited visibility into their infrastructure. Tagging these systems and adding asset management systems enables them to better monitor the equipment, extend their product lifecycle, and improve business operations.