The asset investment imperative

Utilities are under pressure to meet the seemingly contradictory goals of minimizing costs while maintaining service and reliability. Decades of under-investment in utility infrastructure has created an ever-growing need to replace aging components of the electricity, telecom, water, and gas delivery networks.

Modernizing aging infrastructure has become an imperative for a number of reasons. For starters, utility demands and industrial growth continue to increase globally. Additionally, there is an emerging trend of more stringent regulation and increasing customer expectations, which threaten to strain existing utility systems.
As a further challenge to business models, utilities in many Western countries (such as the United States, Canada, Australia and the European Union) are concerned about the loss of important knowledge about their utility assets as workers retire, taking that information with them.

Tackling the funding challenge

While there is no question that utility infrastructure modernization is sorely needed, the capital-intensive nature of these upgrades poses one of the utility industry’s biggest challenges. With many utilities facing financial pressures, securing the funding for ongoing operation and maintenance of existing assets can be daunting.

Over the past decade, modern approaches to asset management have helped utilities mitigate these infrastructure funding challenges. Until now, however, it has been difficult for utilities to take full advantage of the information available, and needed, to make sound, data-driven and fact-based decisions.

The introduction of powerful new analysis capabilities has created a fundamental shift in what can be achieved when it comes to proactively avoiding asset failures, extending asset life and making better asset investment and management decisions.

Advanced analysis for improved asset management

As technologies have advanced, so too has the sophistication of analytic methods. Utility operators now have a “new view” on the totality of their systems and data yielding more insights and improved decisions about asset performance management, asset strategy, and asset investment planning.

Advanced software functionality

Recent developments in software revolve around advancements in business intelligence, statistical and risk analysis, and predictive modeling. Enhanced intelligence has enabled a shift from descriptive (what is happening?) or reactive (what happened?) analytics to much more compelling and valuable predictive analysis, which answer questions such as: “why is this happening?”, “what is the best that can happen?” and “what will happen next?” As a result of advanced asset analytics capabilities, asset management can become increasingly more focused on predicting system deficiencies and ensuring that investments and maintenance decisions are based on in-depth analysis and evaluation of detailed asset-level data.

Powerful Optimization

Another very important recent development is powerful optimization engines, which can analyze data much faster than traditional applications. This speed results in dramatic performance improvements and almost instantaneous availability of real-time information, enabling new insights into asset performance and investment decision-making.
Today, most utility data is accessed through numerous applications and stored in isolated silos, which makes it difficult and time-consuming to create a unified view of the data. Breakthroughs are being made in the way utilities view and manage their assets, making it possible to interactively query filter and aggregate ’on demand’ the data needed for forecasting, simulations, failure modeling, planning, conducting what-if scenarios and other processes.

Benefits of asset management

The ability to aggregate, integrate and analyze asset data, enables asset managers to advance from their backward reactive focus of pulling historical data together and focus instead on leveraging forward-looking predictive asset analysis.
There are many business benefits to be realized from advanced asset management solutions including:
Shift asset management personnel effort from low-value information gathering and assembly to high-value analysis and execution.
Enhanced return on investments from existing ERP, enterprise asset management (EAM), geographic information systems (GIS), mobile workforce management and other data and information systems.
Defer capital projects by extending the useful life of assets and improving project planning and priority assessment.
Improve visibility and decision-making capabilities for senior executives and multiple business units by consolidating asset data from various sources. Modern visualization can be leveraged to present the same data in multiple views tailored to the needs of each user.
Assist compliance activities by providing the precise, auditable information increasingly requested by regulators, which, in turn, makes it easier for them to approve funding for infrastructure investments.