Connecting the Data: What Asset Management Can Do for Utilities

Utility companies manage incredible amounts of facility information, inventory, and tangible assets. Recently, they have been increasing their mobile offerings to consumers, which adds to the utility’s challenge of managing data. Keeping track of utility outages and other customer information will become the data management norm over time as more customers turn to their smartphones for services. It’s important for utilities to gain control over their data now, before it reaches unmanageable levels.

This is where asset management services can give guidance. Utilities often store information for geographic information system (GIS) mapping, billing, hydraulic modeling, and other data, which requires an asset management framework to be in place. Knowing what data is being shared, how it’s being connected, and what costs are saved are questions that many utilities need to answer. Our on-site assessment of clients’ complete inventory of assets has helped identify redundancies and streamline operations, reducing costs for utilities and their customers.

Loudoun-Water
A Dewberry employee checks a raw water pipe as part of a criticality assessment.

Improving Information Silos

Do you know what data is stored throughout your organization? Do you have to ask specific people to find data that is not readily available to you? Connecting information from various databases is a challenge that many of our clients struggle with. These different, stand-alone data sets are often based on individual analysis or are maintained in different departments—compartmentalizing the data.

We worked with a water utility that needed to know where their spare parts were stored in their warehouse, as well as improve the organization of their assets. By reviewing their field inventory, we were able to obtain data for installed assets and warehouse inventory throughout the facility and entered this information into an overarching database. We also reviewed their workflows and found that many procedures for collecting and entering asset and inventory data were not standardized. Their individual knowledge about where parts were stored and what data was captured created an information silo problem. These small changes made a huge impact for our client as they were implementable, time-saving, and met their immediate asset management needs.

Loudoun-Water
A Dewberry employee inspects a gas transmission line as part of an asset inventory project.

Connecting the Right Data

Understanding what data needs to be connected into an asset management system is a hurdle for many of our clients. Data can be overwhelming and without the proper management, utilities cannot recognize or assess the information that’s right in front of them. In some cases, poor database management can even signal inaccurate information, wasting time and other valuable resources.

We helped another utility update their system-wide database that was incomplete and inaccurate. Because of their data inefficiencies and inaccuracies, they had a difficult time identifying and differentiating critical assets. This had a trickle-down effect on other areas of their asset management system.

Not having the right database in place meant that they also didn’t know how the assets were performing or where to focus preventative maintenance. As you can probably imagine, reacting to breakdown issues in their system cost a considerable deal more than preventative maintenance. We were able to help this client get a handle on their asset maintenance, which helped them attain both their immediate and long-term goals. In the short-term, our client was able to reduce costs that they could pass along to their customers in the form of savings. In the long-term, this allowed the utility to improve their planning and decision-making.

Tailor-Made Systems

At the end of the day, there’s no single out-of-the-box strategy for asset management. With multiple system integration options available, there should be a proper system selected that will meet the utilities’ business requirements, align with budgets, and focus on priorities. The right asset management solution should make the most effective use of the current systems and available data—streamlining the decision-making process.

As more customers rely on mobile offerings from utilities, we will continue to prepare our clients with the right databases and asset management systems to meet their needs. And as utilities increase their dependence on data, we will be ready to provide our clients with the asset management services needed to reduce their costs, improve their service to their customers, and make long-term planning easier.

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  • Rishi Immanni
    Rishi Immanni
 
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