Managing assets on the electric grid

Editor’s note: This article comes from ABB’s Power Update and is featured online at T&D World. It is by Gene Wolf , Technical Writer for Transmission & Distribution World Magazine. Read the full version here.

One of the hottest topics in the power-delivery industry is how utilities are managing assets. This article provides some insight. (Photo: ABB)

When the average manager, engineer, and maintenance technician hear the words asset management, their typical response is less than positive. Tell them they have to go to an asset management meeting, and one would think they had been sentenced to the most arduous task imaginable. After all, the term asset management is really bean-counter speak for accounting work, or is it? Not really.

Whether they realize it or not, non-accounting utility personnel have been using asset managing information for longer than most people have been working in the industry.

Utility personnel do not typically think of T&D equipment in abstract terms such as assets, but rather circuit breakers, transformers, reactors, lines, circuits, structures and such. The T&D system has been providing information from these electrical apparatuses for a long time. And utilities have been doing this through devices common to the grid such as relays, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), distributed control systems (DCS), meters, and remote terminal units (RTUs), to name a few.

Utilities use intelligent digital components to monitor their operational parameters and the parameters of the systems they make up. Now this data can be sent for analysis to centralized digital asset management platforms through the Internet of Things (IoT) or standard communications channels, and be used by utilities to improve their internal processes.

In the following pages, several utilities share their experiences with digital asset technology. But first, it is important to understand the changes that have taken place in asset management since the introduction of the smart grid.

Connecting data is the most valuable advantage of an asset performance management system.

When smart grid technology came along, it started changing the T&D grid into an interconnected system with devices that communicated data. The smart devices contained sensors, monitoring systems, self-diagnostic systems, mini cameras and many other digital technologies. This triggered a massive flood of big data that produces real-time situational data critical to understanding the equipment’s condition.

In other industries, these devices are connected to the internet, but the power-delivery industry has not yet embraced IoT because of cybersecurity issues and competition among utilities.

The big story in managing assets today is digital technology. Several of the technology drivers such as information technology (IT), operational technology (OT), big data, cloud-based computing and IoT are modernizing asset performance systems. When combined, these schemes provide utilities a different vantage point for managing their assets with real-time condition monitoring using correlation processing.

Globally, many utilities are interested in the convergence of IT and OT data for asset managing software, and this interest is not coming exclusively from large corporations. Small- to mid-sized utilities have determined enterprisewide asset management systems make sense for them, too. Interestingly, some utilities are working with manufacturers on customized products, while others are using standard out-of-the-box
applications.

Some utilities also are using standardized products but integrating them with their existing customized systems. Developers of this digital asset technology are facing an interesting challenge. Some of the standardized asset managing platforms utilities use are ABB’s Ability Ellipse on Microsoft Azure, GE’s Predix, IBM’s Maximo, Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure and Siemens’ MindSphere, to name a few.

Digital asset management systems can be tailored to fit a utility’s requirements, but it helps if the utility knows what it expects the platform to provide and has a detailed specification of what those requirements are. Typically, utilities are looking for out-of-the-box features like asset life-cycle management, condition-based maintenance scheduling, inventory management, asset risk trade-off management, organizational cooperation between departments and integration of business processes.

Utilities also are interested in improvements to their data analysis, easy integration with other systems (for example, SCADA and DCS) and user-friendly software for their employees. Another feature gaining popularity is the ability to incorporate the enterprise asset managing system with environmental, health and safety systems.

Read the rest of this article here.

 

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