By Edward Attwood
What's the secret to making the most of your assets?
What's the secret to making the most of your assets?
It's an old story, not only in the Middle East, but all over the world. You have a large utility company that opted to build its own in-house software in, say, the 1990s to cope with various different processes. But fast forward 10 or 20 years and that legacy software is absolutely helpless when it comes to offering all the solutions that modern IT can provide.
While other companies are seeing the impacts of real-time monitoring and the integration of the various arms of their business, your company is lagging behind. So what steps can you realistically take to improve matters?
The onus is on each firm to maximise the use of its assets, whether these are plants or distribution networks, to ensure that they offer the most value and minimise costs throughout their lifecycle.
"So on a macro level, management of this capital asset can be seen as one large project, and the technology used to operate and administer such an industry must allow for full Asset Lifecycle Management [ALM]," explains Ian Johnson, sales manager for IFS Middle East.
"From a complex task like a seasonal shut-down for maintenance and refit, to a small task like the rebuild of a single pump, absolutely everything that happens to this asset must be managed and accounted for in an Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) tool, and that EAM tool must tie into the general ledger of the enterprise and with the overarching ALM technology used to administer the asset," Johnson adds.
Typically, a successful implementation of asset management software should be able to actually increase your asset's lifecycle. "You can not only expand that lifecycle, but you can also reduce disruption to your clients," says Bastian Fischer, vice president and general manager, EMEA, at Oracle Utilities, which includes local giants like Palm Utilities and ADWEA in its customer base.
And by optimising internal processes, you can offer your staff more time in which to operate. "This means that technicians do not waste their time in locating the right pieces on the truck or having to go back and forth between the storage location and workplace, but they have resources, tools, machines, and HR integration at the sites where they are needed," adds Fischer. "This means that the best interests of the both the client and the utility are kept at heart."
Time to implementation
Needless to say, the implementation of this type of solution can be a lengthy procedure. It can range from almost immediately - for simpler standalone tools that can be downloaded from the vendor's server, provided with the appropriate data and then put into operation - to as long as 18 months or more for a complex solution that needs to integrate a large number of assets.
"Typically, our implementations take between 12-16 months from analysis to implementation, to testing, to final migration and ‘go-live'," observes Fischer. "This is how long it takes for an organisation to adopt such an important change, but it's also important to remember that those times can be drastically reduced by adopting a strict implementation model."
"For utilities customers, IFS likes to break the implementation of the solution into a number of phases - normally lasting between three and six months," indicates Johnson. "The number of phases in any particular project and the length it takes to implement is based on a number of crucial issues, including required functionality, complexity, organisation size and, of course, customer requirements."
Assessing the regional market"In the Middle East, you have two very interesting things going on," says Richard Zambuni, global marketing director - Geospatial for Bentley Solutions. "You have a very fast-growing population, and there is, as a result, a dramatic need to build out infrastructure. That infrastructure will range from transmission distribution infrastructure and will include towers and wires, as well as substations and connectivity to premises."
"The second issue is that the grid itself is being transformed," Zambuni continues. "The concept of the ‘smart grid' is becoming more and more real, meaning that networks have to cope with integrated multiple sources of power, including renewable energy and, increasingly, micro-generation."
Zambuni believes that the only obstacle currently holding back micro-generation is the lack of storage ability. But as research and development continues, this is likely to change in the near future. One of the major concerns of local utilities will be the ability of the platforms they buy today being able to cope with the technology of tomorrow. "We support the re-engineering of the electricity grid to allow for all these new technologies," Zambuni outlines.
This need for flexibility is also embraced by Oracle. "What's important to our clients is not only to have processes set in stone for now, but also to have a built application to implement further requirements as well," says Fischer. "Another reason that clients opt for Oracle is because they know we have other applications - project management and analytics, for example - that they can choose to integrate at a later date if it suits them."
So it's not just a case of having your new solution implemented and then resting on your laurels. The product you choose needs to be able to move not only with the advances of software science, but also with the changes that you make to your organisational structure in the future as well.
The good news for regional utilities is that competition in this particular segment appears strong, forcing software companies to ‘go the extra mile' to resolve your specific concerns.
For all the latest energy and oil news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.