Asset Management – What Would be Better?

Blog Post created by PHohl-esristaff Employee on Jul 29, 2020

Underground cable failures are the worst outages. Pick your least favorite place for corroded cables – direct buried, 1970’s cable in preassembled flexible conduit, or maybe collapsed ducts. These all turn fault locating and cable repair into a nightmare.

With a grim outlook for permanent repairs, attention may turn to temporary measures. Anything to get the customers back in service! Those bring safety concerns. I have used traffic ramps, cable tied to trees, 24 hour guards, and jet turbine generators more than once. What practices and tools can help manage old cable and improve asset management?

I recently visited a utility engineering office. A large paper map hung on the wall – the cable replacement plan. Millions of dollars! All in one region, faded yellow highlighter outlined the neighborhoods for replacement over the next five years.

I asked why. Those areas were based on campfire storiesTales of extended outages that “made it into the newspaper” years ago. Today that would be on Facebook. The focus on this region was based on hazy executive promises to “do something about it”. The plan was not even based on cable age - it was an enduring kneejerk reaction driving asset management.

Obvious questions revealed opportunities for improvement:

  • Is this the oldest cable? Not necessarily.
  • Are other areas in need of work? Surely.
  • Is this the best area to focus on? Debatable.

What would be better?

If the idea is to replace old cable, it would be better to determine where cables are oldest. That would at least be defensible when asked  - Why is the utility working there and not over here?

What would be better?

Age is not always the best indicator of asset health. Better yet would be to consider the current asset condition. Include the last periodic inspection, or data gathered the last time a crew did their safety inspection before normal work. Adding knowledge of past faults and historic failure rates would be very insightful. Definitely better.

What would be better?

Not all cables are used in the same way. Some extend to only a few customers – some serve critical loads. Radial sections have no switching options. Looped segments enjoy alternate feeds making restoration much faster and easier. Prioritizing work based on asset criticality and restoration effort would take cable replacement to a whole new level. Now we are getting somewhere!

What would be better?

Top it off with information about the environment. Soil conditions, imagery, weather, and customer demographics all bring new perspectives. Optimize the whole asset management process. Balance asset performance against cost, resources, reliability, and compliance. So much better!

Wrap Up

Enterprise asset management (EAM) systems handle many aspects of the asset life cycle. However, they are blind to the spatial relationship of assets between each other, outside influences, or customers. Understanding these connections is essential to optimized asset management.

The data often rests in different systems – in silos. What is needed it to unite asset data with the network connectivity model, outages, customers, environmental factors. See all the data in one place – organized around location. It is the one thing in common.

Most utilities already use GIS for asset management in some capacity. Yet, how they use it is changing. ArcGIS is a complete GIS. Complete means it contains all the elements needed to solve asset management challenges, not just make conventional maps.

These capabilities unite asset information. Combining asset health data and real-time feeds show how the network is performing. With location as the centerpiece, a total view bonds maintenance, capital, and operational strategies to improve key performance indicators and business results.

The next time you see an engineer go to look at the faded cable replacement map remind them it could be better. Optimize the process and get that information in a web browser, a phone app, or right in CAD. Use location technology.

To find out how ArcGIS can help utilities optimize asset management, download our free e-book.