May 01, 2006
GITA Conference 29 Notes
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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How is the work and asset management system distinguished from other related systems, for example? Work and asset management systems typically manage multi-crew, multi-task and multiday work, according to Chuck Drinnan, executive consultant for LogicaCMG.

- WM and AM may be a component of ERP, but ERP's primary purpose is managing work from a financial point of view

- Work Force Management is dispatch and scheduling designed for a single crew

- Work flow manager manages different versions for the GIS

- WM systems don't perform outage, so an outage management systems is necessary.

When asked where GIS comes in, Drinnan explained: “My view of GIS is that it maintains all the assets that are in the system at any time, and out in the field (not inventory). The GIS is a big powerful system. When I look at an asset management/maintenance system, I see a different problem - if I want to figure out my schedules for maintenance, part of it's geographics, some of it is looking at different assets. When I look at the life history of an asset, I want to know what it costs to install. That's not in my GIS typically. I want to know what's happened to the asset.” There are some GIS systems that keep track of moving assets from one location to another.

“In addition, I have all the maintenance work going on and have results of that work. On top of that I want to know how the revenue works in this problem, how much does this regulator station cost? I do need GIS help for analysis, load flow, etc.”

Drinnan said there is no single system that has all the information. The practical information is going to reside in the GIS. SAP and other systems are here to stay. “The question is, can I bring the data that I don't regularly have into a central location, and can I use that data to do maintenance and other processes?”

He suggested a repository in the center that you could plug all the other disparate systems into, like a data warehouse or database store.

Vendors and Users

Intergraph U&C has developed an integrated suite of workflow-based solutions on one platform called the oneMobile Mobile Geospatial Resource Management system, which embodies functionality in just one system that you would generally find in three technologies: GIS, outage management and mobile workforce management.

This mobile centric solution offers maps in the field, red lines and field design, and field inspection data.

In a demonstration of the product, Karen Bochmeyer and Steve McDaniel showed the creation of an original work request in the back office: initiating a new service design into an environment. Bochmeyer located a transformer that might require attention, hit the “initiate field design” command and sent the design job over to the field unit.

The field worker received the design job and alerted the dispatcher that he was en route to the job site. A graphical display shows his route. His own location was integrated with GPS, or it could be that the dispatcher knows the field worker's location.

For the field sketch job, the field worker learned that a wire was down and needed attention. He could also get preliminary costs on replacing the wire, if that was necessary. If he didn't know what the problem was when he arrived, he can use the analytical capabilities in Mobile Viewer to query for problems in the area.

Onscreen, the field worker placed a pole, a wire and transformer. “I can tell the dispatcher that I'm done with the sketch and send it to the back office,” said McDaniel.

Utilities and telecoms all use the same process to manage pipes, lines, etc., no matter where in the world they are, according to Geoff Zeiss, director of technology, infrastructure solutions division, Autodesk. That process is as follows:

1) An engineering design group (CAD) has a piece of paper they take to the field

2) They then go to Records (GIS) where the piece of paper is digitized, then it goes to

3) Accounting

This process is open to many errors and miscalculations. “They could reduce their costs by 79% by using IT,” said Zeiss. In his view, utilities haven't even started to reach this goal. By solving the redigitizing problem and the field force problem there is a huge reduction in costs.

Zeiss said that traditionally, many companies don't trust what the field workers have to offer, yet they are the ones who know what's out there and have ownership of the data. In North America, most utilities track returns, which are the number of return trips they must make to a site because of incorrect information.

Typically, Asia Pacific and Eastern Europe are faster adopters of IT technology for utilities and telecoms than the U.S. The U.S. is held back by the number of legacy systems it has and legacy procedures.

J.R. Smith, senior GIS analyst for the Public Works Department of the City of Tacoma, spoke to me about their experience with integration. Like many utilities, in the 1990s, they realized the need to go digital. They bought GE Smallworld, a powerful utility enterprise solution. As they needed to work with many different softwares from different vendors, they bought Oracle and use it as a storage medium. The city uses AutoCAD for building, land use, and permitting, and ESRI in the planning department, and now they use MapGuide for its internet and intranet capabilities. They can achieve GIS interoperability and have made their GIS accessible to numerous agencies and individuals, as all that
disparate data is now transparent. The department is beginning to also work with the fire and police departments, and hopes to have streaming real-time data in the future.

Stephanie Hull, PE, Director, Business Systems at AGL Resources, cited 2005 corporate goals for the company that included integrating acquisitions, accelerating the pace of technology adoption, i.e., automating everything that is still manual and consolidate to achieve one company and one system.

Hull explained that natural gas usage per customer is projected to decline. “We're earning less per customer, but the cost to install the infrastructure is going up.”

“We use phase implementation - we are under a lot of pressure to get things done so we can start achieving benefits, so we're putting one piece in while we're developing the next piece,” Hull added.

“We were very siloed and constrained by our systems,” Hull recalled. “We started by just knowing where our work is. We overlaid a day in the life of our technicians.” The realization that different crews were within a couple of houses of each other helped to move toward fully integrated mobile applications with needed business logic at the point of data entry.”

“Our vision is to have a single application for all our utilities to get us across the entire lifecycle, fully integrated,” concluded Hull.

Rick Riveland, Lead Business Systems Analyst, Dominion Resources Services, Inc. of Richmond, Virg., has been with company for 18 years. Riveland has a strong background in field operations and construction, and now creates future processes for all distribution work.

“We are transforming our scheduling and dispatch processes,” Riveland declared. He cited facts about the utility: 6,000 miles of electric transmission, operating revenues of $14.0 billion in 2004, total assets were $45.4 billion at that time. They serve 2.3 million electric customers in Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, with 64,000 distribution lines.

For the last two years, the company has gone through an analysis of its processes and made the decision that they must allow technology to improve their processes.

With regard to scheduling, every department was scheduling somehow, but none were doing it the same way. “We brought all the work and resources into one schedule for the whole organization,” Riveland said. “One schedule allows for a single material process. You can also consolidate so you can do just-in-time delivery of materials.”

With dispatch, cancelled jobs created holes in the schedule. “Scheduling and dispatch are really the same thing,” Riveland pointed out. “The only difference is how they apply over time, and the urgency of them.”

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