February 13, 2019

The Power is in the Data

Living in the digital age has taught Futura that adapting to change is critical for continued success. We like to stay ahead of the industry and offer our customers the best solutions at any given time period, which is why we thought it would be helpful to talk about our knowledge and experience in asset management with our Chief Operating Officer, Adam Dinges. Below, he’s covered everything from the who’s and what’s, to how it plays into Futura’s business model and history:

“Asset management has naturally always belonged with GIS because the power is in the data.  A strong GIS is built by spatial accuracy and thorough data records, giving the utilities tremendous abilities to visualize their data.  Five years ago, the problem facing utilities was having an efficient and portable way to take their GIS into the fields and collect the information at the point of installation, inspection, maintenance and getting that information back into the system of record. Our mission has always been to make the utility workflow seamless by offering field solutions that work across our suite of products.

The introduction of FieldPro gave the field crews the power of all of our solutions in one easy-to-use application, and most importantly, the data was being captured in the same format as the GIS. No more paper, no third party custom solution, no data transfer.  This marked an evolution in how utilities could operate.  Which of course brought more challenges…

Futura initially built the asset data and history tables into our solution knowing utilities needed centralized access. AssetTracker provided any user web access to their electric assets to view, edit, and customize the data, but there was still the problem of not having connection to the field. The maintenance and history could be toggled, however, the changing of an asset still had to be made in the GIS. At the time (before Indigo and FieldPro), the way we managed assets made it very easy on the GIS analyst to keep assets up-to-date, given the field crews were providing the information to analysts. This didn’t always happen because a paper process can result in a lack of coordination between departments.  

Electric cooperative office performing asset management, GIS, and utility job work.

Futura knew we had to improve the data workflow from field-to-office, but we also had to expand the capabilities of what types of assets could be tracked.  Utilities were wanting to track nonelectric assets, even assets that didn’t have a finite spatial value (trucks, tablets, phones, anything mobile that isn’t planted in a fixed spot).  Futura responded by launching our operations management tool (Indigo) in 2018, further empowering utilities to command their workflows to match technology.

Giving utilities the link between field and office has resulted in:
  • Eliminating the need for paper
  • Solving duplicate data entry issues
  • Merging separate database storage
  • More in-depth analysis of where violations, maintenance, or replacements are needed and when

Now with Indigo, utilities can change out an asset from FieldPro or Indigo without the need for GIS desktop. Utilities can also create their own asset management plans (AMP) to set inspection cycles, data validation, and notification rules based on asset data. Doing so alerts the appropriate department or employees when work is needed, and ensures the information is kept to the same spatial and data integrity rules of the GIS.

We have provided true asset ownership to the field where it belongs. Users can now capture the information at the point of interaction without data translation in FieldPro. Any utility employee can analyze the data with Catalyst IQ analytics, edit asset attributes, create new assets, and create reports for any record in the system, all without the need to install a desktop product.  Asset management accomplished through GIS, Field Pro, Indigo, and Catalyst IQ is exactly how products become solutions when employees across the utility have access to the data they need, when they need it, and can access it how they need to!

So, what’s next?

The main advancements that will continue to shape asset management include easier access to data collection and using that data to take preventive action based on certain types of failures. (Ex: attributing violations or failures to geographic areas, or exposure to particular elements that may not apply to other parts of a system) 

Secondly, having a reliable data repository will allow additional analysis of what issues were addressed (where, when, who, and what costs were associated). The utility will be able to better set annual budgets on what can be expected.  Workflows can be adjusted to match their software capabilities and the ability to better track contractors on work that has been assigned to them. Software will become more flexible, with predictive engines to provide a warning when features reach a defined critical level or operation pattern, future work will automatically be created and even assigned based on maintenance cycles that have been determined by the utility.  Adding the ability to track time and enter into the accounting system, and access to digital safety forms will bring everything together.

Utilities have always had standards from NERC, FERC, TVA (where applicable), NESC, etc. Each look out for a specific group(s) and provide oversight and compliance.  The aging grid is a real issue that all utilities face, it is their responsibility to ensure their assets are maintained and tested to ensure safety to their members, for preventative maintenance, and to keep their system as efficient as possible. meeting the cooperative mission of providing safe, reliable, and affordable power to all members.”

“FieldPro is a home run with our field personnel team, and Futura is making continuous advancements and improvements extremely fast. It puts data in their hands out in the field, and I like that they put out a roadmap for us.”

Sam Puschaver | GIS Supervisor, Brunswick Electric