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Work Bundling for Power Utilities

June 28, 2016

Many power utilities collect their infrastructure inspection data using a variety of techniques, sources and systems of record. Having many different repositories of digital information makes it difficult to make informed decisions about where to spend operations and maintenance (O & M) and capital project dollars. Having a “crystal ball” that aggregates all of this data into one single user interface could help these utilities make more informed decisions for their infrastructure as a whole, instead of using one inspection type to make these decisions.

VUEWorks is the “crystal ball” that utilities can use to better understand the Condition of their assets, calculate Risk and use all of their data to do better budgeting and forecasting. For example, utilities typically collect information related to their structures and spans using one or a combination of these inspection techniques:

  1. Patrols
  2. Corona
  3. Infrared Inspections
  4. Climbing Inspections
  5. Walking Inspections
  6. Vegetation Points-of-Interest (LiDAR and Visual) Inspections
  7. NERC encroachments (LiDAR) Inspections
  8. Comprehensive Visual Inspection (CVI)

All of these inspections generate a large amount of data independent of one another and can be very useful if combined based on a unique structure or span number. Once combined, this information can then be used to determine the best way to bundle work activities to achieve the greatest return on investment (ROI).

flow-chart

Work bundling is a concept that has been well understood in the utility industry but not commonly practiced due to the disparate ways in which inspection data is collected and accessed from within a single agency. Many work management systems only focus on the recording of work order information related to the labor, equipment and materials used to perform a project, but do not contain strategic planning tools. These tools allow an agency to conduct “what-if” scenarios by applying different budget amounts against a planned work matrix.

life-cycle

Once the optimal work matrix is determined, a work plan for that utility can then be planned and programmed, executed and tracked as a project or a series of projects for that planning horizon. All costs related to that work matrix can be applied to each asset and tracked against an overall work plan budget. These actual costs are then compared to the estimated costs to refine the planning matrix unit costs that are feeding the budget forecasting model.

As a utility completes the work for that particular period, it can then record the work activities against a particular asset which determines its next activity that is due in its life-cycle. As this feedback loop is established, more cyclical work can be planned and programmed for future fiscal years and budget plans.

This concept has been applied at several utilities through the United States using an asset management software called VUEWorks. This software is GIS-centric at its core and allows users to connect their GIS data to their asset management system through the use of Esri GIS software. The utility creates a map service which is consumed by VUEWorks and provides a mapping framework from which users can view inspection data from various sources.

For example, a helicopter inspection company collects CVI data by flying next to the transmission structures and collects high-resolution imagery of any defects located on that structure or its associated span. Another vendor collects walking inspection information which includes subterranean excavations around a structure and its supports. These inspections yield different defects which may require different types of activities to correct them. This is where the concept of work bundling can be used.

pole-connections

Since each inspection yielded different defects, the structure or span will need to be worked on at some point. It is important that all departments responsible for line maintenance understand all of the defects present on a particular structure or span so that they can conduct all work activities at the same time. In essence, VUEWorks provides this exact information, all in one place. The utility has the ability to link all of this data together based on a structure or span ID and can then view all inspection data from one single user interface.

wotk-plan

This concept is important because if a utility needs to de-energize a line for maintenance or capital improvements, it will want to ensure that all issues are resolved during one outage. Multiple outages cost money and this concept of work bundling is helping utilities achieve high ROIs for these projects by combining projects into one single project, instead of multiple projects.

In conclusion, the concept of work bundling saves utilities time and money through the aggregation of data into a single user repository. This information can easily and effectively be used to make informed decisions and avoid multiple outage situations. By combining multiple inspection data sets together, utilities can more proactively manage their assets cost-effectively while extending the useful life of their infrastructure investment.