Mobility for Utilities – Mobilizing Asset Maintenance and Workforce Management

Recently we have been engaged with one of our strategic partners in analyzing and recommending mobility solutions for a large publicly traded Utility. For the typical utility company, two-thirds of total employees are field-based. This makes the automation of field personnel and the extension of critical business applications to remote users a key opportunity for productivity improvement and cost reduction.
The cost of maintaining a utility company’s key assets – transmission and distribution facilities – represents a significant portion of their annual operating budgets. Most utilities allocate considerable resources to keeping their records current and accurate. Some are still rely on paper based record keeping and workforce management, with outdated legacy systems that were built for some very basic record keeping and best yet issuing paper based work orders and mapping for asset maintenance and leak/field surveys.

Enterprise Asset Management Solutions combined with mobile solutions can enable utility companies to efficiently manage and record their principal gas infrastructure assets, while reducing the cost of maintaining these records by storing them in a central database. This makes this information readily available for a variety of applications, potentially improving record keeping productivity by more than 50 percent.

Utilities, as well as other organizations, continue to increase their use of various imagery types as an integral part of their infrastructure management and geographic information system (GIS) databases. Utility service providers use imagery to help them understand the location and characteristics of their physical networks, produce and update vector data, and facilitate a variety of other activities, such as emergency response and protection of critical infrastructure. Effective content management is needed to fuse vast amounts of geospatial data from different sources, scales, and time frames.

Geographical Enablement of SAP ERP (GEO.e) with spatial data is now a package offered by SAP – built in partnership with Esri – as a framework to geo-enable master data and transactional data from business processes that run in SAP ERP. Geo.e uses a dedicated Esri ArcGIS for Server to store geometry related to SAP information.

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What we have learned in our experience is that most solutions that are deployed sildenafil prix pharmacie france at Utilities for mobilizing their workforce are quite outdated. They deliver a very expensive and non user friendly solution to their field personnel which really makes me wonder whether they consider this truly a “mobile” solution. For example field services at this particular utility, use a ruggedized expensive laptop (weights over 10lbs) that is hard mounted to most trucks, this does not truly classify as being mobile in

our books, however we do understand that most IT organizations only do what they currently know how to do and that mainly consists of deploying solutions that they have knowledge of managing, typically built on windows based devices and infrastructure. Things have now changed, the proliferation of smartphones and tablets into the enterprise is something that has to be addressed by IT and a secure way of delivering user friendly applications that can automate work orders, asset maintenance and leak/field surveys now is becoming come the norm.

We are helping our customers build apps on a robust

platform from SAP for cross platform compatibility. For example one of the apps we are thinking of mobilizing is the leak/field survey process for gas pipelines, this is currently done via paper forms with manual data entry into a legacy system. This app will help the leak surveyor be able to perform surveys of gas pipelines and be able to complete the required data when a leak is detected. It will have integrations with GIS/ESRI and have Google Maps for Routing and turn by turn direction.

The future for most utilities lies in the mobilization of asset maintenance and work work order management via solutions like SAP Work Manager built on the new mobile platform by SAP. The new SAP Mobile Platform has the ability to help field workers access business and spatial data in a single view across multiple devices types (iOS, Android, Windows) yet deliver a simple and easy to use user interface. SAP Work Manager 6.1 which gets its GA in July is something that we will be looking at as a key tool to help crews locate assets in the field and be able to create notifications for repair or replacement.

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IT can’t hide behind legacy systems anymore. IT

hasn’t been able to fully deliver on its promise and monolithic legacy systems which has caused it to struggle in delivering working software frequently. They weren’t able to produce new capabilities quickly, update based on real-time analytic’s, or iterate continually to build a better experience for their users.

Mobile-optimized APIs are the key to unlocking enterprise data. The way forward is to open up and expose legacy systems or consolidate them to more modern systems with SOA frameworks, by creating open APIs and Web Services. Leveraging APIs/Services across the enterprise portfolio of applications fundamentally changes the cost to scale and the ability to build modern UI’s as well as mobilize workflows and job processes.

Mobility isn’t just a bunch of flashy new apps. It’s about migrating decades of business-critical applications from the client-server world into the mobile-first world. Mobile is not simply an extension of the web; it’s a totally new way of conducting business, and it requires enterprises and utilities to reshape their entire development process. At Rapid we are looking forward to a new challenge where Mobility helps deliver increased productivity and automation to field workers in the Utility sector. Stay tuned to our blogs to hear more about what we are doing in this space.

Founder/President and Chief Mobility Officer