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Addressing change in the energy and utilities sector

Published: 12 June 2015 - Marianne Evans

The energy and utilities sector is changing. Over the past 20 years, the market has seen unprecedented growth thanks to global investment and a rise in demand for cleaner, smarter energy. But perhaps one of the biggest movements has been the changing role of the customer.

With escalating energy and utilities costs, today’s consumers are more discerning and demand greater transparency. What’s more, we are now seeing a tendency toward large infrastructure investments in many parts of the world, such as the Three Gorges Dam project in China, while U.K. energy companies are expected to spend £118bn on new infrastructure between now and 2020. This is contributing to a greater emphasis on showing transparency around investment costs and how they could impact consumer energy bills.

For an energy producer, providing this level of transparency is only possible when business processes are fully integrated, with efficient dataflow across the entire organisation—and with full asset lifecycle costs integrated as early as the design stage.

Thankfully, enterprise software is evolving in line with the industry’s changing needs.

Providing an end-to-end view of business performance, an industry-optimised enterprise solution can:

·         Allow full lifecycle management. From planning and installation, to the maintenance of assets, companies need smart, long-term, cradle-to-grave asset planning in every project, whether it’s building a wind farm or creating the first man-made energy-generating lagoon. Companies need a solution capable of addressing industry challenges at every phase of the project and asset lifecycle, from infrastructure planning, development and engineering, to construction, commissioning, operations, maintenance, and eventual retirement.

Look for: a solution supporting deep project management, asset design, predictive maintenance, reliability-centered maintenance, overall equipment efficiency and maintenance repair and overhaul. Supporting a collaborative, real-time information-sharing environment, enterprise asset management (EAM) can help prevent equipment downtime, extend asset life, reduce service and repair costs, and maximise time-to-value.

·         Save inventory expenditure. Asset-intensive industries are potentially leaving millions of dollars on the shelf when it comes to spare parts holdings. Many companies store rather than actively use inventory parts, so sourcing items on an as-needed basis from an open-market-style web model can be a great option. Reducing inventory levels in asset-intensive industries can equate to multi-million dollar savings using an enterprise solution to coordinate spare parts inventories, replenish, refurbish and manage inventory obsolescence. 

Look for: a flexible and agile enterprise solution that translates local naming conventions to a master naming standard. To determine the correct item, modern, component-based applications can be easily integrated with web-based spares trading hubs with the in-built ability to easily and quickly cross-reference local naming conventions.

·         Support regulation. Many companies in the energy and utilities industry face increasingly stringent regulations. Being able to react at the pace that governments and consumers demand requires immediate access to data—but also the ability to access information across the entire enterprise.

Look for: an EAM solution that supports key compliance measures such as ISO 55000. Enterprise solutions must be optimised for complex and highly regulated industries such as power generation, and should provide context for the process underpinning the organisation.

·         Provide full visibility. Intelligence information without proper context across the project-tracking stages can incur huge expenses. The energy and utilities industries’ ongoing capital construction investments highlight information management issues and the pressing need for master data management and inventory data consistency. For multi-national operations, it’s key to have one system that accounts for differences in everything from language to exchange rates and local tax implications. 

Look for: an enterprise solution that streamlines internal processes, reduces operation costs, and understands enterprise performance to enable better decision-making. The ability to manage third-party service providers is key, as is support for all aspects of multi-currency and language. The solution should provide a single, global tool for supply chain optimization and management.

Efficient assets and up-to-date infrastructure, in many ways, form the bedrock of our modern society. That’s why transparency, efficiency, and informed decision-making has never been more important.

Providing an enterprise-wide, 360-degree view of processes and performance value chains, enterprise asset management is proving critical in improving the flexibility and insight needed to inform decision-making and manage assets, throughout their entire lifecycle.

By Colin Beaney, global industry director for energy and utilities at IFS

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