Matt Piper is the Global Director of Utilities, Water, AEC & Infrastructure Industry Solutions at Esri. We asked him to share his insights on the Utility Network, GIS-centric solutions, and the value that location intelligence brings to a predictive asset management strategy.

Q: Why is location such a vital part of asset management, and why is a modern GIS so important?

A: In the past, assets were largely over-engineered and built to last. Now, they are built to specification with defined lifespans. In response, asset management programs have moved from using time-based assessment methods to condition-based and, more recently, predictive and prescriptive methods. As these maintenance programs mature, they require additional information to create a better understanding about why the asset may be trending to fail, or why the asset is experiencing an abnormal failure rate. An asset’s location may contribute to higher failure rates, a higher probability of failure, or susceptibility to adverse conditions from weather or other major events. A modern GIS offers the ability to incorporate location analytics.

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Q: What main areas should organizations focus on for geo-enabling asset management?

A: Geo-enabling asset management means using location to assist in managing assets throughout their lifecycle. This can provide additional insights in three key areas. First, it ensures utilities have spatially accurate and up-to-date asset data systems. Once you know where your assets are, you can better coordinate your work plans by bundling activities based on location and also reduce travel time by optimizing routing. Finally, location provides an opportunity to understand failures beyond just the attribute details of age, make, and model. Factors such as weather, time of year, and soil type all affect your assets and are all related to where the asset is located.

Q: Talk to us about ArcGIS Utility Network. How can this solution help utility organizations?

A: The ArcGIS Utility network was purposefully built for utilities managing water, electric, gas, and telecom networks to connect and manage a modern network. The ArcGIS Utility Network will transform the way utilities perform asset management in three ways: by offering a modern architecture, creating digital twins, and supporting better data management. The Utility Network is built on a flexible services-based architecture that is available on any device or web application. Mobile applications can be developed for your inspections and asset tracking, and web solutions can be provided for both workers in the field as well as in the office. The Utility Network accurately models real-world assets in context to both the natural and man-made worlds. Networks can display their associations, connectivity, containments, and structural attachments with high accuracy. And the Utility Network solves the challenge of maintaining accurate data by allowing only accurate and validated data to be entered on the network and asset level either at the desktop or in the field.

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Q: Why are mobile solutions so important?

A: High quality asset management requires that employees have access to current data in the field and that data captured on site can be immediately communicated back to the enterprise. With approximately 50 percent of a utility’s workforce operating in the field, improvements to mobile workflows can bring significant improvements to asset and work management programs by improving coordination and operational efficiency. It reduces or even replaces reliance on paper and ensures that both fieldworkers and office staff use the same authoritative data.

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Q: What is a key differentiator between a true platform solution and a point-to-point custom solution?

A: Utilities are undergoing more change now than they have seen in decades. As a result, it is becoming common to see point-to-point solutions deployed to solve niche problems or improve workflows. The risk in this approach is that while these quick solutions can offer short term value, their specific customizations often become a constraint on moving a utility forward. The value of a true platform is that it provides an adaptable framework to scale and build commercial, off-the-shelf solutions through configurations, not customizations. This is the model deployed between ArcGIS and Cityworks. Cityworks extends the ArcGIS solution to provide specialized asset management solutions and analytics. Cityworks’ GIS-centric platform is focused on enhancing business intelligence for organizations by combining authoritative asset information with operations and permitting workflows.

Q: Why is performance assessment of assets so important?

A: By managing an asset’s performance, utilities can visualize vulnerabilities, and monitor and validate risk in their efforts to shift from a time-based and prescriptive maintenance program to a financially optimized and predictive one.

Q: Why is real-time data so important?

A: Previous inspection programs would capture data on assets only during routine inspections, meaning performance data was captured in cycles, often with as many as 4 years between inspections. With the introduction of smart meters and IoT sensors, asset information can be captured, visualized, monitored, analyzed, and then shared across the organization in real time. This allows for improved coordinated operations as well as immediate communication to the general public.

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Q: How can organizations better understand an asset lifecycle?

A: It starts with the planning stages, when the need for an asset is identified, and continues all the way through its useful life and eventual disposal. Using geographic information system (GIS) technology to integrate location information results in greater understanding of the causes and symptoms of asset failure. ArcGIS allows for real-time insights into asset conditions and streamlines refurbishment and replacement programs.

Find out what asset management solutions Cityworks and ArcGIS can provide for your utility organization. 


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