09 October 2009

Joe Tremblay - Product manager

In order to succeed, every business needs to extract maximum value from its costly f xed assets, and there’s no shortage of asset management software available to help. However useful and powerful this software may be, it is unlikely to fully address the requirements associated with major items of electrical plant.

There are very good reasons, therefore, for augmenting standard asset management systems with specialist software that has been specifically designed with electrical assets in mind. Before discussing the requirements for software of this type, and the benefits it can be expected to provide, it is useful to recap some of the key objectives of asset management in general.

These can be summarised as maximising productivity, performance and service levels while minimising costs; ensuring that safety and regulatory requirements are fully met; and satisfying the universal demand for reliability. It can be seen at once that these objectives go right to the core of business operations, irrespective of the type of organisation involved.

As a result, failure to manage assets properly can have devastating effects, and this is certainly true in the case of electrical plant.

A failed power transformer in a utility’s transmission network can, for example, leave hundreds of consumers without a supply, and a similar problem in an industrial installation can shut down a whole manufacturing site.

And there’s no quick fix for problems of this type – if a replacement transformer is needed, a delivery time of several months can be expected, and the situation is not much better for other major items of electrical plant. Clearly, there is a need to manage assets in such a way that the risk of such failures is kept to an absolute minimum.

The key to success in this endeavour is to monitor the condition of the equipment so that impending problems can be detected and tackled before they develop into full-blown failures. In successfully achieving this for electrical plant, there are two issues to be tackled.

The first is that it is not always easy to determine the condition of electrical equipment – visual inspection, for example, usually reveals few if any clues about possible problems. The monitoring regime must, therefore, be based on testing, but this gives rise to the second issue: how can the data which testing yields be turned into a useful asset management tool?

The answer may seem to be readily apparent – simply store and process the data using the software provided by the supplier of the instruments used to carry out the tests. That’s a good answer as far as it goes, but in reality it’s only a starting point. Even if there is only one item of equipment to test – say a transformer – to fully evaluate its condition, several different tests are likely to be needed, each using a different instrument.

This is where things begin to become complicated, because each instrument is likely to have its own software for processing data and each is, therefore, likely to produce results in its own particular format. Collating these disparate results and transferring them effectively to an enterprise asset management system is almost certainly to prove a nightmarishly complicated task.

What’s needed is a software package that offers compatibility with a wide range of different types of test set and that ideally, is not tied to test equipment from a single supplier.

Such a package might be expected not only to be configurable to produce reports in almost any format that is convenient for the user, but also to be pre-configured to produce reports in industry-standard formats for equipment such as batteries, cables,

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