Predicting your maintenance needs

Real lessons from American electric power

One of the questions that has always intrigued me is how a utility can know the amount of money needed to perform maintenance on its diverse assets not only today but into the future (e.g., next year, the year after or in the next five years). To my pleasant surprise, I learned that I am not the only one who grapples with this question. I spoke with several experienced utility professionals and got a wide range of answers – the most common response being “It depends.” — leaving me to conclude that there is no one way.

Indeed the answer to this question does depend on a number of factors. In the simple case, the prediction is as simple as extrapolating from today’s maintenance dollars (defined in the industry as “innocence,” where the organization is just starting to learn about the importance of asset management). In the most complex case, the prediction takes into account asset condition, associated risk of failure and a whole host of financial metrics to determine future monetary needs (i.e., “expert,” where an organization’s asset management activities are fully integrated and being continuously improved to deliver optimal whole life value).

American Electric Power (AEP), one of the largest utilities in the United States with a service area that spans 11 states, embarked on a journey to answer this seemingly naïve question and has achieved “expert” status in a matter of a few years. Working with ABB as an innovation partner, AEP’s journey, the first in the industry of this scope, culminated with the deployment of ABB’s Asset Health Center, a software solution that takes field data as input and provides decision support related to fleet investment.

AEP’s Jeff Fleeman and I spoke about this incredible journey at the recent ARC Industry Forum in Orlando at the panel session entitled, “Moving to Predictive Maintenance with Industrial Internet of Things.” We learned much from AEP’s journey…What to do? What not to do in an implementation as large as this one? How to connect assets and leverage new technologies leveraging the Industrial Internet of Things? How to prioritize? And what benefits may be expected?

If you weren’t able to make it the ARC Forum, leave your thoughts and questions in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you.

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About the author

Siri Varadan

I am director of product management at ABB and lead all technical and commercial aspects of ABB’s flagship product, the Asset Health Center. With more than 25 years of experience working with electric T&D utilities in the US and overseas, I have a solid foundation in power systems engineering, software management/implementation, business process consulting and asset investment planning. I am a registered professional engineer and a Senior Member of the IEEE. My past employers include KEMA (now DNVGL), UISOL (an Alstom Company) and Nexant.
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