For the times they are a-changin'. –Bob Dylan
Utilities have a lot to think about these days. From big data to blockchain, from AI to VR, the only topic that's constant is the need to transform. However, amidst all the techie buzzwords floating around today, it's easy to lose sight of what remains a major fundamental component of the utility business—the assets.
With the volume of assets under utility responsibility, the complexity of asset management is not new. What's new is the pace of this complexity. Combined with a rapidly changing operating environment from higher customer, regulatory and economic demands, the expectation to make accurate, more strategic decisions faster has risen to unprecedented levels.
It's safe to say, given the times, that the utility industry's view of tomorrow is quite different than it has been in the past. I've spoken with many utilities that recognize they are on their own unique journey—working hard to chart a course for a seemingly unreachable destination. This is compounded with the weight of a growing, complex asset portfolio—once guaranteed strength—now at risk of becoming a major liability.
Before taking the journey, preparation is critical. Identifying and setting the course to navigate the key issues at hand will help take full advantage of opportunities ahead. Some of these driving the need for more surefire methods to manage asset performance include:
Digitization: The digital transformation is underway across industries and utilities are no exception. As a result, data from assets are significantly increasing in volume, velocity and variety. Information and operations technology must meet this scale generating insights to deliver the optimal maintenance strategy.
Changing customer expectations: Information on demand, visibility into accounts/service/support, informative engagement at critical moments, consistent experiences across technologies, near-real-time fulfillment … all available at the customer’s fingertips is heightening expectations and utilities must have a deeper understanding of all assets and activity to meet these demands.
Technology adoption: Utilities have traditionally embrace and implement change slowly, and yet the technology landscape is evolving rapidly—cloud and edge computing, mobile, machine learning, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, internet of things and more. Utilities need solutions that solve today’s operational needs and give them flexibility for the tech over the horizon.
Workforce evolution: Three key workforce challenges are being discussed: a rapidly retiring workforce, recruiting talented young people into the industry, and filling any gaps with a growing externalized workforce. Many see modernizing technology supporting a safeguard against losing expertise in older systems, a recruiting method for young tech-savvy workers embracing the evolution in asset management techniques, and a seamless extension of the direct workforce leveraging external contractors and service providers.
Combine addressing these issues with the greatest pressure of decreasing budget for maintaining all these complex assets: it's no surprise that significant changes are afoot.
These challenges utilities are facing today are universal, which is why I travel to help guide utilities across the world to show how we can make a seemingly impossible journey, possible together.
Join me on this journey in future posts where we rediscover the asset and show what it takes to effectively manage them in today's world.
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