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Energy and utilities: The 2-step approach to managing maintenance activities

Tania Piunno
Tania Piunno
February 24, 2022

Energy and utilities make the world go round. We all need the production of electricity, water and natural gas to cook, do laundry and keep the lights in our homes on. While highly populated areas use more utilities than countries with slower economic growth, the demand for energy is undeniably growing.

Utilities corporations and governments work hard to establish enough electricity to meet consumer demand, which comes primarily from the industrial sector. But the growing demand for more power means that more money is being spent on delivering it to homes and businesses. In fact, utilities spending on electricity delivery over the last decade has been going up significantly. Major cities across the US reported that the cost to operate and maintain electrical components such as poles, wires and transmission systems has only increased year after year.

People expect reliable energy solutions

Power failures are anything but pleasant. The population has become so reliant on power to live their daily lives that any unexpected outage feels like the end of the world. However, power outages can indeed happen, and causes can range from extreme weather conditions like freezing rain and heavy winds, to tree branches or even animals falling on power lines below.

The primary challenge for energy and utility companies is providing uninterrupted power supply to the people who need it while sustaining a well managed network. Regular maintenance work is essential to avoid service interruptions and prevent the worst from happening. So is streamlining the operational process and having it run smoother than ever so that nothing goes unnoticed. As a professional in the energy and utility service industry, you want an effective framework in place that can adapt to rapidly changing market conditions, newer technologies and uncertainties out of your control.

Keeping water, gas and electricity constantly flowing

In this sector, many pieces of the operational puzzle need to be properly managed. A tool that streamlines work orders and automates jobs for field service teams is required to keep utilities flowing.

We’ve decoded the 2-step approach to managing maintenance activities across the board that will help energy and utility service companies rest assured that their business operations run smoothly at all times.

1. Being more proactive with preventive maintenance

A city’s infrastructure plays a vital role in the seamless delivery of utility services, and unfortunately a lot of it is aging. Although the transformation of this infrastructure to smarter, more sustainable cities is a priority for many, it can’t be accomplished overnight. Cities still need maintenance work to tend to aging infrastructure and guarantee its reliability.

Energy and utility service companies can perform network maintenance operations that will prevent future outages from occurring. Field service software provides them with the tools to better plan and execute an effective maintenance program. By scheduling recurrent maintenance at regular intervals on critical assets, the energy and utilities industry can avoid equipment failure and the costly repairs associated with it. Especially for aging systems, a maintenance plan is imperative to keeping assets in working order.

With field service software, setting up customized schedules is instantly simplified. It allows you to put together a proactive strategy to lengthen the lifespan of vital pieces of equipment, essentially reducing the number of emergency visits. For example, when dealing with power lines, nature becomes a hazard as trees begin to grow, potentially obstructing electrical poles. These trees need to be trimmed regularly or removed altogether. A maintenance program can be configured to have trees trimmed systematically to avoid eventual damage to the power lines.

2. Adding operational intelligence

High volume work needs easy dispatching and intelligent scheduling. Organizing schedules for field technicians on spreadsheets with little visibility into workforce operations can’t efficiently manage a last minute service request, cancellation, change in route, or a technician that calls in sick. Intelligent scheduling allows the dispatcher to match a technician to a customer request based on availability, skill set, travel time, to name a few. Advanced scheduling functionality speeds up response times whenever necessary.

Real time analytics are the key to a successful operating business. A systematic analysis of data is needed to be able to predict unknown business outcomes, realize significant patterns and make valid conclusions. In a constantly evolving market like energy and utilities, access to relevant, actionable insights is the only way to reduce (or control) costs on power delivery and production and make more informed decisions for the future.

Intelligence is also linked to customer assets. Service companies are embracing an asset management ideology and its numerous benefits including insight into the next time the asset needs maintenance, for better customer relationships.

Well-defined maintenance practices positively impact the life of customer equipment. On the other hand, inaccurate asset data affects your bottom line. Asset tracking information improves uptime, and especially in energy and utilities, this feature is crucial. When the maintenance process is automated with intelligence, you can extend the service lifecycle of an asset and essentially move away from a reactive approach which consists of responding to a crisis only after the fact, costing the company a lot more money to repair.

History tracking, data collection and access to documentation benefits the entire team. You want to provide your team with the tools to guide them to perform the work right the first time around. With field service software, job specifics are documented so that technicians are prepared before they arrive onsite. Work order details are always accessible from anywhere, on the go. Having the ability to view work order history and technicalities that occurred in the past is the ideal way to accurately diagnose an issue or malfunction. Additionally, having an audit trail is great for regulatory compliance.

Changes happen in the field. A technician may want to add themselves to a new work order at a location nearby. Modifications are synched automatically so dispatchers back at the office and other members in the field are always up to date.

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