Keeping tabs on critical infrastructure: Implementing the right tools


By: SGN Staff


By Steve McCabe, T. K. Subramanian and Avinash Hegde


Utilities face the enormously complex task of managing a wide array of assets, from power plant generators to cross-country pipelines. Many of these assets were built during the post-World War II boom and are nearing the end of their life expectancy.


Why bother?

Utility companies rely on enterprise asset management (EAM) systems to keep tabs on that aging infrastructure and to provide the data needed to address critical questions:

·         Which utility poles need to be replaced?

·         What is stored in a given warehouse, when was it bought, and is it reaching the point of obsolescence?

·         How old is a particular stretch of pipeline, and when was it last repaired?


Knowing the answers to these questions enables utilities to quickly identify areas of vulnerability, better prepare for extreme weather outbreaks, and reduce the risk that an aging critical asset may fail. Recent events, such as Hurricane Sandy and the deadly pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California, have underscored the urgent need for utility companies to upgrade their EAM systems.


Must-have features

The goal is to provide a seamless view of a utility’s entire asset portfolio. It’s important that any asset management solution be fully integrated, incorporating:

·         Geographic information systems (GIS)

·         Construction management and maintenance

·         Customer information systems (CIS).


A comprehensive EAM system not only provides early and effective detection of potential problems, but also offers a number of operational and economic advantages. Indeed, EAM solutions are increasingly being viewed as a strategic business asset, helping utilities maximize return on their assets, control costs, operate more efficiently and safely, and be more responsive to customers, as well as regulators.