Smart Grid Operational Services: Utilities Mobile IT Adoption


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Continuing deregulation has made the utilities industry more price competitive. The transmission and distribution infrastructure is aging and often well past its planned service life.

Yet, the industry’s customers are demanding 100% availability, greater environmental awareness, more accurate billing and quick fault resolution. Government and industry compliance regulations are also becoming stricter.

To meet these challenges and be better prepared for the unexpected, companies are increasingly adopting mobile solutions as a way to further control costs, improve productivity and make better decisions throughout their organizations.

This report briefly reviews the state of mobile adoption among utilities and outlines several high return mobilization areas for managers to consider. It further discusses criteria for selection of mobile solutions and provides some leading practices for their implementation within the utility industry.

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Smart Grid Operational Services: Utilities Mobile IT Adoption

  1. 1. Utilities the way we do itSmart Grid Operational ServicesUtility Mobile IT AdoptionUtility companies have taken great Why? The reasons are many:strides in employing the latest Continuing deregulation has made thetechnology to manage their work forces, utilities industry more priceassets and operations. Many have competitive. The transmission andinvested significantly in enterprise asset distribution infrastructure is aging andmanagement (EAM) and outage is in some instances well past itsmanagement software, scheduling tools, planned service life. The workforce isremote meter reading systems and aging as well, and qualified people areproprietary communication networks. increasingly scarce and more expensiveThese tools have delivered marked to hire. Customers are demanding oneimprovements in productivity and the hundred percent availability,quality of many processes, empowering environmental awareness, accurateutilities to provide a consistent and billing and quick fault resolution.reliable product. Yet many utility Government and industry complianceorganizations are looking beyond regulations are becoming stricter. All ofimproving back office operations and this, and more, is business as usualseeking other ways to get more done, for utilities management.collaborate better and further theefficiency of their day to day activities.
  2. 2. To meet these challenges and be and remote office solutions such as better prepared for the unexpected, wireless e-mail, mainly because they companies are increasingly adopting were widely available and delivered a mobile solutions as a way to further clear set of benefits. The second phase is control costs, improve productivity the adoption of mobile applications and make better decisions throughout designed specifically for the utilities their organizations. industry. These can bring exponentiallyAccording to the US This report briefly reviews the state larger benefits than general use horizontal tools, and they areDepartment of Energy, 70 of mobile adoption among utilities quickly gaining acceptance becausepercent of the nation’s and outlines several high return of changes in the external environment. mobilization areas for managers totransmission lines and consider. It further discusses criteria First, the utilities industry is facing thepower transformers are now for selection of mobile solutions and dual challenge of aging infrastructure25 years or older, and 60 provides some leading practices for and aging workforce. Over the past their implementation within the decade, most investment was directedpercent of circuit breakers utility industry. toward constructing new facilities toare more than 30 years old. meet demand, rather than to Why Now?This makes preventative Electric utilities are enabling or refurbishing existing equipment. According to the US Department ofmaintenance a top priority deploying mobility mobile because Energy, 70 percent of the nation’sand creates tight cost of the technology’s two fundamental transmission lines and power capabilities to:pressures for asset transformers are now 25 years or older, Reduce cycle time: Mobile technology and 60 percent of circuit breakers aremanagement operations. allows such repetitive and/or time more than 30 years old. This makes consuming activities as inspections, preventative maintenance a top priority repairs, meter readings and installation and creates tight cost pressures for asset of equipment to be completed more management operations. By the same efficiently. This reduction in process token, some industry surveys reportWith a paper based cycle time delivers significant benefits in that less than 10 percent of utilitysystem, a single work order customer satisfaction, cost reduction workers are under the age of 35, andrequires an 11-step process and efficiency. that most utilities will lose an average of 20 percent of their staffs over the nextthat involves at least five Facilitate the exchange of information: five years, and some will lose up to 40employees to print, sort, Mobile technology is extremely percent. This trend exacerbates the need beneficial to organizations whose dataenter data and perform either resides outside of the enterprise to get more done with fewer people, cut costs, transfer knowledge andthe actual work. With or is needed and inaccessible in the standardize technology, work field. This bilateral flow of information greatly improves the decision making Secondly, at the infrastructure level, isorders can be automatically ability of both field employees and the emergence of mobile platformsscheduled, distributed managers back at the office. that can interface with severalto field employees and back-end systems simultaneously and As we will discuss later in this report, cost effectively deliver intuitiveclosed without a single mobile technology finds many uses in workflow solutions.paper document. the utility industry, and most of them belong in the above categories. Third is the improvement of mobile device technology. Today’s handheld When we talk about adoption of mobile mobile units are vastly superior to older technology by utilities, it is important to devices, which lacked in battery power, note that this process is happening in memory, processing capacity and two distinct phases. The industry was support for the multiple networks and rather quick to adopt communi-cations peripherals that employees needed in2
  3. 3. Utilities the way we do itthe field. Current generation ruggedized benefit of the collective intelligence n Better management of spare parts anddevices are truly multipurpose tools that of the world’s leading utility companies tools inventories reduces thecan incorporate location based behind us. This gives us great organization’s costs in handling theseinformation, bar-coding and RFID, voice confidence in confirming that mobile items and often completely eliminatesapplications, signature capture, imaging, technology finds its uses in virtually all excessive shipping charges forprinting and pairing with calibration parts of a utilities provider’s value chain. emergency parts orderstools in a small, lightweight device that The next several pages of the report n Tightened supply chain capabilities,has an outdoor readable screen and can will review some of these applications specifically with raw materialsbe worn on a belt. as well as benefits that companies forecasting leads to decreased can realize. operating costsThe fourth factor is the improvement of n Faster turnarounds by pairing projectmobile application security, which had Benefits of Mobile Technologypreviously posed a barrier. Increase worker productivity management software with mobile Mobile solutions improve worker solutions can save companies millionsFinally, a drastic shift has occurred in productivity by minimizing idle time, of dollars in lost revenue and overtimehow companies use mobile technology. unnecessary travel and redundant data labor costsPreviously, the main use of mobile entry. Consider the following example Streamline operationsapplications has been to get the that compares a paper based work Although some benefits of mobileinformation “out” into the hands of field order process with one that can be technology can be easily tied to thepersonnel. Increasingly, however, achieved with a mobile work organization’s bottom line, manycompanies are placing more importance management solution. others contribute to the company’son the inward flow of information to competitiveness and long term wellenterprise applications such as ERP, With a paper based system, a single being less directly. The improved flow ofEAM, CIS and SCM. In the ELP work order requires an 11-step process information to and from field employeesindustry, rapid incorporation of that involves at least five employees to serves as a key enabler for companies to:information from the field allows print, sort, enter data and perform the n Improve and accelerate decisioncompanies to optimize power actual work. With mobile technology, making by providing employees withgeneration, transmission and work orders can be automatically situational data they need todistribution through improvements scheduled, distributed to field confidently make decisions in thein planning, scheduling, inventory employees and closed without a single field: Because the data is continuouslymanagement, logistics and other paper document. This cuts out multiple and consistently updated by the entireprocesses. This inward flow of time consuming steps from the process team, engineers can be confidentinformation is nearly impossible to and results in better visibility and that they are making decisionsachieve, with any degree of detail or supervisory control across the board. based on trustworthy andreliability, with horizontal solutions, Reduce costs up-to-date information.such as wireless e-mail. Replacing a paper based system n Improve visibility into work status:Mobilize What? with a mobile work management Without mobile technology, the workContrary to what many believe, the solution delivers considerable cost order status and information capturedbiggest barrier to mobile adoption isn’t savings. Using mobile technology allows in the field is often collated only at thethe complexity of the mobile technology companies to handle increased work end of the shift when all employeesor tying it to back-end software. volumes without the propor-tionate return to the office. Extending back-According to a study by a leading increases in staffing levels. end systems to mobile devices allowsindustry analyst firm, two of the largest For many companies, this can translate managers to have instant knowledgechallenges that companies have to into significant savings in hiring,overcome are proving the business case and control of the work that is training and salary for new employees.and selecting areas to mobilize. While Several other areas benefit from cost being done.the first challenge is rather apparent, the savings as well: n Improve scheduling: Enabled with realsecond is less obvious. Yet it is true that n Eliminating the need for data entry time work status and locationmany applications of mobile in the information for employees, inventory and handling of paperwork can reduceutility industry are hard to uncover. and equipment, supervisors can make administrative expenses and allow companies to retrain administrative vastly better scheduling decisions. TheAt Capgemini, with multiple live staff to perform higher value activities added transparency of operationsdeployments in utilities, we have theUtility Mobile IT Adoption 3
  4. 4. The goal behind ensures that travel times are levels to get out to an unfamiliarimplementing sophisticated minimized, that engineers who outage site, at night and under heavy arrive at job site have the correct rain, and not even know where theproject management, qualifications, and that all necessary assignment is without consultingoutage management and parts and tools are available at the detailed maps in the truck.GIS systems was to improve job site before work begins. This Mobile software solutions can give eliminates employee frustration, savesdecision making across the labor and travel hours and ensures employees improved autonomy andorganization, track more that more work gets done every day. personal control over their work, and they can streamline the inter-information and improve Extend asset life departmental cooperation that makes Multiple operational improvementsanalysis and performance many tasks easier. The results are created by mobile technology allowin key areas of the engineers to do a better job at servicing increased employee morale and decreased absenteeism and It only makes critical assets. Improved productivity and scheduling provides more time forsense then, to extend Enhance safety and security preventative maintenance of power Mobile solutions promote employees’these capabilities to as plants, the transmission network, safety by providing them with themany employees as substations and the distribution information they need to make infrastructure. In addition, immediatepossible and to competent decisions in the field. For access to historical maintenance and example, if a switch was broken and isremove paper as the repair records allows technicians to being replaced, the entire team benefitscommunication medium better isolate current and potential from knowing when it goes back online. problem areas and perform proper andbetween information in Similarly, having full access to timely service on assets. As a result, first information about the location andthe field and in the time fix rates improve, and the assets’ condition of the plant and equipmentback-end applications. service life is extended. allows linemen to take necessary precautions upfront. Increase responsiveness Bridging the gap between the field and Reduce regulatory fines and the office greatly affects a company’s improve compliance ability to react to unexpected events, Compliance and reporting for the US shortening outage times and allowing Department of Energy, OSHA, and state engineers to swiftly resolve unforeseen and industry agencies can strain utilities changes in loads and conditions. companies’ time and resources. InBridging the gap Adding mobile components to outage addition to developing and complyingbetween the field and management, work management and with multiple procedures, companies scheduling/dispatch systems allowsthe office greatly affects system operations to rapidly disseminate must readily provide in-depth reports on their operations — facing hefty finesa company’s ability to large numbers of work orders and for failure to do so. By capturingreact to unexpected events, instructions in response to an outage information at the point of performance or an emergency.shortening outage times and uploading it directly to back-end systems, companies can quickly createand allowing engineers Improve employee satisfaction the necessary reports and successfully When employees have the right toolsto swiftly resolve pass the strictest of audits. and resources to do their jobs, theirunforeseen changes in satisfaction invariably improves. After Improve customer serviceloads and conditions. all, staff engineers and technicians are Mobilizing critical parts of customer hired for their skills in their crafts, not account management allows utility for their ability to navigate mazes of companies to be more responsive to paperwork and intricacies of forms customer needs and create higher levels and procedures. And it certainly adds of customer satisfaction. For example, if much to the a standby engineer’s stress a company has a policy of terminating4
  5. 5. Utilities the way we do itelectricity supply to a residence or Usabilitybusiness when payment is not received No matter how brilliant the underlyingon time, the payment status should be technology or tangible the businessupdated immediately upon receipt to benefits, a mobile solution that isensure that the customer can have their difficult to use, slow or cumbersome topower quickly switched back on. interact with, or prone to errors willSimilarly, a customer may be paying his inevitably fail. Ease of use and seamlessbill in one of the offices when a service operation is paramount to user adoptionrepresentative in the field terminates the and the success of a mobile deployment.customer’s electrical supply. With Here are some things to keep in mind:wireless applications, an alert will be n Intuitive workflow: The mobileautomatically issued to the field application should reflect the way thatworker and an unfortunate incident employees work, not the way that thewill be avoided. back-end systems are set up. This includes arranging fields and forms inMaximize the Value of the order of task progression, usingBack-End Systems branching logic to only displayFinally, extending core back-end relevant information and breaking upsystems to mobile devices helps a single form into several screens,companies get the most out of their tends to improve usability and shorteninvestments in these applications. The training times. Other usabilitygoal behind implementing sophis- improvements, such as providingticated project management, outage several ways to navigate to the neededmanagement and GIS was to improve screen, context sensitive informationdecision making across the organization, entry and drop down menus can alsotrack more information and improve help reduce process and data entryanalysis and performance in key areas errors. The primary goals for aof the business. It only makes sense mobile solution are to gather betterthen, to extend these capabilities to as information and to be moremany employees as possible and to productive. The software should be setremove paper as the communication up to achieve these objectives.medium between information in the n Device selection: Selecting the correctfield and in the back-end applications. device for the job plays a major role in Few applications deployedSelecting the Right Mobile the speed of adoption and the level ofSolution: Leading Practices worker productivity. For example, by utility companies todaySuppose the areas of the business using a palm top (instead of a pistol are self!contained tools thatthat should be mobilized have been grip) device in scan intensive function in isolation onidentified and a strong business case environments, or using a keyboardlessfor a mobile deployment can be built. handheld for qualitative observations workers’ devices. MobileHow does a business select a mobile may significantly reduce productivity solutions are generallysolution that is correct for its needs? and prompt complaints from your geared at getting data in or workforce. Selecting a rugged, easyThe following section provides a brief to use multipurpose tool with an out of back-end systemsoverview of areas that must be outdoor readable screen, support for and therefore, have to beaddressed to arrive at a solution that a variety of networks, integrated GPS,will meet demands in the short term integrated into them to and bar-coding/imaging can greatlyand the years ahead. contribute to ther solution’s usability exchange information. and aid adoption rates. n Battery life: It is important to pick a device/connectivity/workflow configuration that provides theUtility Mobile IT Adoption 5
  6. 6. necessary duration of uninterrupted Traditional mobile approaches either mobile software. It is important that usage for employees. Always-on required each individual system to have the chosen vendor support a broad connectivity and heavy data entry a mobile extension or integrated range of devices in order to make the quickly deplete the battery, requiring multiple systems before passing the best out of your current hardware employees to spot charge the device information to the mobile device. Both investments and to provide flexibility or carry a spare. of these approaches have different but in the future.n Availability: Good mobile solutions rather significant disadvantages. Having n Support for multiple peripherals: are not completely dependent on mobile extensions for multiple systems Although it is unlikely that your core connectivity. Although it is extremely requires separate applications to be business processes will change beneficial to update information in real deployed and managed on mobile dramatically in the coming years, time, the behavior of the actual mobile devices, which is expensive and technology has a way of constantly application should not vary with generally does not allow workers to use uncovering new ways to streamline network availability. Always-on more than one system at a time. On the existing practices and introduce new approaches tend to be very sensitive other hand, integrating multiple systems efficiencies. GPS, WiFi, RFID, voice, to network bandwidth and latency, before sending information to the and high megapixel integrated cameras and can leave employees waiting for mobile solution can help achieve the are just few examples of technologies screens to refresh instead of needed functionality, but it creates a that gained wide acceptance in recent performing work. Robust client-based system that is very inflexible. A minor years and transformed many activities applications that store all pertinent change in business logic or workflow in the business world. Selecting a data and business logic on the device can have the domino effect of having to vendor that is quick to integrate such offer great advantages in this regard. adjust the entire arrangement, most new technology can help companies to They are always available and perform often by employing expensive on site remain competitive and efficient. faster in all conditions because all consultants. In contrast, having a n Support for multiple networks: Great screens and data sets reside on the solution that independently interacts care should be taken to understand device, and validation rules and with multiple back-end systems and when and where employees need business logic can run locally. automatically aggregates information for wireless connectivity. A mobile the user makes the mobile application solution that supports wireless adaptable and eliminates vendor lock in.Solution Architecture and networks allows the user to configure It also eliminates the time consumingIntegration Capabilities the software to use different process of rekeying information fromFew applications deployed by utility communication methods depending one system to another or accessingcompanies today are self contained on availability, cost and convenience multiple systems to coordinate a singletools that function in isolation on and to add an extra level of reliability repair trip.workers’ devices. Mobile solutions are to the solution by allowing the devicegenerally geared at getting data in or Technology Capabilities to switch to a different connectivityout of back-end systems and therefore, Another key area to address in method if the primaryhave to be integrated into them to deploying a mobile solution is the communications path is information. depth of functionality and technology Ideally, support for these various capabilities that the solution requires. networks should be driven by solutionAs previously mentioned, the best Over engineering a mobile application intelligence that defines least costmobile solutions can instantly integrate may diminish performance and routing or preferred network routingwith multiple systems to provide usability, and can make the mobileemployees with all of the information for flexibility and cost management. tool difficult and expensive to maintain.they need as a part of a single n Security: Security measures may be However, it is important to ensure thatapplication, and to allow workers a mobile vendor addresses the following available at the enterprise, transportto simultaneously update several areas to guarantee that a solution is and device levels. Although not allsystems based on information captured flexible and can meet needs in the applications should be equally secure,in the field. Such solutions can long term: look for a mobile solution that allowssignificantly improve productivity one to adjust security measures toby simplifying information retrieval n Support for diverse device platforms: Device platforms and operating accommodate the changes to theand reduce costs by eliminatingredundant information entry. In effect, systems undergo significant upgrades security profile over time.a mobile solution can become the every two to three years, ofteninformation hub for back-end systems. becoming incompatible with current6
  7. 7. Utilities the way we do itn Integration with third party mobile the beginning of the shift, the solution return on investment with a mobile applications: On device integration should not become sluggish or prone to initiative, ensure that mobile tools are with other mobile applications is crashing. On the hardware side, it is easy to use, versatile, durable and important for companies that already critical to understand the rigors of the scalable. Understand that the solution employ or plan to roll out third party devices’ everyday lives. Notebooks will will evolve over time, both in size and be dropped and stepped on, handhelds in scope, and it is critical to Sselect a software, such as GIS mapping will be left in trucks under damaging solution that can accommodate this. services. When the client side sun, screen scratching signatures will be Think strategically about mobile as a architecture is open, the new captured 50 times a day, and moisture part of the overall IT infrastructure, mobile application can be and dust will be ever present. Although security profile and back-end configured to exchange information consumer grade devices may be cheaper system environment. with other mobile software on the to buy at the onset, the overall cost of device, providing an added measure ownership for ruggedized devices can be Finally, seek advice from mobile of integration. up to 33 percent lower due to their specialists. Look for comparable durability and a strong support network. companies that have deployed multiple solutions to address similar challenges.Flexibility and Upgradeability Solution Set Time and money will likely be saved inIn addition to technology capabilities, it Consider the mobility strategy in the development, integration andis important to understand a vendor’s long term. Does it include deploying a deployment by relying on a set ofapplication development and software single application or potentially industry leading practices andupgrade methodologies. Some critical mobilizing several areas of the business? knowledge of mobile “gotchas” that canquestions to ask include: If so, vendors must be evaluated on the only come from years of experience.n Can the solution be configured and ability to provide ready to deploy applications for multiple areas in the With years of experience and maintained on site by trained staff or company’s value chain. Having such unmatched execution expertise do changes have to be hard coded by solutions dramatically reduces project serving over 750 customers, Capgemini the vendor? times and saves companies significant assists organizations with mobilen If changes can be made on site, are resources in application development, workforces who are faced with the integration and customization. challenges of streamlining workflow they easy to make? Can they be made and improving productivity. in a GUI environment rather than In Summary coding in VB, .NET or C++? Capgemini delivers quick realization Utility companies are quickly adoptingn Can a vendor’ development s mobile technology to help drive of benefits by offering rapidly framework be used to inexpensively efficiencies in generation, transmission deployable mobile solutions built create custom applications or and distribution of electricity. Whether on 100-percent configurable and a company owns several steps of this reliable mobile architectures. application modules in the future?n Do devices need to be brought in from process or concentrates on a single area, Capgemini provides the fastest path to mobile solutions can help to shorten the field for upgrades, or can updates mobilize enterprise systems. Unlike core process times and facilitate the flow be sent over the network? other mobile solution providers, of information throughout the Capgemini simplifies enterprise wideThe degree to which a future vendor enterprise. Several high benefit mobility deployments with a leading strategicaddresses these lifecycle management areas have been outlined in this report, architecture for one or more mobileareas can have a significant impact on yet the technology presents virtually applications while you concentratethe total cost of ownership (TCO) of limitless opportunities to improve on business processes. Capgeminithe mobile solutions. employees’ workflow, maximize the also sets the standard for adapting quality of data in the back-end to rapid change and managing theDurability of a Solution systems and cut paperwork out risks associated with change.When choosing a mobile solution, a of everyday must carefully consider theevery day demands to its software and It is important, however, to carefullyhardware components. On the software weigh costs against benefits in mobileside, the system should be highly projects. Remember: if a mobilescalable and capable of simultaneously solution does not save time or money,processing multiple transactions. it’s a waste of both. Take a holistic approach to scoping out the mobileFor example, when the entire workforce project and to selecting a long termof several thousand engineers signs in at technology partner. To achieve a highUtility Mobile IT Adoption 7
  8. 8. Smart Energy Services—Experience Reduces Risk Capgemini’s Smart Energy Services (SES) provides the full spectrum of smart metering, smart grid, smart home and smart analytics solutions through leveraging best practices developed over the last 10 years working alongside the world’s leading utilities. Our team has extensive utilities industry experience with an unequaled track record for successful innovation and delivery. We are helping over 43 million utility customers by delivering sustainable energy efficiency and environmental solutions—transforming utility operations and the customer experience. Our commitment is strong with more than 8,400 professionals dedicated to the utility sector. More information is available at About Capgemini ® ® With around 120,000 With EUR 670 million revenue in 2011 people in 40 countries, and 8,400 dedicated consultants engaged Capgemini is one of the worlds foremost in Utilities projects across Europe, North providers of consulting, technology and & South America and Asia Pacific, outsourcing services. The Group reported Capgeminis Global Utilities Sector serves 2011 global revenues of EUR 9.7 billion. the business consulting and information Together with its clients, Capgemini technology needs of many of the world’s creates and delivers business and largest players of this industry. technology solutions that fit their needs and drive the results they want. More information is available at A deeply multicultural organization, Capgemini has developed its own way of working, the Collaborative Business ExperienceTM, and draws on Rightshore®, its worldwide delivery model. Rightshore® is a trademark belonging to Capgemini EUC_ITADPTFLR_032409_014Gord Reynolds Alon GatSmart Grid Operational Services Leader Utility Industry Specialist / 416-732-2200 +1 416-930-7405Copyright © 2012 Capgemini. All r ights reserved.