This year I’ve had the opportunity to listen to GE customers who operate a wide range of power plant equipment. From gas to hydro to wind power, these asset operators are grappling with a dizzying array of changes in their industry — from decarbonization and decentralization, to energy storage and electric vehicles, to the aging of assets and workers.

In times of rapid change, it’s essential to step back and take a systems approach. What will the electricity system of the future look like? And are the supporting software systems truly designed for this brave new electrical world?

What we’ve heard repeatedly from power plant operators is that their existing legacy software systems are coming under strain. The strain manifests itself in a laundry list of pain points:

  • Lack of visibility into the work history of an asset
  • Siloed information
  • Manual processes
  • Paper-based records
  • Time-consuming data capture
  • Inefficient scheduling

But the root cause is strikingly simple: Power plant operators are asking their legacy work-related systems to do something for which they were not originally designed.

The first asset and work-related systems, Computer Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS), and their successors, Enterprise Asset Management (EAM), evolved in a relatively static environment: large, central, thermal power plants delivering power one way, over long-distance transmission lines. Those large plants (mainly gas today) are still being built, but so are wind and solar plants, aided by technological advances and policy support. A race is underway to deliver the lowest cost of electricity and operators of all types are seeking ways to reduce their operations and maintenance (O&M) costs while ensuring worker safety, regulatory compliance and the availability of their assets.

The root cause is strikingly simple: Power plant operators are asking their legacy work-related systems to do something for which they were not originally designed.

For a power plant operator, approaches to reducing O&M costs range from simply “taking heads off the site” (e.g. reducing headcount), to investing in digital solutions to improve productivity, optimize maintenance and avoid equipment failures. In terms of digital investment, much attention has rightly been devoted to Asset Performance Management (APM) solutions that can predict impending failures in power components and inform maintenance strategies based on asset health. GE estimates that its Power APM solution can deliver a 10 to 40 percent reduction in reactive maintenance.

What’s crucial for power plant operators to recognize, however, is that the potential benefits of an APM system will only be fully realized if harnessed to a modern system for work execution. And the simple fact of the matter is that today’s operators are being asked to perform more complex and proactive work, more efficiently and more safely. That’s why the time is ripe for power plant operators to upgrade to the next generation of work management, which we are calling Asset Service Management (ASM).

In a power plant context, ASM is about completing complex work, efficiently and safely. Importantly, its key capabilities — asset visibility, crew management, schedule optimization, mobile checklists, debrief and contractor management — map closely to the pain points we hear from power plant operators, be they manual processes or inefficient scheduling.

ASM helps APM deliver on the promise of predictive maintenance, while also feeding back a rich service history to further improve analytics. It drives better and broader outcomes around cost reduction, safety and asset uptime. But at a basic level, ASM pursues the same underlying mission as field service management: giving workers on the front lines the tools to do their best work.

In a power plant context, ASM is about completing complex work, efficiently and safely.

Thomas Edison once said, “I believe that restlessness is discontent, and discontent is merely the first necessity of progress.” If the “restlessness” of power plant operators with respect to their current work-related systems is any indication, then much “progress” lies ahead with the spread of asset service management, the next generation of power plant work.

Visit the GE booth for a demo of ServiceMax ASM at Power Gen International in Orlando, Florida (Dec. 4-6).  

About Seth Dunn

Seth DunnSeth Dunn is director of industry development, power & utilities, at ServiceMax. In this role, he is responsible for defining ServiceMax’s value proposition and go-to-market strategy with GE customers across power generation, transmission & distribution, and renewable energy. Seth joined ServiceMax after 12 years with GE’s Renewable Energy business in a variety of commercial, policy, marketing, and product roles. Prior to GE he researched energy and environmental issues for the Worldwatch Institute. He holds BA, MEM and MBA degrees from Yale University.

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