The Business Case for Transitioning to Esri’s Network Management Framework

RAMTeCH Consultant Written by Dave Reed, Sr. Consultant, RAMTeCH

Esri’s new Network Management Framework provides the next web GIS and network model technology for the next 15 years. As a utility, making this upgrade and transition from your existing platform will produce the following technical benefits:

  • System of record for network assets and true representation of what is in the field;
  • Enhanced Web, Mobile and Desktop applications;
  • Improvements in performance, versioning, and data quality validation;
  • Broader connectivity model to connect multiple networks;
  • Containment model providing enhanced granularity of geospatial data management;
  • Geographic and schematic diagrams;
  • Additional out-of-the-box tracing and analytics;
  • Services based architecture to allow multiple applications the use of centralized functionality;
  • Easier integration with enterprise systems such as automated distribution management systems (ADMS), outage management systems (OMS), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), work force management, etc.

Creating the business case for transitioning to Esri’s new Network Management Framework is the first step of the journey.  The new ArcGIS Platform and Network Management Framework will be the central component connecting your mobile and office workforce and then to your customers.  The design of the new network utility model will drive changes in data structure and improvements in data quality and completeness.  This combined with the advancements in the ArcGIS Platform will provide utilities more effective ways in meeting their business needs.  The following provides examples of the potential business value offered by the transition to the Network Management Framework.

 

Always “Connected” Customer Expectations

“How do I provide my customers all the information they need to make informed decisions about their service?”

Utilities have an obligation to provide reliable service at an affordable cost to their customers.  Increased accessibility to information and an always “connected” customer has set expectations very high.  Customers want the latest updates on their service connections and service disruptions available to them in real-time.  This requires highly-accurate data and seamless integration between GIS and other business systems such as customer information systems, ADMS, outage management and workforce management systems to manage customer expectations and provide accurate updates in web/mobile applications and dashboards that inspire confidence in the customer.

 

Operational Efficiency and Reliability

“How can I meet my reliability goals and realize operational savings?”

An accurate network model is integral for a modern ADMS.  For most utilities, the network model originates in their GIS that can display the network in a geographic or schematic view.   GIS can enable an accurate representation of the network model in a current or normal state to be leveraged by planning and operational systems.  Planning systems will provide load forecasting and inform capital and operational investments referencing a normal state network.  An ADMS will provide outage management, safe switching operations, state estimation, load flow analysis, volt/var control, load shed, feeder reconfiguration and provide a current state operational overview of the grid.  Accurate data feeding these systems results in greater reliability, energy savings, lower operational costs, extended life of assets and smarter budgeting.

 

Situational Awareness and Response

“I need multiple groups to have access to the same information at the same time to expedite response times.”

Customer and workforce safety is paramount to utilities.  Connecting GIS with other enterprise systems, such as outage management and security monitors can provide multiple support groups to view the same information at the same time which expedites response activities.  A GIS dashboard view will correlate real time asset performance alarms with security or weather events to alert first responders to be dispatched and assess an incident.  Expediting communications through web/mobile maps and automation saves precious time in event response activities.

 

Evolving Networks

“How do I safely integrate new distributed energy resources into my network without jeopardizing safety or reliability?”

Expanding deployments of distributed energy resources have increased the need for electric utilities to manage bi-directional flows of electricity.  This has introduced a greater need to understand the impacts of energy flow between the generating station, transmission and distribution substations and distribution energy resources (DER) such as solar, wind, interconnection points and microgrids.  GIS can realistically model the real world seamlessly, connecting transmission and distribution systems for network analysis and ADMS load management.  For example, if a solar farm is connected to the distribution system, once might ask what are the impacts to the equipment in the substation, and will the system can dynamically manage the output of the generating station to compensate for cloudy days without interrupting service or damaging equipment? GIS performs that analysis immediately when a GIS technician connects the DER to the GIS network.  It can also provide a detailed view of a regulator station or substation to model the network connectivity of all the assets within the station to expand network analysis capabilities.

 

Network performance

“How do I make better decisions with all this data coming from the variety of sensors that are monitoring the assets across the system?”

The proliferation of sensors on utility networks has increased visibility into real time performance of assets.  Integration between GIS, ADMS, and SCADA systems enables utilities to proactively respond to interrupted service events and enable self-healing activities to take place to protect equipment and meet customer demands.  Data from these sensors is voluminous; it must be accurate and associated with the correct GIS network information to provide value in analyzing network performance and directing crews to the correct location.

 

Regulatory compliance

“I need better tools to gather data in a timely fashion to meet regulatory requirements and report the results.”

Leveraging GIS to model network assets in a real-world manner aids time and performance -based inspection processes.  GIS mobile tools and web access to network data to record conditions immediately empower the field workforce to easily record map-based inspections.  The back-office workforce instantly has access to these inspections for analysis and to stay in compliance.

 

Asset Inventory Management

“I need a better understanding of how the key assets are performing across the system.”

Utilities want to know information such as particulars of gas leak locations and impact of environment on their assets. They want to know which assets require maintenance and replacement.  They also want to uncover which of their assets impact other utilities, nearby to their own assets such as underground electric systems. Since gas distribution lines are underground, they must protect those lines from delinquent backhoe operators and people digging the ground for gardening. Besides finding suitable site for new assets, losses in gas distribution and the growing concern over environmental issues are areas of concern that a gas utility must address.  As a result, utilities need to accurately track their assets in the field, such as asset location, size, status, and asset flow.

 

Work Management

“How do I become more efficient in designing, scheduling, and executing our maintenance and construction activities.”

With the advances in web applications and the adoption of broadband networks, it is now possible to integrate GIS with other business processes of the utility enterprise. For example, a work order that is raised for maintenance of an underground pipeline segment can have a link to an online GIS map to locate not only the area of work, but also to get information such as depth at which the pipeline is buried, valves to be closed to isolate the maintenance region and details of other assets in the neighborhood.  Knowing the work locations also enhances work scheduling and resource management business processes.

 

Integrity Management

“I need to be sure my pipeline is operating safely without any damage or defects.”

In the past, governments paid more attention to high-pressure gas transmission pipeline integrity and expected transmission companies to publish their integrity reports. However, more recently, pipeline safety regulators have realized that integrity management extends to the gas distribution networks too, considering their proximity to living areas of people. Implementing integrity management enhances safety and reduces risk to public property, improves gas distribution asset life and builds up customer confidence.  One prerequisite to integrity management is to understand the existing network elements such as mains, services, valves, regulators, cathodic sections, meters etc. This is more easily achieved with the help of a GIS, which provides information about material used for piping, diameter, operating pressure, if the pipe is exposed or cased, leaks on pipes and their repair and maintenance history. This information helps in identifying threats to distribution system’s integrity that can be risky in the form of unpredictable damages to utility assets, facilities, and people.

 

Leak survey and management.

“I need to know where leaks are occurring and remediate them based on regulatory requirements.”

A GIS can identify nearest valves or structures that need to be closed, to separate the leak area from rest of network to mitigate loss. After an accident or leak, the network has to be restored and damaged pipe segments have to be replaced. GIS applications can help in building the footage network that will replace the failed network by identifying types of pipes (cast iron or steel), length of pipes and number of pipe segments. Leak analysis is another priority for integrity management. GIS interacts with the leak database and discovers leak locations.  A cluster analysis on leaks can be performed to determine the areas which need immediate attention.

 

Safety

“I need to know the locations of all known risks on my system and prioritize the work to fix them.”

Most of the time established regulation require a utility to report on performance and health of the system. For example, under certain conditions of pressure, it is recommended to have excess flow valve on a single line connection to reduce hazards and safeguard homes. GIS can maintain the history of leaks on service lines and visually analyze this historical data to help make decisions about excess valve installations.  Apart from above, there are two more important areas to be assessed under distribution integrity. One is to supplement data for one-call tickets to do risk analysis and provide to excavators and another is corrosion management to protect pipes.

 

One Call

“I need to be able to share accurate locations of my assets with One Call entities to reduce the number of tickets they send to me and avoid excavators damaging buried assets.”

Based on the maps provided by utilities in a proposed digging area, a One-call center determines if the excavator is digging in an area that can cause damage to gas or any other buried facilities. The center then notifies the gas or concerned utility by creating a one call ticket. It is the gas utility’s responsibility to provide full details on locations of their pipes that may be hit if excavation is done, and provide any other such instructions to carry out excavation without any damage by excavators. GIS plays a key role in this activity by directly locating the excavation area on the map and displaying the details of the buried assets. These details are in-turn used by field personnel to mark the location of underground facilities prior to excavation.

 

Wrapping Up

Across all utility domains, as a GIS or business operations manager, you strive to generate the greatest value to your business and operations systems. To deliver reliable and safe service to your customers, your office and field workforce need the connected web GIS framework with advanced analytics and detailed model tools to efficiently record accurate data on outages, leaks, service disruptions, or maintenance. Esri’s Network Management Framework offers integrated web GIS, robust desktop functions and a detailed network connectivity model to support these needs.

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