Along with the constraints and difficulties that emerged in the US utilities’ market in the early 2000s, I had imagined that the utilities would seek to quickly optimize the maintenance of its physical assets through a more comprehensive approach.
As the US markets are sometimes precursors of what is happening on other continents, I also expected the emergence of this trend in Europe in the years 2006-2008.
It has not happened. Is it because the maintenance service was a traditional activity, reluctant to change? Was the financial pressure on the utilities sufficient to require them to optimize these costs? Did the solutions available at that time provide an unsufficient value? Maybe all these reasons have contributed to the lack of overall movement.
Some start-ups have attempted to develop a predictive dimension in the life cycle management of some critical components such as transformers: based on a better understanding of aging phenomena, they allowed, on the basis of information captured by new sensors, to better predict the end of life of equipment and service disruptions resulting therefrom.
It’s only recently that I have seen some utilities paying more attention to a global asset management process with the desire to optimize and smooth the investment, with a better planning of the maintenance teams’ work load while improving service to consumers and reducing risk.
Software vendors offer new solutions to serve these needs, based on advanced modelling algorithms, providing a global approach rather than by equipment or by equipment type. These solutions also take advantage of the recent development of new sensors and technologies to acquire data at many points dispersed along the networks.
I still think that the deployment of such solutions is a prerequisite to the great movements of digitalisation of utilities as they allow productivities that become essential to invest also on digital innovations.