How Utilities Can Build a Reliable Asset Database

Industry Expertise: How Utilities Can Build a Reliable Asset Database

To efficiently manage operations and business processes, a utility must have a shared understanding of its asset base across the entire organization. Today, this goes beyond simply knowing what your assets are – a utility must also understand the attributes of each asset and the relationships between them.

The first step in building a reliable asset database is to clearly define which assets will be included in the register. Once the scope is defined, stakeholders must be identified – who are the owners or custodians of the assets and services that will go into your database?

Next, collect relevant information about the assets and services that are in scope. There are likely attributes of an asset that are available but don’t play a role in helping you achieve efficient operations. This winnowing of attributes is likely to be a challenge, but it is key to gathering the right information before planning how you will organize it.

Determine every possible relationship between assets – how the performance of one asset will affect others, for example. Often, these relationships have already been addressed in “n-1” test plans, which can be a valuable input into definition of the asset database. Relationships will help explain what attributes are necessary to capture for each asset, while attributes will give insight into which relationships among assets should be considered.

Most importantly, the asset database must be continuously updated to remain in synchronization with the physical environment and logical resources that it represents. Planning migrations, for example, is a recipe for disaster without a current asset register. Planning downtimes for maintenance can also lead to unforeseen complications if the planners do not have an accurate view of current assets, services, and interdependencies.

Database Synchronization with a Digital Twin

An asset database must be considered a living document. For successful asset database synchronization, careful planning during the design of the asset database is required. The ideal asset management technology will have the ability to reflect infrastructure changes in its database as soon as they are made. Change control methodologies must include scheduled reconciliation, as well as immediate update of configuration databases, in real-time. Timing is critical since many faults in an infrastructure occur immediately after deployment of new or updated technology. The asset database can aid in diagnosing new faults, but only if it accurately represents the current state of the deployed infrastructure.

The ultimate expression of a synchronized database is a digital twin – a virtual representation of the currently deployed infrastructure. Digital twins are implemented by the asset management system and can model any infrastructure if the asset database has the capability to reflect updates of physical and logical resources. Digital twins rely upon a “closed-loop” approach to asset data management – changes to the physical infrastructure are immediately reflected by the implemented synchronization mechanism in the virtual representation, and changes to the virtual representation are executed in the network based upon the applied planning and implementation processes.

The closed loop planning approach for digital twins can yield a virtual environment where upgrades, new deployments, or outages can be simulated, and the outcomes discovered before any changes occur in the network. Based upon the results of those simulations, design and planning can be tweaked to yield better outcomes, which can be verified via a second simulation using the identified changes.
Want to learn more?

Bernd Prüssing, Director Business Line Networks, discussed the benefits of a central asset database in Power Grid International. Read the article here.