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How companies are looking to field service management (FSM) and enterprise asset management (EAM) solutions that need to not only keep up with their transformation today but also be flexible to serve the evolutions that follow.

In their latest report on the analysis and forecast of renewables, the International Energy Agency reports that in an unprecedented year, renewable power is defying the Covid crisis with record growth.

The detailed report states that in the first ten months of the year, while there has been an overall 5% annual drop in global energy demand — the largest seen since World War II — renewable power is bucking the trend and will account for 90% of the annual increase in total power capacity worldwide.

This record expansion is predicted to accelerate in 2021, to the fastest growth the sector has seen in the last six years. The new development is being led by wind, hydropower, and solar PV.

So, with strong growth predicted in the renewable electricity sector and a positive investor appetite for this expansion, where does this leave the existing power utilities and the challenges they face? And the challenges that are yet to come?

Leaving the Past Behind

Historically, the utility sector is seen as being behind other industries in their asset management and field service. In spite of the large and complex organizations utilities have become, they often operate with pieced-together solutions, which are no longer adequate and a costly way to work. Old habits can die hard so embracing change does not always come easily, especially when the work is highly regulated and, in some cases, highly specialized.

Legacy systems may be used which can be clunky, old and siloed so they must be manually integrated with other critical systems. Rather than enabling the work, the legacy systems can prevent operational teams from doing what they need to do in the speed they need to do it. Let alone allow them to plan for the future.

A Changing Competitive Landscape

With the predicted growth, competition will undoubtedly increase and will include new market entrants. The most successful of these new entrants will have efficient and fit-for-purpose operational structures. They will deploy the latest technologies to support their workflow and asset management, leveraging cloud-based solutions which have been developed with the industry and specifically, the worker in mind and can be up and running much faster.

Applications which have been developed to fully optimize a data-driven approach will better enable the new complex organizations and will attract the digitally-native, mobile workforce that is required.

As assets become increasingly more distributed, mobile enablement is a critical piece and again the legacy solutions in the marketplace are not well suited to address this. Field work and asset management often operate in silos from each other as well as in isolation to other business solutions such as CRM, ERP, and accounting.

This results in inefficiencies as it is expensive and does not have the flexibility needed for an operation, which by its nature must be dynamic, reactive, and efficient. Technicians need to access more work and asset management capabilities from the field, so a centralized, integrated management solution is essential.

To compete more effectively, existing utilities will need to transform to embrace these new digital ways of working, all with relentless pressure they face to grow, manage costs, minimize risk, and deploy work crews at the right place/time to perform the traditional day job efficiently.

How utilities manage these challenges will become a key differentiator and the right technology will be a critical enabler in this transformation.

Looking to the Future 

In the renewable energy sector, field service and especially asset management will become more strategically aligned to the business, as data and complete visibility into the work, the workforce and the assets become even more critical.

Renewable energy operations must look to the technologies that will support their operational goals. And must align with innovative technology providers that have extensive domain knowledge, great vision for where the market is going, and a thorough understanding of what customers need.

Organizations are looking to Artificial Intelligence (AI) based solutions, such as intelligent scheduling engines that can offer the ability to manage all work. Whether it be field service or asset management, planned or emergency work, short term or long term the tech with access to a single digital platform – and from one device – is far more productive in completing the job, the first time.

AI solutions constantly learn from daily operations and the user interactions and from the analytical information provide real-time visibility to support both instant decision making and predict future needs. The latest intelligent, IoT-enabled devices increasingly permeate asset networks and produce more, real-time data and insight that organizations need to have connected throughout their operations.

Transformative FSM and EAM technology that integrates seamlessly will enable organizations to reduce costs, decrease service down-time and improve safety, while dramatically improving operational efficiency. Combined these solutions will help utilities solve today’s challenges and whatever tomorrow brings.

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