Harnessing the Power of Data to Drive Better Decisions

Posted by Ashley Little on October 12, 2021

Harnessing the Power of Data to Drive Better Decisions

In modern asset management, time is money. Whether a company’s assets are utility poles or cell towers, many costs—such as personnel, equipment, permitting fees, and contract rates—are fixed. Saving money and improving ROI depends largely on finding ways to operate more efficiently.

Data is the key to unlocking potential efficiencies throughout the asset management process.

Power utilities and telecoms have always relied on data that was often painstakingly gathered by field inspectors with measuring sticks and notepads, then recorded on spreadsheets to be analyzed and reviewed by engineers and decision-makers. Memos among individuals, departments, and sometimes multiple companies were used to communicate essential information. Even in the age of email, the emails were often printed out and bound in notebooks as a record of communications.

The pace of modern asset deployment and management requires more efficient systems for collecting and managing data. Greater numbers and new types of assets, rapid changes in technologies, and more frequent joint use interactions and requests make the job more complex. Companies are having to do more with limited resources and shortages of skilled labor. Technology makes it possible to gather more data on assets than was practical in days past, but the sheer volume of data makes efficient management even more important.

The key to staying competitive in this environment is carving out “micro-efficiencies” that can add up to big savings, according to Alden CEO John Sciarabba. For many, maximizing these savings requires a mindset shift.

Project-Based Mindset vs. Process-Based Mindset

It’s a natural inclination to approach each task as a separate project with a beginning, middle, and end. Each department’s responsibilities on the project are often siloed to be completed and then handed off to the next department. The personnel involved may feel a satisfying sense of achievement (or, at least, relief) when the project is completed.

This approach was effective when no better system existed, but people who are willing to shift to a process mindset can take advantage of automation to achieve much greater efficiency (and stop feeling overwhelmed by a "project" that never seems to end). The people involved also benefit from reduced stress and an opportunity to concentrate their attention on the parts of their jobs that require their expertise.

This shift in thinking is especially important at a time when it’s difficult to find enough qualified people to fill certain skilled positions. For example, in a survey of 17,000 energy professionals by Airswift and Energy Jobline, 62% of respondents named engineering as the position most affected by talent shortages, as T&D World reported in 2019. Process automation allows stakeholders to gather, organize, manage, interpret, access, and share data more efficiently. 

Asset Management Software Puts the Power of Data in Your Hands

Of course, putting effective processes in place first requires accurate, up-to-date data. Field technicians can use tools such as hand-held imagers to gather asset data reliably, quickly, and efficiently through photogrammetry technology. Everything within the frame can be electronically measured and recorded for both immediate and future use. Apps like Task Agent installed on the device ensures all necessary data is captured and communicated from the field to the back office. The measurements can be fed directly into a data management system like Alden One without relying on manual entry that introduces the possibility of human error. (Read about a partnership in data-collection technology between Leica Geosystems and Alden.)

Outdated or incomplete data can cause expensive delays in operations. A common problem occurs when a crew arrives at the site and finds the reality on the ground doesn’t match the asset information they’ve been provided.

Back at the office, reliance on spreadsheets—even electronic ones created with programs such as Excel—keeps data from being as nimble as it needs to be to attain maximum efficiency.

Modern Asset Management Relies on Collaboration

A major change in recent years has been in the frequency of interaction between companies in the utility and communications industries. The deployment of multi-user optical fiber and 5G wireless infrastructure increased the need for collaboration along with opportunities for conflict.

To keep these relationships professional and productive, it’s important that all parties involved are working with the same dataset. For many, the decision to share data does not come easily and may go against the way things have always been done. But finding a good method of sharing data is essential for companies that have to work together. When everyone begins with the same understanding, complex jobs run more smoothly and efficiently, with less potential for issues that cause delays.

Simplified, automated data-sharing among departments within a company also saves time and helps avoid confusion. And it allows personnel to compile necessary reports much more quickly and easily.

Closing the Gaps

In statements made at the Above Ground Level Summit in June, Sciarabba referred to gaps in information sharing as “white space.” These gaps not only inhibit companies’ ability to act efficiently on data but also require additional coordination among multiple stakeholders or multiple departments within a company. Such laborious efforts can be minimized through better and more automated processes, Sciarabba said. There's no need to automate an entire process at once. Starting a step at a time allows you to begin creating your own "micro-efficiencies."

Alden offers superior asset management software in Alden One, the nationally recognized platform for joint use that automates many of the time-consuming tasks of data management and frees up engineers and other skilled staff to focus their expertise on analysis and decision-making. Asset owners have been surprised by how quickly the micro-efficiencies enabled by Alden One add up to major savings in time, trouble, and money.

Of course, it’s not only about the bottom line. Faster deployment of the latest technology benefits our society by extending an improved quality of life to more people, helping to close the digital divide. Alden is proud to be part of a collaborative effort to make that happen.

Let us help make your operations more efficient. Click here to book a meeting.

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