Just as Woolworths discovered the value of adding a social, self-service element to its asset management, other organisations are finding that long-established systems are ripe for reinvention if they can step outside the typical constraints of the enterprise software mindset and tap into new information management trends. Cloud computing, for example, is emerging as a critical tool in helping organisations improve asset management — particularly in areas such as utilities, where massive infrastructure must be managed down to excruciating detail.
Rural New Zealand electricity distributor, Westpower, has been integrating its EAM system with its geographical information system (GIS) to provide easy correlation of assets and their physical locations, down to the individual tree; this integration smooths production and management of work orders and other operational processes. Queensland electricity distributor, Ergon Energy, is taking the model one step further by kicking off a massive data-capture project that will ultimately improve its EAM by storing 400TB of data — the result of ROAMES, a far-reaching aerial laser mapping project that will update out-of-date maps and measure individual trees near Ergon’s distribution assets — in Google’s Earth Builder collaborative-mapping environment.
It may seem an unusual step to put such critical business information — and so much of it — into the Cloud, and it’s a big step away from the SmallWorld GIS that would normally be given such responsibilities. However, ROAMES program director, James Bangay, says the project will give the company unprecedented visibility of its more than 150,000km of power lines (see Roaming tales, page 44). Not only will Google host and look after the massive volume of data, but its links to a geographic dataset mapping infrastructure will facilitate ‘crowd-sourcing’ of the data by third parties through innovations like the NeatStreets smartphone application, which lets people directly report asset problems. In turn, this is expected to dramatically improve asset maintenance and scheduling, and cut costs by millions of dollars through better focus on things like vegetation management.
That’s the kind of business case you can take to the board — and it’s a case in point as to why CIOs need not be afraid of thinking of ways they can apply new Web paradigms to long-established EAM systems. “We’ve got to find smart ways of solving our problems, and in this case it’s by collaboration” Bangay says. “Our aim is to move things from having to be tied to mapping systems and give them GPS coordinates. Once we create a collaborative environment with the data, anyone can come in and build smart apps on top of that. Doing it in-house simply didn’t meet our objectives.”