Friday, August 23, 2013

Avoiding mistakes with GIS implementation in Power Distribution Utilities

Noida Power Company Ltd (NPCL), a joint venture between the RP-Sajiv Goenka Group, a leading business house in India and Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority, distributes power in Greater Noida, near Delhi in Uttar Pradesh. The Company started its operations in December 1993 under a 30-year license from U.P. Government and is among the leading companies to use GIS technology with vast experience.

pManifold team spoke to Mr. Rajiv Goyal, Head (Projects and Power Trading) and Mr. Vikas Gupta, Manager (GIS) to understand their experience in GIS implementation and the best practices adopted by NPCL. The below shared are the author's personal views and not to be associated with any of his company's and other associations.      

  1. What has been NPCL experience with its GIS implementation?
    • NPCL is amongst India’s first Companies to implement GIS within organisation. We have vast experience and rich technical expertise in implementing best of the updated technology on periodic basis.
    • We have formulated an end-to-end GIS solution for analysing and optimizing the power distribution network, initiating this project right from conceptualization phase and completed the same by integrating with other OSS (Operational Support Systems) systems like SCADA, billing systems etc. The scope of the GIS implementation included the creation of land base data, network mapping over the land base, data modelling, implementation of GE Smallworld software as a core GIS, Network Analysis tools for Load flow Analysis and finally, the integration of the GIS system with other OSS. The add-ons specifically developed by us for the Indian conditions might be of good value to other utilities. 
    • The main problem that we face after Implementation is timely updation of data on periodic basis but we had overcome by making the process starting from Planning, Implementation and billing of any New Connection, Network Augmentation, Network Changes vetted with GIS Department before Implementation.
    • To make GIS successful, it should be a part of mandate in process life-cycle of utilities.
  2. What top venues to optimise GIS execution and save cost and time overruns?
    • Although in Utility GIS has lot of possible integrations with other systems, but basic fact is that, utilities deviate in their focus in maintaining Data quality by not making clear and mandatory processes for data updations, which is a prime important criterion for accurate results with any Integration. 
    • Since NPCL Licence Area, Greater Noida is one of the biggest emerging areas in terms of Infrastructure Development and population density. The future planning and Construction of 220/33 kV Substations is a continuous process which includes:
      • Planning of Network Development
      • New Substation Location Planning
      • Customer planning services for new connections
      • Analysis of performing/non performing areas using Satellite Imagery
    • To achieve the same we would have to:
      • To maintain positionally accurate data as a repository to manage our assets digitally using high-end GIS software specially meant for utilities. 
      • GIS is to be used as a decision making tool for further network planning, network augmentation, O&M Planning and commercial applications as well as new service connections, helps in managing deployment of resources in a cost effective manner.
      • Data in GIS will also be used in carrying out the Network Analysis like Load Flow Analysis on our feeders.
    • NPCL started technology-aided utility mapping and utility locating solutions like GPS PDA’s for positional data collection. We have observed that utility mapping provides proactive, accurate solutions to aid in their construction and planning projects, without straining their financial resources and wasting their time and budget.
      • We are adhering to gathering accurate and real-time data in the form of digital maps.
      • Integrate GIS with SAP, OMS, SCADA and DMS. Perform technical optimization of network design as well as analyze real time data from SCADA/DMS for network performance /fault analysis.
      • Utilize GIS in daily asset management and other utility business processes.
      • Outage management System integrated with GIS to optimize call closure time.
      • Employ network tracing and supply re-routing information from GIS & OMS, respectively, to improve accuracy of Energy Audit at 11 kV/LT level.
  3. What RoI to look from GIS implementation and integration? What commitments required from Utility operator to manage useful GIS implementation?
    • The GIS solution was envisaged in order to model their physical workspace into a digital workspace. An enterprise-wide integrated GIS solution was planned in order to maximise the benefits from various IT systems like SAP, IS-U CCS, SCADA, DMS, AMR and Network Analysis. The ultimate purpose was to help utilities solve business problems and achieve international level of customer service. Sustainable enterprise wide initiatives like GIS are dependent on obtaining senior management's buy-in. This, in turn, depends on the performance evaluation of the investment. Return on investment (ROI) is calculated to evaluate the efficiency of the investment. 
    • The goal of the cost-benefit analysis process is to permit a fair determination of the worth of an investment in GIS technology. The cost-benefit analysis should cover the projected life-cycle or the portion of the projected life-cycle up until the pay back is reached, whichever is shorter.
    • The GIS Costing Implies with in following line Items:
      • Software and Hardware Procurement: 25%
      • Implementation of Data Model/Customisation of Applications/Reports: 20%
      • Electrical and Landbase Data Creation/Updation, Consumer Indexing and Data  Ingestion: 35%
      • Customisation/Interface Development with other systems: 20%
    • There are many benefits to implementing a GIS. However, it is understood that none of these benefits are real unless the products provided by the GIS in mapping and modeling the system result in a change in the operation of the utility. What this means is that if the map products delivered from the GIS are mirror duplications of the manually drawn product the project team has not tapped the potential for flexibility, accuracy, standardization, and clarity which a GIS offers. Also, modeling an electrical network for fuse coordination or phase balancing has no inherent value in and of itself. The model must be accurate and the changes must be implemented in the field before there is a quantifiable benefit. Assuming that the project team has accomplished their task of applying the GIS to all of its potential, there are really several benefits that the utility can derive. This includes:
      • Increased productivity in map updating and information handling.
      • Map accuracy which equates to crew safety and productivity.
      • One source data updates which mean fewer errors and less redundancy of effort.
      • Improved archiving and retrieval of information which improves utility responsiveness to the customer.
      • Accurate and timely information which is the basis for improving operations.
      • System modeling which is the basis for improved system reliability.
      • Company-wide accessibility to information.
    • Utility operators will need a GIS-based view of their utility in order to make   the best decisions about key issues such as managing meters and customers, and incorporating renewable energy. Field crews will depend even more heavily on GIS for implementing an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and keeping current with data collection.
  4. While all focus has been on GIS first data collection, very little has been organised around keeping GIS data updated, and integrable & useful for decision support to Asset Mgmt., O&M, CRM and other modules etc. What are best practices recommendations for Indian utilities here?
    • After building the GIS, data maintenance is another major issue an organization needs to address. The questions that need to be asked are who, when and how to maintain the GIS data. Many organizations have existing data maintenance procedures for the CAD database. These procedures are good starting points. Because most CAD systems only allow single-user editing, one department in the organization normally handles all data maintenance. Because GIS provides multi-user access and has complex relationship rules, it is more efficient to decentralize the data maintenance responsibilities to multiple departments and maintain a centralized approval process.
    • Beside GIS deployment and data maintenance, other issues also need to be addressed to ensure a thorough GIS implementation. These issues include: system integration, user training, data backup, future upgrades strategies, etc.
    • In order for a GIS to adequately serve the needs of multiple departments, its design should also adhere to five basic principles, as appropriate:
      • The GIS should contain a complete and accurate inventory of the utility’s field-based assets.
      • GIS and Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) integration is essential to obtain accuracy work histories / maintenance costs of each asset throughout their life-cycle.
      • The GIS should offer an accurate network model (i.e. able to trace Electrical networks upstream and downstream) and easily export data into modeling software packages supporting daily O&M activities as well as long-term planning projects.
      • As much as possible, GIS data layers should be cartographical adept (e.g. symbology, labeling, annotation) supporting (web) map production at multiple scales.
      • With time-enabled Software features, a possible emerging industry best practice is to consistently include an installation or acceptance date across all asset classes to give a correct historical viewing of the GIS database and integrated datasets.
  5. With various organised and non-organised solutions and service providers around GIS solutions and services in Indian market, what best practices you would recommend in choosing right implementation partner(s)?
    • There are multiple players needed to make GIS happen. They are:
      • Hardware Vendors: Choose right system, servers as per requirement of software. There specs should meet the software requirement.
      • Software Vendors: Choose right software with five year Integration plan with other systems.
      • GIS Data Model Implementation Vendor: Freeze all your business requirements in conjunction with operation, commercial, projects and other departments and decide the field data collection templates.
      • Data Collection Vendor: To see the competence of vendor with earlier experience in Implementations in utilities and feedbacks.
      • Data QA/QC and Data Ingestion to GIS System.
      • Testing of all tools and Application working with this Data.
    • There are lots of tasks that can be outsourced…, but these task needs to be closely monitored also. This can include:
      • Coordination with the Data Model Vendor to correctly freeze and ingest all requirements.
      • Data Collection vendor Data to be monitored and Supervised by in house utility team.
      • QA/QC of Data to be done by random sampling of 3% of Data by in house utility team.
      • Testing of Application by in house team after Data Ingestion.
    • There are lot of utility specific GIS solutions in the market but one has to adhere with following requirements before taking decision. They are:
      • Open platform: Selecting GIS technology that is based on an open platform enables a utility to easily integrate asset location information with other systems.
      • Scalability: The utility should look for a system that is scalable within a single database instance, making it easier to locate, analyze, integrate and manage data with other legacy corporate information systems such as a CIS or enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
      • Mobile capabilities: Field automation offers proven ROI across the enterprise. The ability to share the same visual image between engineering, operations and the field is a critical component of a complete enterprise GIS strategy. 
      • Industry standards: When a system meets international standards, a utility can work with data from multiple systems and have the benefit of interoperability. An open architecture based on industry standards is the foundation for interoperability across disparate data sources, formats and systems. A system that supports Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), Web Map Service (WMS) and other standards enables a utility to ingest spatial information from multiple systems and does not limit it to one vendor.
      • Ability to share data: A GIS-solution vendor should enable a utility to leverage the Internet to seamlessly share data with other departments, organizations and the public. A Web based GIS application is an ideal tool for the viewing and distribution of existing data to both internal and external parties. This provides quick and easy online access to real-time data in a user-friendly environment.
      • Security: An often forgotten component of GIS implementation…, any utility data should be handled as securely as possible. This is because the “data” not only contains spatial information but also complete asset details including end consumer details. The adherence of the GIS solution vendor to the utilities own security standards is of at most importance.
  6. What changes in business model you see emerging to allow utility to have one integrated Managed service provider in GIS space? What will be an ideal GIS service partner to you for your utility operations?
    • In general, GIS departments are staffed with a mix of developers, system administrators, business analysts, data ‘specialists’ and so forth. Many utilities are now finding that more and more of these specialist spatial competencies (which involve core database skills, web services, a mix of industry software architectures and languages etc.) are difficult to come by and even harder to retain within their organisation.
    • From a delivery point of view, we have found that a hybrid Service Management Organization (SMO) model for GIS support can successfully deliver value and service excellence to the GIS user community. If properly designed and implemented, the SMO can also provide value to the organisation through:
      • Cost management: Through the SMO model, services are delivered based on clear commercial contracts, that can be accurately budgeted for in financial forecast
      • Resource management: The SMO model allows peaks and troughs in business, and change in business requirements, to be absorbed by service providers, alleviating the need for a growth and/or reduction internal staff size
      • Quality control: Quality of service is rigorously monitored and measured to ensure service excellence with enforceable SLA’s providing leverage to negotiate service costs and performance expectations
      • Strategic positioning: the SMO allows the organisation to be flexible enough to align with future outsourcing or insourcing direction for services.
    • When designing a GIS support infrastructure, an organisation ultimately needs to decide how to position its own resources – as an internal team specializing in GIS technology support, or a customer-focused team managing the delivery of services from a flexible menu of external service providers.
Posted by: Kunjan Bagdia @ pManifold

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