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The Future of Utility Construction

Efforts to ensure secure grid optimization require that we do more than simply scale up today’s design tools and practices

Utilities face an unprecedented level of disruption today, including global workforce challenges, issues arising from distributed generation, new safety improvements, increasingly adverse weather conditions and organized efforts to meet standards to ensure physical and cyber security of critical infrastructure. 

New tools are required to help utilities ensure these projects are able to maximize value-add, ensure high productivity levels, and minimize cost and waste.

But if technology is to help the industry, then it needs to do more than just tweak a process or incrementally increase productivity--it must have grander aspirations.  Why?  Because the breadth and pace of change are broadening and accelerating.

The technologies that are driving seismic shifts in the utility industry range from cloud-based platforms to mobile technology, 3d modeling, 3d printing, drone-based data gathering, big data, robotics, innovative materials, and augmented reality.

While each of these has the potential to change one or more aspects of the industry, collectively, the interaction between these trends is giving rise to something bigger:  a fundamental disruption in the very way in which we design, build, and operate buildings and infrastructure assets.

Those disruptions are about to transform the way utilities build and operate the grid.

Related trends and issues are highlighted in a recent paper by Arnold Fry, PE, who   knows from whence he speaks, having previously held top management positions at Duke Energy across all Transmission and Substation Standards.  He is now with Autodesk, addressing uptake of new modeling and visualization tools for utilities to optimize their construction and related O&M and asset management activities. 

Given the cumulative effects of numerous changes underway, utility construction project optimization efforts need to be part of the over-arching vision which will be required.  Why?  Because these changes, when taken together, according to Fry, indicate that “achieving success in tomorrow’s market isn’t going to be a simple case of scaling up today’s practices.”

The full Autodesk paper is available at this link:  “The Future of Utility Construction.”


 

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