T&D World Magazine

Survey: Majority of Electric Utilities Say IT/OT Integration Important for Ensuring Reliability of Critical Assets

A survey of senior executives, IT managers, and engineering decision-makers drawn from the top 100 North American utilities concludes that advanced operations and maintenance strategies for critical infrastructure are at or near the top of their key priorities for ensuring future reliability and regulatory compliance.

Survey details are included in a new study released last week, Optimizing Deployment of Next Generation Maintenance Strategies. The study focused on maintenance practices in substations in electric transmission and distribution systems. One study goal was to examine whether the convergence of lower cost monitoring devices and communication technologies provides an opportunity for utilities to expand online monitoring of distributed assets.

The study was prepared by smart grid research and public relations specialist The McDonnell Group and commissioned by Ventyx, an ABB company.

Interviews sought participants’ opinions about current maintenance practices and what approaches they felt were necessary to achieve optimal asset health. According to McDonnell Group Principal Strategy Consultant Peter Manos, asset health optimization strategies were seen by many respondents as having great potential to manage future costs.

Said Manos, “There was strong agreement that real-time awareness of asset health, coupled with the right business intelligence and engineering tools, can form the basis for significant decision-making improvements in overall operations and maintenance and capital expenditures. Virtually all respondents believed that eliminating organizational and technical boundaries between information and operational technologies (IT/OT) is imperative for reaching this level of awareness so they can manage asset costs in the years ahead. I expect we’ll see most utilities gradually adopting asset health as a risk assessment strategy in the next several years.”

Some of the studies key findings include:

  • The majority (53%) of all respondents gave ensuring reliability of their aging assets as the #1 strategic priority for their company as a whole, and 94% considered it one of their company’s top three priorities.
  • One third of respondents felt they were already on their way to adopting asset health (35%), roughly another third (30%) could see adopting it in the next five years with the remainder (35%) saying it would take at least 5 years.
  • Utilities that have started along the path of implementing the vision reported a higher level of receptivity to making additional investments on asset health, an indication that they have begun to see the benefits.
  • Less than a third (29%) of participants feel that the current level of IT/OT integration at their company is either excellent (12%) or very good (17%).
  • Remaining participants unanimously agreed that achieving a higher level of IT/OT integration in the next 2-3 years was important, with an impressive 83% stating it was either very important or critical.
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