Mike Abbey: Software Developer and Line Inspector

July 30, 2007
To maintain reliability, utilities need to become automated and to rely on information technology.

To maintain reliability, utilities need to become automated and to rely on information technology. However, successful implementation of information technology relies on the collection of good data in the field. According to Mike Abbey, automation without training can result in the collection of bad data and hence, bad decisions based on that data. “Bad data is worse than no data,” Abbey said.

Abbey, project manager at EDM International, provides classroom training for utility engineers, designers and linemen on inspection, structural analysis and reliability assessment techniques as part of the Overhead Line Management and Inspection short-course series offered by EDM International, headquartered in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Abbey and Andy Stewart, president of EDM, will be leading the Overhead Line Inspection and Management session at T&D World University in October. The course will cover drivers for inspection and management; degradation mechanisms; effective visual inspection processes; methods to improve the objectivity of component condition rating; and inspection and monitoring technologies. Abbey will also, of course, present an effective means for collecting, analyzing and managing that information.

Besides conducting training, Abbey continues to gain real-world experience by working with EDM clients to design custom software to meet their needs while keeping the company’s off-the-shelf software offerings up to date with new ideas and technology. He still manages to get to the field to evaluate some damaged structures a couple of weeks per year as well.

He has been project manager at EDM for the past seven years. However, he has worked at EDM since graduation from college, where he has performed engineering technician work and then became an application analyst/software developer.

When he graduated from college with a B.S. in architectural engineering in 1994, he was looking for a good working environment at a small company that valued its employees, and he said he found that at EDM.

“It wasn’t until later that I realized that the industry in general is a lot like EDM. I have met a lot of great people over the years and very few of the ‘other kind,’” Abbey said.

EDM is a relatively small employee-owned company, yet a leader in the arena of management of existing utility assets. “I attribute this to our employee’s ability to create and maintain close professional and often personal relationships with our clients and research partners,” Abbey said.

EDM’s other areas of expertise include:

  • Inspection and assessment
  • Research and development
  • Consulting
  • Environmental services

Abbey believes his experience and relationships help him in the classroom setting. “The fact that I get to interact with so many people at so many different levels, from the patrolmen out in the field to vice presidents, and at so many different utilities gives me a broad understanding of people’s needs and concerns when it comes to automation,” he said.

“Also, we have a field inspection company that I work very closely with and I have been the one capturing the data in the field and also the one putting together presentations to upper management using that data, so I have a pretty clear understanding of what it takes to successfully inspect and manage the information.”

He said the best thing about his job is the successes: “seeing a successful implementation of automation at a utility that has been relying on paper in filing cabinets. It is quite satisfying to see smiles on faces as they begin to look at information at the click of a button that would have otherwise not been available at all, or would have taken weeks or longer to put together.”

Abbey helps utilities change they way they do things with the implementation of automation, and he reminds them to not be afraid of it. “Change is necessary for the advancement of our industry. Don’t be against something just because it is different than how you used to do it. Determine the facts and then make a decision to be for something or against something,” he said.

Abbey likes to go hunting, fishing and camping with his family, which is good since he is located in Billings, Montana, for EDM. However, he said he is always looking up at the power lines where ever he goes. Many in this industry can relate to that.

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