Doble Engineering Co. has released its Field Force Automation program, a customizable platform that helps power companies meet requirements of new NERC CIP regulations by standardizing diagnostic testing and data collection programs through a combination of rugged controllers, testing software, custom engineering and data management processes.
Using Field Force Automation, companies are able to consolidate field test data and automatically save and sync it from the jobsite to the office. By automating as many as seven manual steps in traditional testing workflows, companies can greatly reduce the risk of human error and expedite the data collection process. Supervisors and managers are able to immediately access the data the moment it is synced, review it in real time and remotely access the controllers to collaborate with their field engineers and verify test results before leaving the job site.
Rather than having test data stored in disparate forms and various locations, Field Force Automation centralizes the data and drastically improves its security, ultimately providing the right people with access to reliable, comprehensive data.
National Grid first approached Doble when it began researching an economical approach for a standard locked down device that could support the substation maintenance group’s testing requirements. Now, with Field Force Automation, National Grid is able to secure their field workforce inspection and test data and required documents.
“Implementing the Field Force Automation program has helped us take great strides in better protecting our data and meeting the new NERC CIP requirements,” said Katelyn Brides, analyst of substation O&M services at National Grid. “Additionally, it has dramatically streamlined our processes and reduced administrative work for both supervisors and field crews.”
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently approved the Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) Version 6 standards to include requirements for transient electronic devices such as laptop computers and thumb drives. These requirements will become effective in April 2017 but it’s imperative for companies to have access to compliant products and solutions now - in order to begin implementing them in 2016.
“The power industry is being hit hard by budget constraints, stricter regulations and an aging workforce, which is forcing them to take a hard look at the processes they have in place and determine where they can improve efficiency,” said David B. Zabetakis, president of Doble. “Our Field Force Automation program completely revolutionizes the field testing process, making it faster to gather data and safer to collect and share it.”
One of the ways Doble’s Field Force Automation program helps companies meet the new standards is through its rugged controllers which are configured as “locked-down” devices to ensure they are only able to execute necessary, work-related tasks and to limit its communication capabilities for security purposes. The controllers come preloaded with the appropriate testing software and a company’s frequently used forms, such as safety tailboards and inspection forms. Previously recorded and maintained on paper, digitizing these forms ensures higher data integrity and streamlines business processes. The Field Force Automation controller is guaranteed to seamlessly connect with Doble test equipment and ensures system-wide version control and data security, greatly reducing the need for IT support for field crew tools.
“With new regulations changing the way our customers do business, it was important for us to find a way to help them get ready before the deadline,” said Renee Angell, special projects manager at Doble. “Our Field Force Automation program not only does that, but we also built it in a way to take away some of the preventable headaches traditionally associated with diagnostic testing, including test set connectivity and data management.”
The program also makes it easy for Doble to generate government-facing reports for clients to demonstrate compliance and adherence to testing and data management processes. These reports can show who has used the program, what system they accessed it from, its geographical location, the software version and the specific work that was done. Providing this level of specificity ultimately helps utility companies to successfully complete audits.