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How systems thinking and sophisticated data analysis are combining to enable truly smart asset management.

Finlay McPherson
Apr 5, 2024

Welcome to this short series on the future of Asset Management.

In our second blog, Finlay McPherson, Asset Management Lead at Capgemini Invent, along with Joseph Osborne, Intelligent industry Lead at Capgemini Invent, explores how mindsets and technologies are converging to transform energy and utilities businesses’ ability to take control of their critical infrastructure.

A key component in the constantly accelerating Industry 4.0 revolution is the exponential growth in the use of sensor technologies.

Smart sensors are now ubiquitous across many sectors transforming countless businesses’ operating models, with rich data-driven insights unlocking production improvements, maintenance efficiencies and substantial cost reductions, as well as numerous service enhancements for customers.

The impact in the energy and utilities world has been growing too, with sensors providing unprecedented volumes of data about the health and condition of our critical infrastructure, informing repairs and planned maintenance programmes.

But relatively speaking, we have only scratched the surface of what’s possible. Assets only become truly smart when part of a smart system, with an intelligent hub, using data to move onto the front foot, proactively driving next generation asset management approaches, techniques – and results.

Systems thinking as a concept is not new, but successful deployment is transformational. Put simply, a systems thinking mindset understands that providing great services to customers, and operating efficiently and sustainably, depends upon the combined performance of the entire system, as well as the performance – and interdependencies – of each individual component.

The centralised, system thinking analysis of cumulative, synchronised sensor data informs decisions which purposefully optimise the system as a whole, focusing effort and resource in a co-ordinated fashion, to drive forward service quality, efficiency and resilience.

Data-driven proactive maintenance

At Capgemini we are seeing more and more great examples of both systems thinking and execution. Smart sensors are getting smaller and smarter, their costs are coming down and remote connectivity is increasingly less of an issue thanks to 5G, with further enhancements due as 6G comes on stream.

Increasingly detailed asset condition data captured by sensors is being fed to intelligent hubs, enabling trend analysis that can predict when an asset or an individual component may fail. Armed with this information, asset managers can ensure that the component is in stock, the work is scheduled, and the technician knows exactly what the task is when arriving on site.

Multiply this single scenario by thousands of similar events each year, at a large wastewater treatment works, for example, and the cumulative benefits are off the charts. Proactive, evidence-based maintenance improves asset and system performance, often extending the asset’s life beyond the manufacturers published lifecycle, reducing waste and delaying investment costs.

Procurement is enhanced by providing time to secure the best prices for components, optimising stock levels against predicted demand. Schedulers can co-ordinate the most effective work packages in advance, and technicians spend less time on site, enabling more jobs per day.

And there’s more. Forensic analysis of combined sensor data at the hub, utilising AI and machine learning, identifies trends that can inform technician training requirements. Defining a precise task, such as replacing a bearing in a pump, eliminates the need to unnecessarily dismantle components on site to diagnose the problem.

This in turn reduces the potential for human error and enables the correct training and skills to be deployed for each task. Organisations operating in this mode can typically expect to cut annual asset management costs by 20%, while also reducing asset failure rates, avoiding financial and reputational consequences.

Scottish Water provides asset management blueprint

Capgemini has been supporting Scottish Water with a groundbreaking project that is both transforming the performance of its own assets and providing a template replicable across the UK water sector and beyond.

Its “Exemplar Wastewater Treatment Works” has put Scottish Water on target to achieve net zero emissions by 2040, by enabling real-time access to operational data, using a combination of existing infrastructure and new ‘Internet of Things’ sensors and devices to connect and optimise its assets.

As a result, the company is reducing energy consumption, emissions, incident severity, and cost of asset interventions, while increasing asset life and reducing chemical and operational spend. The systems thinking approach and use of associated technologies has also connected with employees, who report feeling more engaged through having a broader understanding of their role and contribution to the collective effort and achievement of organisational objectives.

The Exemplar programme, focusing on one of its largest wastewater treatment works in Glasgow, has established a blueprint for its entire estate of 1,800 works across Scotland. For the first time, managers have visibility and control of the end-to-end performance of the entire site, 24/7, and the ability to manage remotely, accessing real-time data for analysis, predicting and preventing issues before they impact customers and the environment.

Use of VR gathers pace

Smart assets come in many shapes and sizes. For a global energy operator, we’ve built a complete, virtual windfarm, accessed with a VR headset, providing the ability priceless asset to review and test options during the design phase, and to train operators without them ever putting their wellies on!

Creating businesses of the future in virtual form allows asset managers to ensure that systems thinking and the technologies that enable it are planned and designed in at the outset, not just for launch and early years operations, but also to cater for growth and expansion over much longer timeframes.  

To talk to Capgemini about how we can support your asset management needs, contact Finlay McPherson and connect on LinkedIn

Coming up in the ‘Future of’ series…

Throughout these blogs, we’ll explore how digital technology is revolutionising the way utilities operate – providing a snapshot of what is already being achieved, enroute to a fully connected and optimised business model. Stay tuned for more insights, expert opinions, and actionable advice on issues like the hyper-personalised energy class, how to collaborate with your consumers to dive meaningful change, and how to foster a digital culture.

Meet our Speaker

Finlay McPherson

Asset Management Lead, Capgemini Invent
Finlay leads Capgemini’s asset management capability within Energy Transition & Utilities, working closely with clients on both improving asset performance and extending asset life. Finlay is a chartered mechanical engineer with over 15 years of asset management experience, he spent 10 years working in the oil and gas industry prior to joining Capgemini where he was responsible for a global asset base, improving asset availability, and reducing total cost of ownership. Since joining Capgemini he has advised on some of the largest UK construction projects and supported operational improvements across a variety of clients.