Five minutes with Brian Flett

Bentley Systems global practice lead, asset performance management, Brian Flett talks about the challenges surrounding Australia’s ageing critical infrastructure and the increasing demand for grid reliability.

What does your role with Bentley Systems entail?

I work with companies in the utilities industry and other asset intensive industries to reduce risk, improve safety and ensure assets are in good operating order. I help them improve the reliability, performance and integrity of the physical assets critical to the operation.

With my team, I work to assist Bentley users to implement Bentley’s APM software, AssetWise Ivara Performance Management, using Bentley’s APM Implementation Methodology. The methodology covers not only the technical information systems required to improve asset performance, but also the business processes, organisational alignment and business alignment required.

What challenges are associated with managing data? How will this become a bigger issue as time goes on?

The good news is the newer equipment that is replacing old devices is capable of generating valuable data. The bad news is it is generating a massive about of data. The challenge is distilling and analysing this mass of data to drive timely and accurate decisions. People cannot see the forest for the trees. As utilities start using intelligent meters to influence consumer demand, the data being generated is exploding. We now have access to a lot more information than we had in the past to make our asset care decisions and information management systems like AssetWise Ivara is helping to make sense of the data and not to get overwhelmed by its volume.

What is Bentley Systems doing to make faster and smarter substations?

Working smart is about being effective – it is about doing the right work. Working fast is about being efficient – it is about doing the work right. Bentley’s APM methodology and software are focussed on helping utilities in both efficiency and effectiveness. Working smart (and keeping the lights on) involves understanding the health of your equipment, understanding the ways it can fail, understanding the likelihood of those failures given the current health and understanding the consequences of those failures. With this knowledge, utilities can develop risk-based plans for identifying the right kind of maintenance, when to do it and when replacement or redesign is a better strategy. Bentley APM users in the utilities industry are generating health indexes for tens of thousands of pieces of equipment instantaneously, and using those health indices to initiate major maintenance programs to extend asset life and defer replacement and also to decide when to replace the assets. For example, Exelon’s ComEd in Illinois, US, is using AssetWise Ivara to automate the asset health indexing process and give them a fact-based argument on demand to take to regulators to ensure they have access to the capital required to replace those assets.

How much emphasis is being placed on information mobility?

Some Bentley APM software users have enabled the workforce in the field with information mobility. For example, field technicians at Pacific Gas and Electric, California, US, carry around AssetWise Ivara on tablet devices to record the results of substation maintenance inspections. It is like carrying a team of maintenance and engineering experts in your pocket with full access to calculations, algorithms as well as historical information from the enterprise asset management system, like SAP EAM or IBM Maximo. If an inspector records temperature readings from two sections of a transformer that are more than a degree or two different, he will immediately be prompted to take an oil sample and send it to the analysis lab. Prior to using AssetWise Ivara, this decision would have been made weeks later when the data was read off of paper reports, if it was caught at all.

Is it possible to ‘future proof’ the industry by planning for business growth, potential outages and reliability?

It is possible to understand industry trends and plan based on that understanding. It is also possible to understand asset risk, and plan based on risk assessment. We need to be careful though, not to think we can predict the future and eliminate risk. Whether it is the risk of the failure of a particular asset, or the risk of changes in technology or industry trends that reduce the value of technology investments we are making today, risk will always be there. The key is to adopt a risk-based approach that mitigates likely consequences, and be flexible enough to change your approach if conditions change.