Managing small assets at UK Power Networks

The Challenge
UK Power Networks saw an opportunity to increase safety, streamline maintenance processes, reduce costs and meet legislative requirements through best practice by creating a single, central solution for managing and maintaining small assets, such as tools and work equipment.

The Solution
Working with AMT-SYBEX, the UK Power Networks team integrated approximately 100,000 small asset records into its central Ellipse asset management system. To manage the on-going maintenance of these assets, the team developed a flexible web application based on Affinity Systemreach software.

UK Power Networks
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The Benefits

  • Provides a single source of truth for small asset management, ensuring safe and efficient maintenance of tools and equipment.
  • Improves visibility of asset data, making it easier to demonstrate full compliance with health and safety regulations and quality management certifications.
  • Gives field supervisor’s greater insight into maintenance cycles, delivering more accurate maintenance and ensuring that the right equipment is available when needed.
  • Replaces 17 legacy databases and numerous spreadsheets, reducing software and management costs.
  • Reduces the need for manual data entry, saving time and improving data quality.
  • Increases user-friendliness, with an interface designed by users,
    for users.

UK Power Networks is one of the largest distribution network operators in the UK, operating three networks across the southeast and east of England and in London, which as the nation’s capital city presents a special challenge in terms of its electricity requirements. The company’s main role is to transform electricity from the national grid to domestic and commercial voltages, and distribute it to 7.9 million homes and businesses. It delivers 89 TWh of power to these end-users each year, through an infrastructure that comprises approximately 160,000 km of underground cabling and overhead lines.

UK Power Networks employs around 5,000 people, and its main responsibilities are the maintenance, expansion and enhancement of this extensive infrastructure. Teams of field engineers and supervisors are constantly working to improve the company’s networks, and every maintenance job is logged in its central asset management system, Ellipse from AMT-SYBEX.

“We have around 2.6 million assets registered in Ellipse, which gives us a very powerful and comprehensive view of our power networks and their maintenance requirements,” says Murdo Allan, Health, Safety, Sustainability and Technical Training Director at UK Power Networks. “However, we didn’t have a standardised method for tracking the maintenance cycles of our smaller assets – for example, the tools and equipment that our engineers use out in the field. We had different systems for different assets, and it was difficult to get an accurate view of the whole picture.”

Small assets, big consequences
UK Power Networks has approximately 100,000 small assets, which range from basic items, such as ladders and battery powered drills, to sophisticated instruments, such as digital voltmeters, and machinery, such as mechanical lifting equipment.

“Maintaining work equipment properly is absolutely crucial for safe and efficient operations,” explains Murdo Allan. “For example, if you test a circuit-breaker with a voltmeter that isn’t properly calibrated, then the breaker might not trip correctly. This could be a safety issue; or it could cause an unnecessary power cut; or it could damage the breaker itself or other assets. This is why work equipment is so strictly regulated, and why we make so much effort to ensure that all our small assets are maintained appropriately.”

The safe use and maintenance of such assets are governed by legislation including PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations, 1998) and LOLER (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations, 1998), as well as being key requirements of standards such as PAS 55, ISO 9001 and 14001, and OHSAS 18001. UK Power Networks wanted to make it easier to achieve and demonstrate compliance with these regulations and standards, and decided to introduce a centralised approach to small asset management.

Creating a centralised solution
“The ideal solution was to bring all the small assets into our Ellipse system, so that we would have a single platform for all asset types – but there were several hurdles we needed to overcome,” says Murdo Allan. “First, our small asset data was held in 17 different legacy databases and a variety of spreadsheets throughout the organisation – so cleaning and normalising the data was a complex task. Second, some of our more sophisticated equipment is maintained and calibrated by its vendors, who have their own maintenance systems. So we needed Ellipse to be able to interface with their systems to keep our maintenance records updated properly.”

Building on a successful partnership
UK Power Networks consulted AMT-SYBEX about these challenges, and formed a joint project team to design and develop a solution. The project plan was complicated by the fact that UK Power Networks was in the middle of decoupling its systems from those of EDF Energy, its former owner. This meant that there was only a small window of opportunity for deploying the solution without causing delays to other important projects.

“We have been working with AMT-SYBEX for more than 17 years, and the close relationship that we have built up over that time was a huge advantage in getting this project delivered on schedule. The AMT-SYBEX team really understands our business, and we trusted them to help us make the right decisions in a challenging environment. In the end, we hit all of our targets, so the whole engagement is seen as a major success within UK Power Networks.”

Intuitive interface
The new solution, known as the Small Asset Database System, or SADS, uses the company’s existing Ellipse system as a repository, and introduces a flexible web-based interface built on AMT-SYBEX’s Affinity Systemreach software.

“The interface is very intuitive, because we made sure that the endusers were involved in the design process,” comments Murdo Allan. “It not only provides reports that are tailored to meet our compliance requirements, but also helps our field supervisors. For example, they can easily see which assets are currently available and which have been sent away for calibration, so they can plan maintenance more intelligently and make sure that their engineers always have the right
tools for the job.”

Comprehensive asset records
Data was migrated from UK Power Network’s 17 legacy databases and from most of its spreadsheets, enabling the company to retire these old systems. This has significantly reduced the on-going software licensing, maintenance and administration costs for small asset management.

“We used to have different people maintaining each of the 17 databases and keeping track of the maintenance history of each asset; now we just have one person, and one central source of data,” says Murdo Allan. “Aside from the cost savings – which we think will be significant – the solution gives us a much more consistent way of maintaining our asset data, and a much easier way to analyse and report on maintenance processes. Moreover, there is much more automation and much less manual data entry, which helps to improve the overall quality of the data.”

The solution is also integrated with the external maintenance systems of UK Power Network’s suppliers, so when a piece of equipment is sent off to a vendor for calibration, SADS notifies the vendor automatically, and collects and stores the appropriate certificate once the job is complete.

Flexibility and control
Finally, SADS will enhance the company’s procurement process for small assets. Tools and equipment are often purchased locally to meet short-term requirements – a common-sense, flexible approach that helps engineers get the job done and avoids the delays of centralised procurement. To help these local teams select the right equipment, SADS provides a catalogue of standard products that they can easily consult. By only purchasing items that are listed in the catalogue, they can ensure that all their tools are easily maintainable and fully approved for use.

Murdo Allan concludes:
“The solution that we have developed with AMT-SYBEX is helping us transform the way we manage our small assets – with significant benefits for our business. With a single, centralised source of asset data, we are able to reduce costs, streamline maintenance and procurement processes, and ensure full compliance with all the relevant regulations and standards. Ultimately, this means a safer working environment, a more productive power network, and better service for homes and businesses across the region.”