In this article, Paul Carter, Copperleaf Product Manager, Asset Risk Management, discusses the development of Intelligent Bundling, the latest innovation in the Copperleaf™ Decision Analytics software suite.
Q: Can you tell us about Intelligent Bundling and why it was developed?
Performing work on the asset base usually involves significant costs, service interruptions, and scheduling challenges. Organizations try to reduce these impacts by bundling asset interventions that can be done at the same time, in the same geographic area, or on the same piece of equipment. For example, if a utility is planning to replace a segment of gas distribution main, they may want to “bundle in” assets located in the same area that will need attention in the near future—to minimize service interruptions, road closures, permits, etc.
Asset managers and planning teams strive to minimize these interventions, but “asset bundling” is still a very manual process today. We saw an opportunity to add intelligence and automation to this process to help organizations group asset interventions together and plan work in the most efficient and cost-effective way.
Q: How does Intelligent Bundling help solve this problem?
As its name suggests, Intelligent Bundling ‘bundles’ asset interventions together to achieve cost savings. Activities such as equipment assembly/disassembly and permitting can be shared across multiple projects, and the frequency, duration, and associated costs of service interruptions can be minimized. Bundling asset interventions together also reduces the resources needed to complete the work, enabling organizations to reassign valuable resources to other tasks.
Q: How does Intelligent Bundling work?
Intelligent Bundling analyzes the cost and value of asset interventions—and how these factors change when projects are deferred or advanced in time. It automatically groups projects together when it determines that the cost savings that can be achieved by bundling outweigh the reduced intervention value (e.g. risk mitigation, customer satisfaction, etc.) that will result from scheduling work on the asset further from its optimal time. Intelligent Bundling’s sophisticated optimization identifies asset intervention bundles that will minimize costs, reduce service interruptions, increase productivity, and deliver more value to the organization.
Q: What are the benefits of using Intelligent Bundling?
Intelligent Bundling offers several key benefits:
- Reduced Operational Costs: Bundling asset interventions together reduces costs, as some costs can be shared across multiple asset interventions, and work can be accomplished more efficiently. Examples of shareable costs include activities such as mobilization, equipment assembly/disassembly, and permitting.
- Fewer Service Interruptions: Many organizations need to interrupt service (e.g. network outages, road closures, etc.) to execute asset interventions. Bundling these interventions together ensures organizations are minimizing the frequency, duration, and associated costs of these interruptions.
- Increased Value: Bundling asset interventions together reduces the resources needed to complete the work, enabling organizations to reassign valuable resources to other tasks—and increasing the total value of the portfolio of work that can be accomplished.
In addition, Intelligent Bundling helps to streamline the planning process. By mathematically analyzing every possible scenario, users can be confident they are combining projects in the most optimal way.
Q: How much data do I need to benefit from Intelligent Bundling?
Many people are surprised to learn that you can start with very little data and still begin to improve decision making right away! For example, you can start with average shareable cost savings across all assets of the same type. Intelligent Bundling will allow you to identify ways to improve your data collection and continuously improve your decision making.
Q: Can you share any success stories?
We started thinking about how to solve the asset bundling challenge a few years ago and introduced the concept to our clients for the first time at the 2018 Copperleaf AIPM Summit as part of our roadmap presentation. In 2019, when we began working with National Grid, owner of the electricity transmission network in England and Wales, we discovered that they were facing a significant bundling-related issue—and that the capabilities we’d been developing for Intelligent Bundling could help solve their problem.
To provide some background, National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) undertakes 5,000 interventions across over 60,000 assets each year, which poses a massive data challenge. They needed a solution to help them bundle work on each circuit more effectively, to increase the amount of work that can be completed within each outage and minimize the number of required outages on the network. According to Stewart Whyte, Head of Network Optimisation at NGET, “We take outages on the network, which could link to electrical constraints that result in costs to consumers or constraints on our own staff and other resources. We weren't able to get to the right answer, get to it quickly, and have real confidence in it.”
Intelligent Bundling was really the building block that enabled the Copperleaf and NGET teams to solve the circuit optimization challenge. NGET can now run network-wide optimizations involving more than 60,000 assets, with up to five different intervention types on each asset, while scheduling interventions on each of those assets in any of the next 20 years. According to Whyte, who presented this innovation on behalf of NGET at this year's Copperleaf Summit:
This innovation helped NGET decrease the time to develop and commit to plan by 50%, and resulted in a 20%-30% increase in efficiency compared to previous plans due to a reduction in outages, improved productivity, and increased interventions.
Not only did National Grid win the Innovator of the Year Award (voted for by Summit participants across the globe), but we are also thrilled to announce that the circuit optimization project was selected for the Innovation Award at the Institute of Asset Management (IAM) Annual Conference! Additionally, this project was selected by all conference attendees for the Delegate's Choice Award at both the IAM Annual Conference and the IAM North American Conference!
Q: Can you tell us about the Copperleaf team who developed this solution?
Our initial team included employees from customer experience and product development, who developed the first implementation in collaboration with National Grid. Since then, the team has expanded to include design, product management, and more developers. We’re an agile team that’s passionate about innovation and we’re excited to continue to enhance this solution!
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