Power plants, asset management and digitization

Amidst the ever growing environmental and legislative requirements in the market, the changes taking place in the energy industry have already become a commonplace topic and there is a constant need to optimize operating costs and render operations much more flexible to become profitable.

Asset Management is a suitable tool for attaining cost optimization, reducing risks and rendering operations more flexible. This discipline has been extensively employed at energy facilities for some decades now, with an increasing global and integrated presence over recent years.

The publication in 2014 of a series of standards (ISO 55000) [1], closely related to the erstwhile PAS 55000 [2], is proof of the growing interest in the systemic approach to asset management. Moreover, the industry's massive incorporation of digital technologies is enabling and accelerating comprehensive asset management, which in turn affords further capabilities. With the combination of the two points, Asset Management is transitioning from EAM (Enterprise Asset Management) to APM (Asset Performance Management) [3].

The most traditional concept of Asset Management responded to the following questions: What assets do I have? Where are they? What value do they have? What are the mandatory maintenance actions? When? How much have I spent on maintenance? The APM approach takes it another step further by addressing the questions such as: Is my equipment working at its most optimum level? Am I investing in the assets necessary to optimize its efficiency/service life? Is the risk level associated with my assets appropriate to comply with the quality requirements for my service or product? This approach is also highly oriented for operation and maintenance decisions concerning the assets based on the real condition of the machines and aligned with business objectives.

While the EAM approach was supported by enterprise resource planning (ERP) management systems, computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS), etc., the APM approach requires the incorporation of new capabilities, clearly supported by digital technologies in a much more agile and simpler way.

When talking in terms of utilities, Asset Management is applicable, albeit with certain idiosyncrasies, to the entire value chain. It ranges across oil and gas extraction platforms and pipelines, storage facilities or refineries and processing plants. In the electricity sector, Asset Management broadly encompasses all sorts of generation plants (wind power, hydropower, coal-fired power plants, combined cycle gas-fired power plants, nuclear power plants, etc.) and electricity transmission and distribution grids.

Some years ago, Indra put forward a global asset management model [4] capable of integrating real-time data, monitoring systems and technical analysis with operation and maintenance management systems. The conceptual model, while gradually incorporating new functional features, still remains valid. However, and as mentioned above, digital technologies are making its implementation much swifter, easier and scalable [5], capable of supporting different models (SaaS-software as a service, PaaS – platform as a service, etc.) and useful for adapting to the business needs of customers.


Functional Smart Asset Management Map

Now firmly within the scope of digital technologies, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is becoming a key technology for supporting functions linked to asset management. The Industrial Internet Consortium [6] defines how IIoT is transcribed: ”The industrial internet is an internet of things, machines, computers and people, enabling intelligent industrial operations using advanced data analytics for transformational business outcomes”. The following chart depicts an example of the main elements of an IIoT platform.

IIoT and IoT platforms mainly differ in that they are adapted to the specific needs of large industries (shipping, utilities, manufacturing, etc.) throughout the value chain, ranging from field sensors to security or vertical applications.

Main elements of an IIoT platform [7]

The energy sector has been incorporating digital technologies for several decades now. Some examples include Distributed Control Systems (DCS), vibration monitoring systems, data integration and management, etc. However, IIoT are transforming the very approach to processes related to asset management.

One of the keys to the change is the converging worlds of OT (Operation Technology) and IT (Information Technology). These two worlds, which had been virtually isolated until only relatively recently, are integrated thanks to the incorporation of industrial internet platforms.

How? Firstly, by facilitating the integration of all sorts of information from the different sensors, control systems, information systems, or even external sources, supporting not only the communications but also the consistency of the data.

Once the data have been obtained, algorithms can be applied to process them on site (edge technology), particularly for processes with real-time response needs that handle a limited volume of data, and/or to upload the data to the cloud. Once in the cloud, the data are securely and efficiently stored and remain available for analysis and processing of interest to the process and business, and even further interaction with plant equipment.

The platforms include numerous tools for analyzing and building functional features based on these services in an agile and secure manner. The number of companies developing specific applications for different businesses and making them available to users continues to grow.

Tier Enterprise includes user applications (normally web applications), graphic interfaces and connections with other systems such as ERPs. This layer receives data from the two previous layers.

The primary advantages of platforms are their swift implementation, flexibility and scalability, since, by having the infrastructure in the cloud, contracting (and payment) will be made according to the use of the infrastructure and associated services without any need for an initial investment. Security aspects have also been considered from the very outset.

The IIoT-included or -supported technologies linked to Asset Management include big data management, monitoring, analytics, predictive analysis, prognostics, viewing and reporting tools, optimization applied to asset maintenance, etc.

The door has been opened for the entry of a wide range of technologies and functionalities, and all companies, depending on their initial situation, business environment and available resources, should analyze how this could help improve their efficiency, resolve existing problems or open new business lines. Flexibility is prominent among the mentioned benefits as it enables the reuse of existing technologies and the incorporation and integration of new technologies. It also enables global projects to be undertaken from the very outset, with different growth vectors in which progress is made according to the obtained results.

While there is clearly no single way to harness the advantages that digital technologies bring to the Asset Management process at energy facilities, we nevertheless believe that they entail an opportunity to improve business for entities operating in the sector, reducing operating costs and simplifying adaptation to new requirements, enhancing flexibility, market anticipation and invoking new business models.


  1. ISO 55000 Standards for Asset Management. 2014.
  2. PAAS 55-2:2008. Asset Management. Part 2: Guidelines for the application of PAS 55-1. British Standard. 2008
  3. Top 10 Trends Shaping the Utility Industry in 2016. Gartner, 28.03.2016.
  6. Industrial Internet Reference Architecture, ver. 1.7. 2015. Industrial Internet Consortium.
  7. The Industrial Internet of Things Volume G1: Reference Architecture. Industrial Internet Consortium. 2017


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