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Talking, sharing and working together: the triple-header to achieving network optimisation

Let me conjure up an ideal world for you: imagine that our networks are fully optimised, and our network operators have absolute knowledge of the real-time condition and health indices of their assets. In this world, predictive and prescriptive maintenance schedules and asset management strategies are in place, and network operators know precisely when, where, if and why their next interventions and investments will be made.


We talk about true network optimisation and, in truth, we’re not too far away from it. But to fully realise my utopian scenario, we need to consider three central questions in relation to our network operators:

1. It’s good to talk

We talk about collaboration and sharing a great deal – that’s because it is so vitally important to achieving our goal of network optimisation. When OEMs such as Siemens work with network operators as a cohesive team, problems and challenges are recognised early and resolved quickly. There’s nothing that can’t be achieved when forward-thinking people focus their talents on a shared goal!

Our unique expertise means we can calculate how far asset lifecycles can be extended to improve efficiency and reduce cost. On a global scale, Siemens is rapidly gathering new knowledge about how to enhance asset performance. By harvesting asset data relating to operational efficiency, performance and environmental conditions, we can generate new insights into asset management and maintenance regimes. Talking to network providers and sharing these insights finds us one step closer to that ambition of total optimisation.

From conversation comes opportunity

It’s amazing the solutions that come from simple conversations. Siemens has recently had the opportunity to work with the University of Sheffield on a use-case for water utilities: Water Quality as a Service. This came from working in collaboration with the end customer, listening to their challenges and pain points, and then mapping out the process of water monitoring. And the result? The generation of new ideas for services not previously considered that will create new sources of value. All from one conversation.

2. Sharing equals optimisation

As we move inevitably and energetically towards an increasingly digitised world, we have the opportunity to learn and improve through sharing data, experiences and how we approach challenges.

Networks and assets produce masses of data, but what does it tell us? Siemens has experts who, by using advanced analytics platforms, process the harvested data to give actionable insight and real context based on technical expertise, to assist asset management. This detailed data analysis means we can expertly advise asset owners on the best systems and applications to extend life and increase performance and efficiency. As an ongoing service this is invaluable to our network operators in terms of stability, proficiency and investment planning.

Here’s a scenario: owners might report their assets are very predictable and stable up to 10 years of age. They think they may only benefit from data analysis after this point. Additionally, conventional thinking may place expected asset life – from a regulatory perspective – at 25 or 40 years. But, with assets out there approaching 60 years old, we know that by sharing knowledge of improved performance and with detailed monitoring from point of installation, life can be extended even further or, more importantly, can be strategically optimised. Taking us full-circle to our utopian imaginings!

3. Pulling together produces results

For a network operator, an OEM is often seen as expensive and cumbersome; not so with Siemens! Companies like ours have a vast amount of knowledge available to them which can add a huge amount of value to network operators. We have the resources and talent – locally and globally – to develop systems and technology to ensure the networks are efficient, proficient and optimised.

As an example of how we leverage our expertise, Siemens has been working alongside Newcastle University to develop cloud-based digital services to measure and monitor the actual condition and performance of different battery systems. By working together to develop the concept and technology, the university now has an accurate picture of the state of health, life expectancy and discharge rates. Coupled with environmental data, this can be used for maintenance plans, asset optimisation, new business models and, ultimately, allow the assets to be used more effectively within the whole energy system.

Into the future

So, my imagined world, it seems, is not so imaginary. Technology continues to advance and improve, and connectivity is increasingly ubiquitous. The challenge that remains, and the one that will allow us to truly optimise assets and networks, is how we go beyond considering purely technical solutions. We understand the technology and how it can be deployed, what we need to continue to learn is what opportunities connectivity and data may unlock in the future, and how, together, we unlock this promise securely.

Siemens has credible experience and expertise in managing critical infrastructure assets such as HVDC interconnectors and seeks to bring this experience to network customers.Collaboration, creation and cohesion may sound like 21st century buzzwords, but with regard to network operators and OEMs working together to optimise our energy networks, they are keywords.

We talk about collaboration and sharing a great deal – that’s because it is so vitally important to achieiving our goal of network optimisation