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Mobile tools to unlock productivity of African utilities’ workforces

Mobile tools to unlock productivity of African utilities’ workforces

Colin Beaney, Global Industry Director for Asset-intensive and Energy and Utilities at IFS, says Africa’s abundant natural resources and urgent need for power mean that it is one of the most exciting and innovative energy markets.

Power systems are evolving from centralised, top-down systems as interest in off-grid technology grows among African businesses and consumers. And according to PwC, we will see installed power capacity rise from 2012’s 90GW to 380GW in 2040 in sub-Saharan Africa. Power utilities are needing to rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem

Energy and utilities providers are transforming from centralised supply companies to more distributed, bi-directional service providers. They can only achieve this through the evolution of ‘smart grids’ where sensors and smart metres will be able to provide the consumer with a more granular level of detail of power usage. This shift from an energy supplier to ‘lifestyle provider’ will require a much more dynamic and optimised approach to maintenance and field service.

African companies must thus embrace digital transformation as an imperative. This transformation begins by embracing enterprise asset management to improve asset utilisation. The subsequent steps are enhancing upstream and downstream supply chain management, resource optimization, introducing enterprise operational intelligence, embracing new technologies such as the Internet of Things, machine learning and predictive maintenance and becoming a smart utility.

Embracing mobility to drive ROI

Getting it right is about putting in place an enterprise backbone that accommodates asset and project management, multinational languages and currencies, new energies and markets, visualisation of the entire value chain and mobility apps. Mobile technologies that support the field workforce have a vital role to play in driving better ROI from utilities’ investments in enterprise asset management and enterprise resource planning solutions.

Today’s leading enterprise asset management solutions feature powerful functionality for mobile management of the complete workflow of work orders – from logging status changes and updates, from receiving and creating new orders to concluding the job and reporting time, material and expenses. Such solutions are easy to deploy and intuitive for end users to learn and use.

Importantly for organisations operating in parts of the continent with poor telecoms infrastructure, connectivity is not an issue. The solutions work offline and synchronises when network connectivity is available. Users can work on any device – laptops, tablets, and smartphones – commercial or ruggedised.

By ensuring that field technicians have easy access to information and processes, the mobile solution enables technicians and maintenance engineers to easily do the following tasks:

  • Create a new work order on the fly and log new opportunities
  • Access both historical and planned work information when requested
  • Permit customers to sign when the job is completed
  • Capture measurements and inspection notes on route work orders
  • Create new fault reports on routing
  • Facilitate documentation through photo capturing
  • Provide easy access to technical data and preventive actions

The power of mobility allows the engineer to be the origin of all data capture on a service event. They can easily inquire on asset history, record parts used or parts needed for repair, record labour hours and expenses as they occur and any notes of repairs performed. When coupled with workforce management tools, such solutions unlock significant productivity gains for utilities who are trying to get the most from their workforce and assets.