Calibration and asset management integration deliver productivity gain

A large public power utility integrated its asset management and calibration software, to reduce risk and redundancies

By Heikki Laurila December 8, 2023
Courtesy: Beamex

Asset management insights

  • Salt River Project (SRP) integrated its asset management and calibration software, leading to significant productivity gains and risk reduction.
  • The integration involved detailed planning, involving internal experts and external vendors, to ensure seamless functionality and communication between different technical languages.
  • The new system automates the calibration process, saving approximately 30 minutes per calibration and resulting in substantial time and cost savings for SRP.

For more than a century, the Salt River Project (SRP) has produced power and delivered water to meet the needs of its customers in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area. Today, as one of the nation’s largest public power utilities, SRP provides reliable electricity and water to more than one million customers and employs around 4,500 people.

SRP owns or operates eleven electrical generating stations, seven hydro-electric plants and has energy purchasing agreements with four major hydro-electric stations along the Colorado river. It is also a major provider of water to the area.

Jody Damron is a business analyst at Salt River Project’s Tempe, AZ-based corporate headquarters. He has worked with the company for more than 40 years and helped develop Salt River Project’s calibration processes. Several years ago, he started investigating the possibility of linking its calibration software, Beamex CMX, to its asset management software, IBM Maximo.

Damron began by researching IT integration projects. He discovered a mind-boggling number of failed projects, costing companies collectively trillions of dollars. He learned about major failures where no progress was made, even situations in which companies were forced to go back to the original way after failed attempts. He declared, right then and there that, “failure is not an option.”

Figure 1. Team building was an exercise for a wide range of functional areas in communications as well as technical skills. Courtesy: Beamex

Figure 1. Team building was an exercise for a wide range of functional areas in communications as well as technical skills. Courtesy: Beamex

Forming a project team

Damron concluded that an integration project required a substantial amount of planning and input from a team of internal departmental experts to ensure that it functioned appropriately for all parties involved. He also knew the external parties, or vendors, would be vital to success.

It was therefore much to the point that he put together a quality team (See figure 1) worthy of being trusted. He knew he had to rely on everyone’s input and expertise. He also learned important lessons about building a successful team. Damron discovered that each party tended to speak a different technical language as well as have different goals and ideology. This reinforced how important communication was to success.

“The business will say they need an apple cut in six pieces and the IT side will hear cut a watermelon in half. Technical, cultural and language communication barriers are real challenges that need full attention,” Damron said. The team stayed focused on the detailed requirements and met often to review the business expectations.

Vendor and customer responsibility

Besides ensuring efforts weren’t duplicated or missed altogether, it was also essential to define suppliers’ roles and establish clear operations guidelines. Figure 2 defines responsibilities along with brief descriptions of key duties:

Business: Data integrity is an important and an ongoing process. For SRP, it began in 1974. It is time consuming, but continuous monitoring is the rule. SRP puts many man hours into ensuring clean data.

Beamex CMX calibration software: SRP relied on Beamex expertise. Beamex acted as consultants and were quick to communicate how the integration could work most efficiently and made no empty promises.

Maximo: The Maximo team worked hand in hand with SRP technicians to meet business expectations and functionality requirements.

Integration: It was imperative to make sure the right data was transferred back and forth between systems in the correct manner.

After analyzing the factors and gathering information from the project team, risk had to be considered.

Figure 2. Responsibilities for each core functional area were outlined beforehand. Courtesy: Beamex

Figure 2. Responsibilities for each core functional area were outlined beforehand. Courtesy: Beamex

How it works today

Upon completion of in-depth team analysis, Damron determined that the integration could be completed to meet both the business and IT needs. “It’s extremely simple, if you think of how complicated it could be,” Damron said.

The basic rules for the integration were as follows:

  • Beamex CMX is the calibration system of record that stores detailed calibration information.

  • Maximo tracks all plant assets and is the master of scheduling.

Vis-à-vis calibration, Maximo only needs to know if an instrument passed or failed during calibration.

For Maximo, instrument assets are one of two types. The first are regular instrument assets never calibrated – for example, an orifice plate. Second, there are calibrate-able assets – for example, a transmitter. For a Maximo asset to be transferred into CMX, the asset must be defined as a calibrate-able asset. Out of 28,000 instruments, 7,700 of them require calibration.

If a Maximo work order is written or automatically generated by the preventive maintenance application for a calibrate-able asset, it automatically flows into CMX. This is critical because the rules create a built-in method of security that does not allow “garbage” data to be transferred back and forth. This ensures data integrity for both software platforms. If a work order is not for a calibrate-able asset, it does not go to CMX.

Work orders are generated by a planner without the use of printed documents. Field personnel work only within CMX and do not deal with work orders in Maximo, saving time and money.

For example, during a typical unit overhaul, many of the site’s 7,700 calibrate-able instrument assets need to be tested. Work orders are planned and initiated. Information transfers automatically to CMX and the technician is alerted by the planner via email. The technician can then download the asset test information to a calibrator & communicator and perform the necessary work. The entire calibration process is automated. Results are stored in the calibrator’s memory. When the technician returns to the shop, results are uploaded into CMX. When a calibration test is passed, an automatic notification is sent into Maximo. That closes the work order and documents who performed the work and when. A failure requires the initiation of a follow-up work order.

Summary and the results

The most significant impact overall is that Salt River Project has saved about 30 minutes per calibration using an automated approach. This equates up to 1,000 man-hours in the previously cited unit overhaul example. Further savings are anticipated as historical analysis will confirm that extended calibration intervals are appropriate. Other major benefits of the automated calibration system include:

  • System oversight is minimized.

  • Audits are easy to perform and are less stressful.

  • Defined procedures provide a corporate “best practices” approach to calibration.

  • Accurate data has led to better decision making.

In the simplest terms, the new Beamex/Maximo calibration system gives back time to the people working in the field. “With this software integration project, we were able to realize a significant return on investment during the first unit overhaul. It’s unusual, since ROI on software projects is usually nonexistent at first,” said Damron.

Figure 3. Salt River Project, or SRP, is a community-based, not-for-profit organization providing affordable water and power to more than two million people in central Arizona. Courtesy: Beamex

Figure 3. Salt River Project, or SRP, is a community-based, not-for-profit organization providing affordable water and power to more than two million people in central Arizona. Courtesy: Beamex

A little history

The Salt River Project (SRP) encompasses two separate entities: the Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District, an agency of the state of Arizona that serves as an electrical utility for the Phoenix metropolitan area, and the Salt River Valley Water Users’ Assoc., a utility cooperative that serves as the primary water provider for much of central Arizona. It is one of the primary public utility companies in Arizona, according to Wikipedia.

Although the construction of dams has been the association’s most visible and costly project, an integral part of the effort was also the construction and improvement of a system of canals designed to distribute the water from the Salt River among the various members living in the valley.

The SRP canal system follows much of the ancient canal network established by the Hohokam, ancestors of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian and Gila River Indian communities, who built canals spanning nearly 500 miles.

Author Bio: Heikki Laurila is product marketing manager at Beamex.