Digitalization in the power industry: each, an individual journey

Oct 12, 2018 | Hot Topics

The best part of my job is talking to people who are implementing technology to make their companies better. There are so many starting points: a design process that starts with simulation, hybrid manufacturing, smart operations or, today, connecting all of those via IoT. But  everyone needs to start where they are, with what they’ve got and find a compelling reason to move forward. In some cases, it’s competitive: we can’t beat the other guy unless we’re significantly better. In other cases, it’s regulatory, as governments look for ways to reduce risk. No matter the motivation, each journey is individual.

I recently had the opportunity to interview a number of companies in the power industries to see how they’re dealing with outside pressures and internal stakeholders to move their companies towards a more digital future. In a white paper sponsored by AVEVA, you can read about power generators, engineering procurement and construction (EPC) contractors and even one company that believes it’s inventing the next generation nuclear technology. They range from old-school to very new, and are in North America, Europe and Asia. Please download the paper here (you will need to register).

In speaking with representatives from Areva (now called Orano), Damodar Valley Corp, MAN Diesel & Turbo, Southern Company, TerraPower and Valmet, I learned the following:

  • Not having digital data to start with is a reality for every asset operator. No matter how new, change happens outside the scope of the CAD environment and many equipment supplier don’t make full digital data available to clients –yet. But don’t let that stall a digitalization effort. Start, as DVC did, with a specific problem and gather the data to solve it. Work outwards from there as business cases come up.
  • Or, as Southern Company and Orano do, make digitalization a central part of your business strategy. That’s not easy, requires buy-in, planning and system design — but it can yield significant benefit and new business opportunities.
  • Speaking of opportunities, MAN Diesel and Valmet discovered that a better concept design process can feeds into visualization that lets prospects experience an asset before construction. That leads to a better customer experience — and that can lead to more business.
  • Finally, TerraPower is looking at ways to bring its technology to market without itself establishing a big EPC business. It’s working with partners — which has its own digital challenges.

Perhaps the key lesson: connecting systems and data helps us all get to a single but customized version of an asset. If I don’t need to see a layer of detail to do my job, it shouldn’t clutter up what I do need. If a document requires everyone to speak a specific language, a picture can vastly simplify communication — and an interactive model can be even more useful.

I could keep going — but read the white paper for the full story. We’ve also included suggestions on how you can start your digitalization efforts. Go!

And thank you once again to the individuals who gave their time to speak to me. The cover image of this blog post is the white paper cover, courtesy of AVEVA.

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