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Customer Story

PowerStream's prioritized CBM model improves equipment availability and operational costs

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  • Challenge
    Achieve operational efficiency using reliability-centered maintenance (RCM2) methodology for utility merging with two other utilities, tripling in size.
  • Solution
    The PI Server and Esri reports help utility to move from time-based to condition-based maintenance, replacing assets on an as-needed basis.
  • Benefits
    Cost savings and an improvement in reliability; the utility can respond to outages or equipment failures in real-time, prioritizing safety and efficiency.

In 2016, an unexpected spring ice storm caused trees to fall on power lines in Southern Ontario, Canada, creating a blackout that impacted 50,000 PowerStream customers. “Everybody was getting all these emails when circuit breakers were closing and opening as a tree was being knocked down over a line or was brushing up against it,” said Vince Polsini, manager of PowerStream's Station Sustainment Department. Notifications from the PI System gave vital information in real time, helping assure that power was restored as quickly and safely as possible.

PowerStream Energy Services, the second-largest municipally-owned distribution company in North America, began using the PI System in 2012 to improve its operations division. The company began with 5,000 tags as part of its maintenance management system integration. In 2017, PowerStream merged with three other utilities, going from 350,000 customers to over a million. PowerStream knew that expanding its use of the PI System to accommodate this growth would be vital to the company’s success. PowerStream vastly increased its use of Asset Framework, began relying even more on Notifications, and developed reports based on PI System data. PowerStream now uses over 30,000 tags in what the organization calls a "prioritized condition-based model" to inform all stakeholders and make operational decisions in real time.

Notifications and the PI System really helped us quite a bit out in the stations. Everybody knew when assets were on and offline.
Vince Polsini
Manager of Station Sustainment Department

Maintenance model benefits from the PI System

Prior to employing the PI System, PowerStream relied heavily on a time-based maintenance model. Once the PI System became part of the Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS), Polsini's team "re-engineered" the process, transitioning from a time-based maintenance model to a "prioritized condition-based maintenance model." The team underwent RCM training, analyzed its equipment, and integrated several systems, starting with its SCADA system. They recognized the value of the new approach when they saw how it helped them prioritize and optimize maintenance tasks by leveraging real-time information that was not available before.

"So this is what we are now at PowerStream. We are a risk-based, condition-based maintenance utility," said Polsini. "And that's using a combination of the PI System and the maintenance management system speaking to each other."

PowerStream also uses Notifications for real-time updates, providing immediate information on equipment or outages to workers out in the field. The team also expanded its use of dashboards, so that all data became visible and accessible. "We've expanded the use of the PI System to really work on dashboarding and providing information to as many people as possible, and catering or tailoring those reports specifically to the users that will be looking at these dashboards," said Polsini. The combination of notifications and reports allowed stakeholders—from executives to engineers—to receive instant updates as events occurred.

In addition, PowerStream began using PI Integrator for Esri ArcGIS for increased asset analytics and failure reporting. “It opens up all kinds of opportunities because we've got a lot of attributes that we can now show on a map,” Polsini said. This feature first proved its value during the 2016 ice storm. "Notifications and the PI System really helped us quite a bit out in the stations. Everybody knew when assets were on and offline," said Polsini. "We were able to react very quickly and actually go to some of these stations and charge the batteries so that when they were called upon to operate, the stations, the batteries were in a position to work."

powerstream-graph-figurePowerStream integrated its SCADA and CMMS with the PI System to create one source of data, which enabled real-time condition-based maintenance through real-time dashboards and notifications, making data visible across the company.

The PI System as a true CBM enabler

PowerStream now manages its equipment health by measuring criticality, health, and risk. With real-time visibility into asset condition, the company has become more Proactive, catching issues early, leading to an improvement in overall equipment reliability. "We are now in a position where we're seeing a lot of things that are about to fail or on their way to a failure," Polsini said.

"There's all kinds of valuable information [in the control room], valuable data that they use to operate the system, but that information is equally valuable for planning, engineering, and even maintenance," Polsini said. "Still, the old model is, wait for the phone call from the controller to go do something. Well now, it's kind of changed the other way. We're telling them we already know that there's a problem. We've already started to react to that issue."

With the PI System, PowerStream has seen a decrease in equipment failure and operational costs, now taking equipment out for maintenance based on the data, not on a time-based model. Polsini described the PI System as a true condition-based maintenance enabler, maintenance optimizer, and innovation stimulant. “Once you've got the system and you can see what it can do, you want to do more and you want to show more."

For more information about PowerStream and the PI System, watch the full presentation here. 

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