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Altran: unlocking value by digitising utilities

Engineering and consulting company Altran’s research indicates that digitisation could be the secret to unlocking value in the utility sector

Engineering and consulting company Altran’s research indicates that digitisation could be the secret to unlocking value in the utility sector.

Estimating that an additional US$1.3trn could be extracted via a digital transformation between 2016 and 2025, Altran believes that the nascent market will only grow with time - by 2025, it values the digital utility market at $299bn.

“The digital transformation is a centrepiece of many companies’ strategy. A transformation aims at reshaping and reinventing organizations to fit new ecosystems, to keep creating value and successfully address new business challenges,” said the report.

However, Altran also stresses the critical time factor for achieving sustainable, long-lasting results: energy and utility companies are not immune from falling out of consumer favour when matched against technologically advanced competitors. 

Benefits of the digital era

Far from being simply another trend, digital transformation has tangible, quantifiable benefits to bestow on utility and power generation companies. These include:

Safer work environment: A network of IoT sensors integrated with cloud and optimised by AI or ML (machine learning) analytics is a potent tool for increasing safety. 

Capable of tracking crucial component health in real-time, software can detect faults before they materialise, making it safer for workers. Image-based AI scanning software can even diagnose faults without the need for an attending engineer.

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Operational optimisation: Subsequent to being able to track energy production from end-to-end is the ability to increase efficiency across the entire process.

Underperforming equipment, such as wind turbines, can be analysed and adjusted, whilst grid stability can be maintained via storage batteries which feed it power during peak times or blackouts.

Roadmap for success 

Knowing the solution, Altran states, is one thing, but implementing it without a plan is unlikely to yield long-term success. As such, the company recommends establishing an implementation framework:

Set out a vision: Before starting on the road of digital transformation, a company should define what benefits it hopes to reap from the process so that success or failure can be accurately measured.

Gather relevant data: The volume of data available in the energy industry is vast, yet few companies are exploiting it, Altran claims. Developing analytical capabilities will unlock the value of data, increase the accuracy of forecasts and identify optimisation opportunities.

Experiment: Whilst the benefits of digitising are apparent, there is no singularly established method of success. Paying attention to what others are doing and making bold decisions are key to making significant gains. 

Focus on user-centricity: Workforces can be overwhelmed by rapid technological changes. Therefore, knowing how staff operate and the best way to help them perform better will guide what changes to implement.

Consider innovation labs: Making the advantages of digital transformation apparent will speed up their adoption. Setting up innovation labs to provide new ideas with a ‘dry run’ can show the practical use for change.

For more information on energy digital topics - please take a look at the latest edition of Energy Digital Magazine.

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