4 Essential Steps to Successful Infrastructure Modernization
President Joe Biden recently announced a $2 trillion infrastructure investment package intended to fund critical repairs and invest in electric grid modernization. The need to update aging infrastructure has become one of the most pressing issues facing the United States and many other countries.
Our infrastructures are getting older and nearing - or passing - their life span. The gas and electricity that power homes and businesses, the telephone communications that allow people to speak to their loved ones and provide internet service - they are now five or six decades old, or even older.
As consumer demand has rapidly increased over the years, these aging systems can no longer support the current and future levels of use. Today, we are seeing the effects of aging infrastructures and the widespread challenges they create.
Aging Infrastructures Pose a Risk to Public Safety
To facilitate gas supplies, utility companies throughout the United States built a 2.4 million mile grid of pipelines. At the time, regulatory requirements for material traceability and accurate records were virtually non-existent. GPS technology didn’t even exist until the late 1970s. All of this culminated in a lack of infrastructure records by the very utility companies that built them.
As a result, crews couldn’t perform maintenance operations, so corrosion went unnoticed while gas leaks risked potential explosions. Asset strikes - especially from third party contractors without knowledge of precise asset locations - rose exponentially.
Today, there are roughly 200 million US households that rely on these outdated infrastructures.
"The cost of replacing aging infrastructures may be high, but the cost of doing nothing is even higher. We simply can’t afford to wait any longer."
Aging infrastructures are a concern not only within the United States, but throughout Australia, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and other regions worldwide.
Australia’s infrastructures date back to the late 1800s. Today, clear signs have emerged showing that they will soon be inoperable. TransGrid, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory’s electricity provider, recognized the danger of leaving the current systems as is. The company recently launched an infrastructure replacement program to update the aging systems with a safer and more reliable system for 800,000 Sydney residents.
In December 2020, the UK’s leading newspaper The Times reported that “4,000 of about 9,000 bridges and large culverts on motorways or A-roads showed evidence of defects or damage that may significantly affect their capacity”.
In an effort to combat this situation, the British Parliament recently announced multiple capital projects aimed at investing in infrastructure development and modernization. This includes the creation of the UK Infrastructure Bank, a £22 billion financial initiative primarily focused on funding new infrastructure developments for gas, electricity, telecom, water, and transportation.
The cost of physical damage to infrastructures is high, requiring nearly $2 trillion in investment in the US alone, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. Modernizing these outdated systems is a necessity to support increasing consumer demand. As ABC News reported, $177 billion is needed to modernize US electric grids while $1.1 trillion for road and bridge repairs are needed.
The cost of replacing aging infrastructures may be high, but the cost of doing nothing is even higher. We simply can’t afford to wait any longer.
4 Essential Steps to a Successful Infrastructure Modernization
How can utilities update infrastructures while ensuring safe and reliable service to their customers? Here are 4 best practices.
1. Improve Data Capture
At the heart of the matter lies data. The more data a utility company has on its own assets and processes, the more efficiently it can operate.
By collecting high accuracy geolocation data of their assets, utilities ensure that they maintain accurate records, including material traceability. This helps reduce asset strikes, send repair crews out faster, and perform routine maintenance more effectively.
Timing is everything. Capturing data during construction is essential. By doing so, utilities ensure that each pipe in the network has precise locations which reflect in the system of record. Once field crews have laid and buried pipelines underground, it’s already too late to capture the data.
2. Incorporate a Digital Twin
An ideal solution for building data models is through a digital twin. Accurate data collected in the field serves as the basis for a high fidelity digital twin, giving utilities a complete and accurate accounting of constructed assets. This empowers utility leaders to incorporate more sophisticated technology onto their networks, such as Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) and Advanced Distribution Management Systems (ADMS).
DERs and ADMS have a direct impact on energy generation and consumption, and improve environmental sustainability now and into the future.
3. Transform Paper As-Builting
Digitizing paper as-builts is a critical element of the infrastructure modernization process.
The gap between the design and the system of record is wide; bridging that gap is the key to reducing costs and time in the field. Field crews can utilize GPS and barcode scanning to automate digital as-builting, helping them more easily validate as-built data against the design. Moving from paper-based to digital as-builting also eliminates human errors, minimizes backlogs, and improves data integrity.
The ability to digitally export data to the system of record achieves faster project completion and accelerates revenue realization.
4. Integrate Work Management Systems
Current work management solutions for scheduling, asset mapping, and reconciling materials are spread across numerous systems. These disconnected tools make it difficult for field crews, project managers, and inspectors to operate efficiently. Rather than using multiple fragmented solutions, utilities can use technologies like Locusview that offer a fully integrated, end-to-end Digital Construction Management (DCM) solution.
Modernized Infrastructures in a Post COVID-19 World
The Covid-19 virus had a large impact on already stressed infrastructures as more people stayed home and used more electricity, gas, water, phone, and internet services. Consumer demand will only continue to increase. To meet this growing demand, city planning leaders must think ahead strategically.
Locusview’s digital construction management platform transforms the way utilities manage infrastructure construction projects. Our solution acts as a single digital thread linking the design, planning, and system of record together, ensuring that utilities streamline their operations.
We help utility leaders think ahead to ensure safety, stability, and continuous services to their customers.