Smart Meter Roll-Out and Advanced Metering Infrastructure: Expert Exchange in Switzerland
“We cannot imagine working without SAP Advanced Metering Infrastructure anymore”
Smart Meters do not only deliver metering information, but many more details about the quality
of the energy supply as well as events related to the network and the device. Before this information can be used in business processes to react quicker, or even in advance of an event, it needs to be transmitted into SAP for Utilities. Once it’s there, the event management capabilities of SAP for Utilities help organizations to improve performance and quality in network operations.
In an expert exchange organized by SAP Switzerland, 10 Swiss Utility companies and SAP discussed not only how the data could add benefit to business processes. The event was kicked of with a presentation of one Swiss utility which shared their journey into smart metering and their benefits from using SAP’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure:
When metering devices started to malfunction, the utility company had a hard time to identify the root cause, because the defect could not be reproduced at first. Finally, the regulatory authority pushed for a replacement of all devices.
Replacing tens of thousands of devices in weeks?
With the challenge to replace tens of thousands of devices of their customers, the company started to look at their resources and infrastructure. Both were not in a situation to manage the project successfully: the staff of utility companies is laid out to work in a continuous mode with no peaks except for exceptional situations like natural disasters. The software was not ready, neither: SAP for Utilities was in place and ready to handle the backend processes, but the roll-out and management of smart metering devices was not in scope by that time. And the choice of the company was to move straight away to the next generation of metering devices, turning a bad situation beneficial to their customers and accelerate the digitalization of the company.
To address the immediate and urgent need for technical-skilled personnel, the utility company started to look for external support. A specialized service provider was contracted to replace the devices. With that choice, other tasks arose: how to facilitate the communication with the customers and the technical integration of the deployment in SAP for Utilities?
The SAP Advanced Metering Infrastructure was chosen to manage the smart metering devices.
Communication is key – with metering devices and with customers
The human communication part was even more delicate: the customers had to understand and accept that the devices needed to be replaced. Moreover, they should feel comfortable with a third party doing the work, as these tasks are traditionally done by the utility themselves and not any externals.
What started as a voluminous but straight forward task became a corporate project which required attention at any level of the company and in every department – customers began to question the reliability of all devices and the Customers Interaction and Corporate Communications organizations invested time and effort to keep the trust level of the end customers high.
Again, SAP for Utilities played a key role: the prerequisite for trust is reliable information on the utility side. To make sure that the meter replacements were correctly processed, the utility asked the service provider to take an ante and ex-post analysis. Both images were reviewed and stored in SAP for Utilities, creating a valuable source of information for later interventions.
Once the overall process was set up, more than 300 devices were replaced daily . But with the deployment of smart devices, this workload will not stop once the technical problem is solved: Utility companies expect that replacing smart meters will become a high-volume recurring task. Software updates and innovation will not allow to leave devices in place for decades, as it was feasible until now.
Looking back to a very successful project, the next step for the company is now to even extend the combination of SAP’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure and the smart meters in the field by making use of the additional information and business models. Based on SAP’s Event Management as part of the SAP AMI Integration the company plans to automatically create service orders, for example, for any malfunctions of the meter. Already today, they could improve their internal processes to the point of not wanting to work without SAP’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure anymore.
The project approach and the technical details were presented by the utility company and we were very glad to have the key users sharing their experience and knowledge.
Another topic that was also covered in the above-named session was the one on Event Management as part of the SAP AMI Integration solution.
It has been mentioned above already that there was an interest on customer side for getting more details on these capabilities that SAP introduced the topic:
As you can see on the picture further up, SAP AMI Integration has the possibility to receive, store and further process any type of event originating from a meter, Head-End-System or any other source.
You can see the detailed steps that are being processed automatically before an event leads to a certain action, take for example the creation of a service order.
Moreover, the audience of the session gained insight into the topic of Event Management not only in theory but also through a system demo: it was shown how an event could be simulated and processed in an SAP for Utilities system.
Finally, several questions and contributions from various utility companies have been discussed in that forum and some detailed information about these topics are provided through the following links:
Regarding Key management in SAP for Utilities for reference the solution for the german market
Regarding the timestamp of the replacement of devices:
Special thanks to Holger Schweinfurth for being part of the event and the AMI-related content in this article 🙂