2 page Case Study - Posted 1/6/2014
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Powerco

New Zealand Power Company Improves Asset Management and Information Access

Powerco, a leading distributor of gas and electricity in New Zealand, wanted better support for investment decisions. To manage its assets more efficiently, the company decided to implement a data warehouse with self-service business intelligence (BI) tools based on Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise. The solution works with multiple data types and sources, including geospatial information. As a result, the company has improved business insight, gained better access to data, and cut reporting time from two weeks to overnight while improving the consistency and accuracy of information.


Business Needs

Headquartered in New Plymouth, New Zealand, Powerco is a leading distributor of gas and electricity with some 420,000 customers and networks that span 35,000 square kilometers (square miles). Homes and businesses across the nation rely on its infrastructure, so the company wanted better reporting capabilities to support investment decisions.

New Zealand’s energy firms are tightly regulated, with returns based in part on the company’s asset base. For optimal management, the company needs a deep understanding of its assets and operations.

To plan future investments efficiently, the company required timely access to reliable data about the performance and condition of assets such as gas pipes and power lines, as well as the value and lifespan of those assets.

“We were looking for a solution with process controls and analysis tools so that we could submit consistent information to the regulatory authorities,” says Igor Albornett, Architect Team Lead at Powerco. “At the same time, we needed to be able to model different scenarios quickly.”

The company struggled with multiple data sources and disparate reporting tools that could produce inconsistent results. “In the past, reporting was done in a very ad hoc manner with little visibility into the process,” says Paul Ward, Senior Project Manager at Powerco. “We were very reliant on individual interpretation and the technical expertise of a few people.”

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* We need reliable information so that we can make the best possible management decisions…. SQL Server 2012 ensures that information is easily accessible, and we can use built-in BI capabilities to model and analyze the data to support future expenditures.  *

Paul Ward
Senior Project Manager
Powerco

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Solution

To improve its asset management process, Powerco asked Datacom, a Microsoft partner with multiple gold-level competencies, to design a data warehouse based on Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise software running on the Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise operating system. Powerco had already worked with Datacom on multiple projects and was confident in its technology skills and business understanding.

The project was initiated in October 2011, and gradually implemented over the next 18 months. The solution includes two instances of SQL Server 2012 installed on IBM System x3850 server computers connected to a highly scalable storage area network (SAN).

Based on Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services and SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services, the data warehouse integrates with a conversion tool from Safe Software that loads data from a geographic information system (GIS). Then, each spatial location in the network is assigned a unique identifier that can be cross-referenced with individual assets and environmental factors such as climate and soil conditions. Business rules such as unit costs and the economic life of equipment can also be applied.

Next, the company created online analytical processing (OLAP) cubes that combine the geospatial data with other information such as customer complaints and fault reports. Employees can run queries or use presentation tools such as Microsoft SQL Server 2012 PowerPivot for Excel to model different scenarios. For example, says Ward, “We can search for a geographical location and look at all of the associated assets such as poles and transformers. Then, we can overlay operational data such as problem reports and determine whether there’s a correlation between the asset types in an area and the number of faults.”

Benefits

With an asset management solution based on SQL Server 2012, Powerco is improving business insight and planning, gaining better access to data, and increasing the speed and accuracy of reports.

Improves Business Insight and Planning

The company can use the solution to make better decisions with long-term impact. Ward points out that Powerco is a regulated entity of long-life assets with an investment-planning horizon that extends over twenty years.

“We need reliable information so that we can make the best possible management decisions throughout the asset lifecycle,” says Ward. “SQL Server 2012 ensures that information is easily accessible, and we can use built-in BI capabilities to model and analyze the data to support future expenditures.”

Increases Access to Information

In the past, reports were created by a limited number of users with technical expertise and specialized knowledge of assets. Now, virtually any Powerco employee can access data and generate reports themselves without waiting for IT staff or data specialists. “It’s not just about expanding the user base; it’s about the way the data is used,” explains Ward. “Now, instead of relying on a handful of people to prepare reports, our employees can interrogate and analyze data themselves with SQL Server 2012. The solution brings about huge time savings and it also generates a broader appreciation for the information itself.”

Cuts Reporting Time from Two Weeks to Overnight

Powerco is saving time as well as improving the accuracy of its information. For example, annual reports that took an external contractor several weeks to complete are now finished overnight.

“It used to take a couple of weeks to complete some reports, but that wasn’t the only challenge,” says Albornett. “The numbers were also very difficult to reproduce. But with SQL Server 2012, there’s been a significant quality improvement as well as a performance gain. We can create a report, reproduce the results, and then add new criteria and run it again—and at most it’s an overnight process.”

This case study is for informational purposes only.
Solution Overview



Organization Size: 330 employees

Organization Profile

The second-largest gas and utility company in New Zealand, Powerco operates a distribution network that serves approximately 420,000 consumers.


Software and Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012
  • Microsoft SQL Server PowerPivot for Microsoft Excel
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise
  • Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services

Vertical Industries
Power & Utilities

Country/Region
New Zealand

Business Need
Business Intelligence and Reporting

IT Issue
Data Warehousing

Languages
English

Partner(s)
Datacom

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