Designing the Smart Network

On day two of the 2010 GeoDesign Summit, Andy Bennett of Telvent says that GIS is the starting point for advanced telecommunication network design.

Jan 7th, 2010

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00:01Yeah, I just want to take a few minutes to talk about GeoDesign in the context of the way a distribution utility...

00:06...specifically electric utilities, actually operate.

00:09So probably the first question is, you know, Why do we need to do design at a utility?

00:15You guys probably look out, front yard, you see a pole; doesn't look like it changes all that often.

00:20But the network, the distribution network, the electrical network that brings us electricity to our homes... one that is pretty dynamic, and it changes fairly constantly.

00:30And there's some obvious changes, right? We have new subdivision designs, new homes that come into our communities...

00:36...then, of course, we have these new challenges with the ever-increasing need for more power, right?

00:42And so we have capacity issues, and those capacity issues dictate design as well.

00:47And then utilities go through a lot of seasonal change so...

00:51...they're always redesigning their systems to shift electrical load to areas that need more power.

00:58And then, of course, one of the most obvious reasons for design and the continued nature of design... because we have electric outages, right?

01:05There's storms, poles get knocked down; we've all experienced this.

01:09And so all those things really necessitate the need for geodatabase and...and... and GeoDesign within a distribution utility.

01:18So I guess just a...a couple of the goals and the ways a utility thinks about this.

01:22And the first thing is that all the design that most...most utilities are doing on their distribution systems...

01:29...are based on the fundamental concept of using the GIS.

01:33Mainly because that GIS is already where all their assets are stored, right? That's the as-built nature of the network.

01:41But there's a lot of other reasons why utilities find this very attractive, right?

01:45They're always looking for ways to streamline that design process and to reduce that backlog.

01:51You can imagine if you have thousands and thousands and thousands of designs taking place on your network...

01:56... every year, right, that if you don't have a very streamlined process...

02:00... to get those things posted and into your as-built state, then that could cause a lot of problems.

02:05That could cause problems with the nature of the network being out of date and things of that nature.

02:11But there's a lot of other reasons why utilities do this as well.

02:14There's certainly the problem of aging workforce; a lot of folks are leaving the utility industry.

02:20That's leaving an industry that really has still the continued problem of designing...

02:25...but not necessarily having the engineering prowess and experience to do that.

02:30So that sort of necessitates the idea of more and more design folks to help with that.

02:35So just real briefly, a little bit about the anatomy of a design.

02:39This is not always the way a utility thinks about it, but...but frequently is.

02:43Really at the top level, we think about a work request or a work package.

02:48That's the concept of all the work we're going to do to get a certain job done.

02:53And then within a work request, we may have many designs, right? So that's kind of a many-to-one ratio.

02:59You may want to do a design that's an underground design and then also do the design that's overhead...

03:05...and maybe compare and contrast those two designs for things like cost.

03:09Every design has at least one estimate, right, one cost estimate associated with it.

03:15And then many designers will use these...this concept of a work location.

03:19And...and that's really just a place within my design, a logical place...

03:22...where I may drop off equipment or associate equipment as I start to think about how I parse up that design.

03:29Then this last concept is these designs are really comprised of something that we call compatible units or assemblies.

03:37So if you think about the...the...the pole for instance; might be a pole...

03:40...there might be some, you know, brackets and side arms and things on that pole.

03:44So all those materials, those...the...the pole and the nuts and the bolts and that sort of stuff.

03:49In addition to that, the labor associated with putting that pole in the ground.

03:54All that stuff gets formed into this concept of a compatible unit.

03:58So as a utility designer is doing a design, and they're laying out the electrical infrastructure...

04:04...they're not just placing features; they're placing compatible units, they're building up labor, they're building up cost.

04:08They're building up the concept of the entire job.

04:11So just real briefly on the...this...this concept of the anatomy.

04:15We think about those things like those work locations. Those are some numbered work locations...

04:19...and then a list of the compatible units that will be associated with those work locations.

04:23And then always in a design, the design standards are sort of captured.

04:27And on this design, this is a pretty simple one here, you can see the...

04:32...the symbology here showing that this entire conductor is going to be replaced or upgraded.

04:37Everything green is going to be new.

04:40And the symbology really helps dictate...

04:43...and let people know the difference between what's existing infrastructure versus what's new.

04:48And then, of course, there's a lot of detail on construction notes.

04:50I know we don't generally think of electrical engineers as being the most artistic type people but...'d be surprised at just the wealth of information that people put into these...these drawings.

05:02So just a little bit more on the workflow, because the workflow aspect of design is really one of the most important parts.

05:10A sketch is the final product, but how that design moves through its life cycle is pretty critical.

05:16So this is just a very simple workflow, right?

05:17This is the idea that a designer may create a design; they'll send out a work packet to a construction crew.

05:23That construction crew will build it; we'll get back some as-built information.

05:27The complexity of those designs can get more varied.

05:30You think about how that design might...

05:32...traverse and move through from the time it gets sketched to the time it actually gets built.

05:39There might be many, many iterations of folks that want to look at that design to validate the electrical standards... make sure that the design sound.

05:48And so there's all sorts of different workflows that are associated with that.

05:51This is a real workflow from a fairly large distribution utility. It's not unusual.

05:57At the end of the day, looks really complex; it probably is pretty complex.

06:01That...that's a reflection, I think, of just the amount of collaboration that goes on within a utility.

06:08One person doesn't build a design and then go out, put up those poles or dig those trenches.

06:14That...there's many, many, many people that are involved in that process...

06:17...both to oversee the financial requirements, the electrical requirements, the safety requirements.

06:22And so these type of design processes can get very, very, very involved as you can see.

06:28So the complexity of the designs, of course, varies immensely too. This is a very simple design.

06:34This is maybe the idea of a three-pole extension, maybe of a new residential house. Someone has to put up those poles.

06:40They may do some structural analysis of the poles and make sure that they...they can sustain that.

06:45And then there's much more complex type designs, right?

06:47This is the idea of an underground design where you might even need some idea of the manhole diagrams...

06:54...what's going on in the manholes, where a conductor's coming in.

06:57And often designers will put all sorts of information about the trenching detail.

07:01That becomes critical as you're dealing with many, many, many different types of utilities.

07:05You don't want to dig into an electrical utility or a fiber utility or something of that nature.

07:11So one of the other concepts that we have within design that's...that's...that's pretty important... the idea that these people aren't doing this in isolation.

07:19There might be hundreds or thousands of designs going on within an organization at any given time.

07:24This is probably a little hard to see, but this is...this yellow area denotes a...a one-person design...

07:29...and this green area is someone else's design.

07:31And you can see that they're both tapping off of the same facility.

07:36And that idea of...of...of people multiediting needing to communicate is pretty principal to the overall concept.

07:43These designs also may go on for years and years.

07:46This is a highway widening project where you might be moving some conductor.

07:49And that means that different areas of them may become energized at different points in time.

07:55So now you have this concept within your design philosophy of partial posting...

07:59...of taking some portions of your design as they become energized and making them available to the as-built view.

08:04Okay. So last slide. I just...the...the...

08:07Probably the most interesting aspect of design within a utility and how it relates modeling...

08:14...and some of the things that we're seeing is this idea of design optimization, which has been talked about quite a bit today.

08:19But within a utility, the way they perceive that is that if they've got, for instance, a subdivision...

08:25...and they really want to optimize that design.

08:27Because what happens frequently, designers will overbuild.

08:31They could use a...a 25 kVA transformer, but it's easier just to throw out a 50 kVA transformer and bring more power.

08:38But that's not exactly the most efficient or economical way of doing that.

08:41So now what we...we are seeing a lot in our industry, of course, is that...

08:45...this idea of optimization where you take the parcels and...

08:49...and the system, the GIS, figures out what the front lot is and what the rear lot is.

08:54You put information in about load and capacity and that sort of nature, and the design actually gets built for you by the GIS.

09:01And now you have this highly optimized design.

09:04Now this will vary tremendously based on what you're trying to optimize on. 00:09:08

09:11So I think the interesting part about this, and as we're looking forward... of the things that utilities don't necessarily take into account with optimization today... the wealth of all that other rich data that's out there; the...the subsurface environment...

09:23...things like soils have enormous effect on the cost of a design.

09:28Things like looking at the aesthetics and the 3D aspects of where conductors are going and where those crossings are.

09:34That's all critical.

09:35And as we think about design optimization in a utility context, that certainly seems to be the direction that we are going.

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