Innovation and automation in power delivery: Creating efficiencies
Demand for improvements to the electric grid continues to increase, and utilities are looking for solutions to execute work quickly, accurately, and efficiently. In addition to employing large teams of engineering experts, utilities benefit by accessing tools that leverage digitization and automation. The end goal: capturing large amounts of data with precision and accuracy, processing the data efficiently, and generating high quality engineering products in a fraction of the time required by manual methods.
Innovations can lead to big gains for the utility and its stakeholders. For example, digital field data collection tools capture robust, error-free information in a single site visit. Likewise, tools that automate workflows and repetitive tasks generate engineering results faster and with increased quality and precision. Cloud-based technologies enable anytime, anywhere access to project data and documentation, promoting collaboration among engineers and project managers regardless of geographical location. And technical staff can be scaled up or down with ease in response to program needs. By driving efficiencies across all phases of design, modern tools help drive significant cost savings across large utility programs and accelerate the delivery of value to utility customers.
Leveraging digitization and automation in field data collection
Good design demands good data. Leidos utilizes an iOS-based field application that enables the digital capture of field data using an iPad®. Field teams collect accurate, actionable information in a single trip to a field location. By eliminating the potential for multiple site visits and capturing more data with greater precision, Leidos’ digital process drives efficiency in field data collection which improves quality and constructability in the designs we provide to our utility customers.
How does this work? The field app is pre-loaded with utility-specific standards and requirements, GIS data, and asset information that accelerates data collection. A quality checker module enforces instant validation of data. Once collected, data is transmitted in real time to a secure, cloud-based server, and automated processes populate hundreds of lines and fields of data in a spreadsheet in a matter of minutes, making it possible for design analysis to begin even before the field team has left the site. The digitized data is standardized for compatibility across multiple applications and is available for use by utilities for reporting, visualization, and analysis.
Automated engineering workflows
To be able to successfully support large-scale utility programs, Leidos automates repetitive and standardized tasks within the design workflow. By automating the repetitive tasks, Leidos engineers can focus their efforts on reviewing and refining design options resulting in higher quality solutions for the utility. For example, a customized design software tool walks engineers through the design process step-by-step and also provides built-in tutorials to educate the user during each design step.
By using automated engineering workflows and tools as part of a standard utility pole replacement program, Leidos has reduced design time by an average of 25 percent. After importing, standardizing, and processing data from multiple sources, Leidos uses automated processes to model and evaluate the data and generate a digital twin of the recommended design. When the design is finalized, we again use automated processes to generate and package deliverables including construction drawings, permit drawings, clearance analyses, bill of materials, and customer specific deliverables.
Innovation in training accelerates program readiness
Behind every successful large infrastructure program are the people who make it happen. For utilities, engaging a partner that has the flexibility to rapidly deliver technical expertise when needed can help lower costs and optimize productivity. Leidos right-sizes its workforce to expand teams quickly. Innovative training tools and processes efficiently prepare new Leidos team members to fully integrate into a large program and quickly deliver value.
High-quality interactive training videos immerse new engineers in a variety of areas including distribution basics, framing, transformers, and program-specific standards, requirements, and design software, all while providing background and context about the utility customer and the goals of their program. Additional clarity on technical methods and requirements, workflow, and level of effort is provided by pairing a new engineer with an experienced engineer to work through design challenges. This strategy has enabled Leidos to reduce the time required to onboard high performing team members by approximately 50 percent.
The end goal of any innovative, automated process or tool is to create efficiencies that reduce labor hours for repetitive and easily automated tasks, and ultimately reduce the total cost of ownership for a utility. By applying sophisticated approaches to automation, Leidos is helping utilities meet their immediate needs while also improving the accuracy, safety, and reliability of the electric grid.