Managing your assets

7 May 2010

Software company IBM has been working with Tennessee Valley Authority on an integrated asset management solution. Ron Wallace gives more information about the US utility’s efforts to standardise and streamline its operations

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is the US’ largest public power company providing wholesale power to approximately 9M people in Tennessee and portions of six other contiguous states. With a diverse set of assets under its management – including hydroelectric dams, solar generation sites, fossil plants, nuclear plants, and turbine sites –TVA wanted to embark on a project that would: standardise and streamline its work across the fleet to improve the business environment; and increase efficiencies by operating as a single system.

The result, with IBM’s help, was that in February 2010 TVA embarked successfully on the largest and most integrated enterprise asset management (EAM) solution performed by any US utility.


Today, TVA generates electricity at 29 hydroelectric dams, a pumped storage plant, 11 coal-fired plants, 11 combustion turbine sites, three nuclear plants, and 18 green power sites that employ wind turbines, methane gas and solar panels. The energy travels through some 26,000km of transmission lines and a network of 158 local distributors to reach homes and businesses. The scope of the EAM project reflects the highly diverse and widespread set of assets, software and processes under TVA’s command.

The project, which took two years to complete and serves up to 8000 concurrent users, integrated two dozen legacy applications with IBM’s Maximo software and eliminated more than 70 legacy systems. The scope of the project ranged from enterprise systems such as work management, supply chain, financial management and reporting software, to a new web portal promoting collaboration, to security measures such as a new single sign-on solution. The net effect of this integration was to create a centralised data-and-command center for TVA for sustainable performance improvement on an ongoing basis.

IBM’s joint global services and Maximo asset management teams joined forces with TVA subject-matter experts from all business units to form one technical team and one business team with the goal of consolidating the work management systems. The technical team ensured seamless planning and execution, transfer of knowledge, performance testing and tuning and independent oversight, while the business team supplied dedicated subject matter experts, a dedicated testing team, and integrated best practices across TVA.

In addition to extending Maximo to all TVA business units and providing TVA with a unified asset management approach, the new solution also replaces the utility’s legacy computerised maintenance and supply chain management systems. The supply chain at TVA impacts more than 10,000 TVA employees and 6000 external suppliers. The new supply chain solution covers three functional areas: materials, purchasing and contracts, and also provides a supplier portal for collaboration and management. By integrating these areas, TVA is able to gain more visibility into the entire supply chain process.

Prior to the EAM project, TVA’s use of siloed software asset management applications was adversely affecting not only costs, but also the integration of vendor products across the power-generation system. These challenges – compounded by the pending obsolescence of legacy asset management software and systems and the desire to lower maintenance costs by consolidating and integrating software systems – added impetus to TVA embarking on this project with IBM.

Hydro generation assets

Maximo is used at a number of major hydro organisations both at federal and state level to manage dam safety inspections programmes, identify and repair discrepancies and support the overall dam safety initiative.

Although IBM doesn’t provide any special solutions for hydro generation, TVA found that Maximo was being used at many hydro generation facilities including a major state-run hydro authority that managed the upgrade of its generating units and documented savings through better utilisation of resources. The US Bureau of Reclamation also uses Maximo at 55 dams to manage hydroelectric generation and the waterway and surrounding recreational areas created by the dam.

In terms of scope of the work, the EAM data conversion project alone reviewed more than 227M records, reducing that number by two-thirds in a massive data cleanup that experienced not a single record conversion failure as a result of coding processes. Asset management transformation touched nearly 1.4M assets in more than 1.5M operating locations that involved more than 77M records.

Other utilities and plants will probably experience the same challenges TVA faced prior to the EAM project – siloed operations, legacy systems, time-intensive processes and error-prone manual work is reality for ageing organisations. The success of the TVA project demonstrates that these organisations can move into a new reality, one that will help them manage their systems for the next few decades.

Ron Wallace, EAM Utility Industry Manager, IBM Software Group

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