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April 19, 2013

Linear Asset Management and Dynamic Segmentation- Part II

This one is from my experience in implementation of a gas pipeline; a Gujarat state government project for transporting natural gas from Baroda to Kalol via Ahmedabad. Before the final commissioning of the gas pipeline, there are certain prerequisites like the entire pipeline should be free of impurities and reactive gasses. Also the welded pipe joints should be tested for internal cracks or weld burrs. Pigging, a well-known process for flushing out the pipeline of impurities is carried out by passing a probe called "Pig" through the length of the identified pipeline section. With equipment's like sensors and odometers attached, the modern Pigs are capable of pinpointing the exact location along with the details of the fault. These fault details can then be communicated to appropriate teams for the correction. However in this case, the identification of the location will happen through absolute length or via a GPS coordinates, the limitation of which we witnessed in the earlier part of the blog.   Now let us look at the IBM Maximo application capabilities which support the Dynamic Segmentation concept thereby helping to effectively manage a scenario like this.

 Linear referencing method
A linear referencing method (LRM) forms the basis for determining a position within an Asset in the linear context. A LRM once established, helps locating an Asset segments by means of a known start point, a measure, and a direction. It provides a  three dimensional view of the work location by means of defining  distance offset along X, Y and Z coordinates.  To locate the pipeline section with fault, the location can be specified as Locate 1 is at -2 miles(X- Axis where -ve indicates it occurs before a known point) from milestone pump station 1, and is 1.5 feet (Y -Axis, + ve indicating right) from the midline of track and is -2 Feet(Z-Axis, -ve indicating underground) from the surface.View image


The BAKPL spanned for 220 Kilometers , the diameter of the pipeline section did not change throughout the length, however there were distinguishable sections like a section of 25 meters passing through swamp and requiring a cathodic protection for corrosion treatment. Few sections submerged in water bodies requiring heavy concrete layering to counter buoyancy etc. Specifications help to define the specific characteristics of the sections along the length of the linear assets. This assists the Maintenance planners to understand comprehensive linear characteristics which are imperative for an effective maintenance planning.

The main purpose of features is to locate the start and end points of work locations along a linear asset through a known point. The features are mostly non asset components of a linear asset. For example, to replace cathodic plates on a specific section of pipeline, the maintenance planner can specify the area to be at a specific distance from "Shutoff Valve-4" with respective Y and Z offset defined. The shutoff valve in this context serves as the feature enabling the relational measurement point.

Relationship is the defined interdependency between two linear assets, a linear and a point asset, or a linear asset and a location. The relationship is used to describe the dependency or connectivity which serves as a useful information for the Maintenance planners to account for Assets getting impacted due to work on the principal Assets. The relationship also contributes to the dynamic segmentation to locate the problem area in relation to segments within other linear or point assets. An optical fiber cable of a telecom backbone can intersect the gas pipeline and to perform the maintenance operation on this intersecting section of the pipeline the Maintenance planned needs to be aware of the position to avoid any damage to the optical fiber during the digging operations.

Linear Asset Management (LAM), in essence focuses on creating a platform for the planners to define the Assets in the linear context and effectively plan the work. The dynamic segmentation provides a whole new aspect to the Asset definition, it enables the maintenance planners to view Assets in the linear context while still being able to leverage inherent maintenance programs meant for point assets. LAM opens up for a wide range of Assets across industries like Transportation (Roads, Railways), Utilities (Electrical Transmission and Distribution lines, Water and Gas Pipelines), and Telecom (Backbone). The  more we go deeper , looking into the Maintenance requirement on these domains, the more we can appreciate the LAM capabilities addressing the respective business  use cases. It's a matter of faster adaptation to LAM and then a time will come when the stake holders  get retrospective and relate to past challenges and the wonders the concept brought into the current time work and Asset Management practices.

April 8, 2013

Linear Asset Management and Dynamic Segmentation- Part I

Traditional Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) systems always treated assets as point assets. Plant equipment, Fleets, IT assets you name it, they are all point assets and have self-sufficient programs available within most of the EAM packages to take care of their maintenance requirements. So what's the fuss about linear assets then?

Assets like railroad, gas pipelines etc. have characteristics which are associated to its length and may differ throughout its course. Moreover, locating a work area; tracking the work history; asset to asset/location relations etc. are always a limitation with point asset management process. Let us consider a case of railroad section spanning miles and crossing state boundaries.  As we traverse through the length of rail road section, we can observe that specification of these sections changes, for example, speed limit for a section of rail changes on gradients or rail crossing; a section with curve has an angle of banking which is unique to the extent of curvature; a section with crossing/frog/ turnouts has different characteristics etc. All these changes within one single asset definitely require a different maintenance approach.

Maintenance operations like track inspections, gauging, track replacement etc. requires the planners to exactly locate the problem area section so that the crew can be dispatched accordingly. Work on the sections also have dependencies on other related assets like level crossings, underground culvert etc. and it is necessary to relationally capture them for better planning of work. This is because work on the principal asset can impact the dependent assets. Hierarchical relations seldom worked with Linear Assets as it meant breaking down of assets into multiple smaller assets to facilitate the parent child relationship. With no single location able to contain a linear asset, the location specific tracking also failed. Questions arose- how do we have these different specification captured? How to locate when there is no specific location information? Having no provision to create relationship within a particular segment of asset, how to define dependencies? The need was clear, a generalized view of assets as point assets had to change.

The questions are many but the concept of Dynamic Segmentation is the ultimate answer; it helps the maintenance planners to segment an asset into logical portions without impacting the underlying geometry of the Asset. Once the segments are identified, pinpointing the problem area and planning the work becomes easy. In the next part on this blog, through relevant examples, we will see how IBM Maximo deals with linear assets and in particular cater to concept of dynamic segmentation.

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