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2020 Guide to Remote Site Management

Remote site management

Managing remote sites will be more important in 2020 than ever before. Not only will there be more remote sites, but utility companies will also depend on them more heavily. And, the risks remote sites face are unyielding.

As utility companies grow with the economy, so does their physical footprint. This exposes more remote unmanned sites to potential failures. Remote site equipment faces the routine risks of defects, inadequate maintenance, and environmental conditions - yet the larger the system grows, the less effective existing resources will be in response. Also, environmental risks are worsening as the weather grows continually more extreme.

At the same time, utilities are now tasked with upgrading their existing systems and building new sites compatible with emerging technologies, like the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G network interactivity.

This essentially doubles down on capital investment at remote sites, exacerbating the costs of system failure, service outages, and resulting fines or penalties.

Since utilities are often held liable for damages caused by an equipment failure at remote sites - like wildfires - risk mitigation remains an essential component of remote site management in 2020. This guide will offer remote site management best practices and accompanying remote site management tools to help your day-to-day operations run smoothly.

Remote Site Management Best Practices 2020

The old risks haven't gone away, and the new risks seem here to stay. So, the best way to manage remote sites in 2020 is to practice a combination of old and new risk mitigation strategies. Principal among them is using a remote monitoring system that covers all important remote sites.

Remote monitoring remains the most effective way to detect and respond to emerging issues at distant, unmanned stations. It costs far less than manning and supplying stations and accomplishes the same goal of informing maintenance for response.

Using Remote Site Tools for Day-to-Day Operations

To refresh: remote terminal units (RTUs) are located at all remote sites. The sensors onboard RTUs detect potential issues, such as temperature change, vibration, or equipment problems reported by IoT-capable generators. When an issue occurs, the RTU sends an alarm to a series of individuals, or to a master station.

Master stations collect alarms from multiple RTUs, then sort, prioritize, and report them to appropriate decision-makers by displaying data on a centralized screen. In very large networks, multiple master stations, each with dozens of subordinate RTUs, may report to a central or top-level master.

7 Remote Site Management Best Practices

To deploy a new network monitoring system or improve an existing one, utility companies should ascribe to relevant best practices from yesterday, today, and for tomorrow. For example:

Past Best Practices

  • Collect All Relevant Alarms. Monitoring systems are information transit systems. If relevant information - such as a low generator fuel level - cannot be detected by RTUs, then it cannot relay to fuel truck dispatchers. All conditions which can cause equipment failure and system downtime should be effectively reported.
  • Channel Alarms Via Distribution Lists. Different conditions, at different sites, require responses from different people. Alarms from RTUs should be collected for appropriate personnel and displayed on master stations using up-to-date distribution lists.
  • Provide Instructions for Response. The team tasked with maintaining or repairing important equipment is unlikely to be the team that built it or installed it. Repair technicians may be newer to the company than your equipment is. Providing clear instructions for all likely contingencies in training and written SOPs improves maintenance quality and reduces the risk of ineffective repairs or mishaps.

Emerging Best Practices

  • Choose Durability Over Price. Cheaply-constructed network monitoring equipment is increasingly available and popular. However, monitoring systems must be able to last many years in place, subject to the same harsh conditions they're reporting on. Cheap solutions don't save money if they don't work.
  • Ease of Use is Essential. Jobs don't last as long as they used to. So, the employees who will be working with network monitoring systems may very easily be predated by them. Busy schedules prevent extensive training, and employees may move up or move out after only a few years. Also, this doesn't leave much time for mastering difficult or arcane monitoring equipment. To ensure effectiveness no matter who's using it, equipment should be as easy to use as possible. Graphic interfaces, with well-designed user experiences aid enormously.

Future Best Practices

Comprehensive Process Management

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As more sensors collect more data on possible failure contingencies in larger, complex networks, standardization of response becomes increasingly important. Simultaneously, the pace of technological change is only increasing, requiring continual retraining and refreshing of maintenance, repair, and emergency response skills. Infrequent training, or dusty SOPs hidden in cabinets, can lead to ill-conceived responses.

As modern browser or app-based network monitoring dispatching software is used, SOPs deliver in the form of triggered prompts. This delivers important how-to information exactly where and when it's needed.

The challenges of monitoring a large remote network have only grown more complex. Utility companies must continue to operate with a focus on safety and excellence they've demonstrated in the past, while adapting to overcome the obstacles of the future. Partnering with a reputable, helpful network monitoring equipment supplier can give utilities the expert knowledge required to thrive in the changing world and enable day-to-day operations of remote sites to run seamlessly.

DPS Telecom provides innovation with experience, helping utilities monitor important sites for reasonable rates. Our experts can help prepare your legacy systems for the challenges of tomorrow. Contact us to get a quote today!


Image courtesy Pixabay

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