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Promise of Technology: Remote site management key to improving tower efficiency

November 18, 2014
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The energy challenge faced by the telecom tower industry arises from the environment in which service providers operate. Towers that are set up in remote areas, for instance, are characterised by highly uncontrolled and unpredictable environments. Thus the energy requirements of each telecom tower site need to be looked at from multiple angles to overcome the challengers that arise in energy management.

Energy data can be drawn from various input points, such as electricity boards, diesel suppliers, remote monitoring systems installed at sites, and their field operations. But reconciling this data and extracting the relevant information is always an uphill task. The second challenge pertains to the kind of operational efficiency that assets should bring in, which often does not match up to the ideal due to various factors such as improper maintenance. This ultimately leads to higher consumption of energy and a higher opex. The third challenge relates to manpower and its efficient deployment. These three aspects need to be assessed in totality while aiming for energy optimisation.

Energy data management

With the huge quantity of energy data that is received from several sources such as smart meters, remote monitoring systems, intelligent diesel generator sets and battery management systems, its filtration becomes important. By the 80-20 rule, 80 per cent of the problem can be fixed by 20 per cent of the information. Once the data is collected, it is monitored and analysed, after which the necessary action is taken. After that, the process comes back to the monitoring stage again, since there are times when further corrective measures may need to be taken. This cyclic approach needs to be followed to correctly assess data.

The monitoring platform should be independent of the hardware on the site, which should send information to the same monitoring platform, so that the operator receives a single view of the situation. Also, once the data is collected by the monitoring system, it should flow into the energy tracking or energy management system rather than have multiple solutions tracking energy independently. The analytics follow soon after the energy is tracked.

Asset management

The maintenance of an asset inventory is also necessary. Generally, there is an asset database, which includes information on each purchase, such as its supplier and costs. Asset management includes database management as well as warranty management. Each asset comes with a warranty spanning different periods. Whether an asset is under warranty or not is an important factor, especially when a problem with it is reported. With this information, the system can automatically send an email to a supplier with information about the site where faulty equipment has been reported. Similarly, for maintenance activity, the operator can easily track which particular site the equipment has been maintained at and where it has not, and if there has been no maintenance activity, whether it has been scheduled in the next maintenance cycle. With this approach, no asset is left unmaintained for a long period.

People management

It is necessary to manage the field force that has been deployed at a tower site. Each site is visited by an active network person or a passive operator for supporting maintenance activity and for preventive maintenance. In the absence of real-time information, there can be errors in forecasting problems that could arise at the tower site. This hampers the routing process and also leads to low productivity and inefficiency in manpower deployment. People management, therefore, involves timely access to information, routing and task management, and field staff performance management.

Conclusion

The key advantage of this approach is that energy expenses on account of tower operations could reduce by 5-10 per cent and the monitoring of energy consumption could increase asset life by 10 per cent. In addition, the improvement in operational efficiency through actionable intelligence is estimated to be 20 per cent. Thus, the three components, en-ergy, assets and people, have to go hand in hand along with other processes for achieving energy optimisation.

Based on a presentation by Sanjeev Goel, Head, Africa Business, Infozech

 
 
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