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BUSINESS AND STRATEGY THREE WAYS YOUR GIS CAN HELP PLAN AND PREPARE FOR EXPANSION By Matt Zimmerman, Schneider Electric Briefly put: Utilities have a tool to hand which could make expansion planning and current network management more efficient and integrate scenario planning capabilities into the network. GIS is too often underutilized by utilities, yet this powerful tool could improve and aid network operation and expansion. You’ve already done away with the mountains of maps and paper and are using GIS to track, manage and analyze your utility’s infrastructure, understand trends and determine how best to utilize assets. It is one of the most important tools for a modern- day utility, and you’ve invested the time and money to get the system implemented. But are you using it to its fullest extent? Too often, utilities compartmentalize GIS to serve one particular purpose, such as tracking and managing assets, for example. While this is an absolutely critical function, you may be missing out on the full benefits of the platform. More than simply showing what assets exist on your network, a GIS can help you plan for the future in ways that drastically streamline your processes and efficiencies. There are three key areas in which your GIS platform can be more fully leveraged to plan and prepare for infrastructure expansion. 42 Centralize your planning A GIS provides a map of the grid and all assets in place throughout the network. It is the central picture of a network’s reality. However, a utility’s distribution network is dynamic and always changing. Subdivisions are added, businesses and homes require more power, load shifts happen with seasonal variability, and outages occur. The design process by which a utility extends, maintains and upgrades its infrastructure is involved in nearly any daily work order. Designing network expansions independently of the network GIS database leaves room for inefficiencies that lead to poor customer service and safety issues. By integrating the design process with the network GIS, a utility is able to capture and store critical information, such as equipment details and installation dates. If a manufacturer issues a recall on a specific piece of equipment, a utility can leverage the network GIS to quickly and easily identify any impacts. Tracking installation dates, as well as historical outage information, to appropriately schedule planned maintenance and keep the network running smoothly are additional ways to utilize GIS. As a utility expands, it must have a solid understanding of how the expansion impacts the current network, as well as how the newly expanded network may be prepared for future development. A design tool integrated with the GIS can provide this big picture view of the current network and the proposed expansion. Analyze your options With powerful GIS analysis tools, you can develop hypothetical situations to help in expansion planning. Combining GIS with various analysis add-ons gives a utility the ability to analyze proposed expansion designs and know it is building infrastructure that will provide reliable service to residents and businesses. For example, an engineering analysis tool ensures a utility is building infrastructure METERING INTERNATIONAL ISSUE - 3 | 2014