Saving on Data Conversion by Implementing FM Before AM

Saving on Data Conversion by Implementing FM Before AM

By Kenneth Rowland, P.E., Central & South West Corp.

Many AM/FM/GIS projects never progress beyond the planning phase because of the incredibly high cost of data conversion. These projects can be justified, however, by taking a non-traditional approach to implementation that allows applications to drive data conversion requirements.

Several times during the past 15 years, Central and South West Corp. (CSW) of Dallas, which serves 1.7 million electric customers in four states, considered proposals for a full-scale AM/FM/GIS project that would have involved extensive map data conversion at an estimated cost of $20 million to $60 million. Each time, the company was unable to justify the expenditure.

Plans for the enterprise-wide system that would automate and standardize operations of the four CSW electric companies languished until 1989. At that time, a CSW feasibility study considered alternative approaches and concluded that all segments of the AM/FM/GIS project did not necessarily have to be implemented simultaneously.

CSW devised a unique development plan that focused primarily on FM activities. The FM side of the project took center stage because it provides the greatest return on investment in the typical enterprise-wide AM/FM/GIS project. Therefore, it would be easiest to justify from a cost-benefits standpoint.

As part of a major business improvement plan, an FM Project Team defined facilities management as the activities of planning, designing, analyzing and operating the distribution and transmission system.

“The critical first step in this unique approach was to identify all FM applications that could derive benefits,” explained Carol Leverson, CSW manager of operations and engineering applications. “Then we looked at those applications in relation to their data needs and tried to find some commonalty.” With this approach, CSW identified three FM applications–transformer load management (TLM), feeder analysis and outage analysis–that offered significant benefits and could each be fed from the same database.

“There was no need for full data conversion,” said Leverson. “All three applications can be run from the same database containing primary, protective devices, transformers and customer ties.” This cost-/benefit-driven approach is the opposite of that taken by most AM/FM projects. Usually, all facilities` data are converted at the outset, and then appropriate applications are devised to utilize that data.

“CSW proved that you don`t need to go through an AM system to get the benefits of the FM system,” said Mike Barrett, a utilities specialist at Intergraph Corp., which served as prime contractor on the FM project. A feasibility study projected an $8 million annual savings in operating costs would be realized from a $12 million up-front investment on FM data conversion for implementation in the entire 152,000-square-mile coverage area served by the four CSW utilities.

To validate these projections, the FM Project Team planned and carried out a three-month test of the proposed system. The results of this successful exercise enabled the team to fine-tune the full-scale development plans and further enhance project economics.

The overall goal of CSW`s non-traditional development approach is to eventually implement the entire AM/FM/GIS to manage operations enterprise-wide. The savings in operating costs during each phase of implementation will help finance future data conversion and development.

Benefits of Enterprise-Wide FM

Aside from the specific cost-saving benefits of TLM, feeder analysis and outage analysis applications, there are many financial benefits to organizing multiple operating companies under a common AM/FM/GIS system. The most compelling of these is standardization of business practices, systems and operations.

CSW has found that through 40 years of independent operations, each of its companies had developed distinct procedures for conducting business and performing daily operations. A corporate-wide business study concluded that each company performed the same tasks, but in different ways. For instance, one company may splice a conductor with hydraulic tools while another uses fingerlock tools.

Each company could experience significant savings in equipment and supply costs if it purchased in quantity as one entity under CSW. Before they could make mass purchases, the companies each had to use the same products, systems and procedures. Standardizing compatible units, therefore, became a prime objective of the FM implementation.

Another benefit of an enterprise-wide FM system is the cost savings associated with shared data. The system would be built around a single FM database that would be fed from and feed the same applications for each company. Development costs, therefore, could be divided among the four companies.

Building the FM System

CSW`s FM Project Team chose Laredo, Texas, as the site of the three-month test project. It was selected because of its high growth rate and isolation from other service areas. Central Power & Light`s Laredo area is composed of 49 feeder circuits and 6,000 transformers and serves 43,000 customers.

Hardware and software purchases figure prominently into any FM cost/benefit analysis, so the team conducted a comprehensive evaluation of leading technology vendors. In keeping with the phased-in project plan, a priority was placed on selecting open architecture software with the flexibility to evolve as the project grew. “We had been burned in the past by proprietary systems with their own database and scripting language,” said Leverson.

CSW purchased FRAMME (Facilities Rulebased Application Model Management Environment) software for Windows NT from Intergraph to build the FM database, manage the AM/FM data and create an engineering rulebase in a multiple-system environment. The FM system accesses an off-the-shelf Oracle relational database. In-house software developed by Public Service Co. of Oklahoma was selected for the TLM application and is mainframe-based.

FRAMME and the applications packages were all developed specifically for utility users. Several years before, Intergraph had partnered with ABB to fully integrate functionality of the ABB software in FRAMME.

Cartotech of San Antonio, Texas, was contracted to perform hardcopy to digital and digital to digital conversion of map data for the project areas. The data to be converted contained the feeders, laterals, protective devices, transformers and customer ties needed to perform the three specified applications.

Due to the stated objective of standardization, the rulemaking capabilities of the database development package cannot be emphasized enough. Any business objectives identified by the Project Team could be defined as operating procedures and supported with the software. “The FRAMME tool kit enabled CSW to write a customized set of engineering and procedural rules that manage, direct and verify every user interaction with the FM system,” said Barrett. “These rules ensure that every engineering operation designed and conducted through the database are carried out in accordance with a standardized procedure prescribed by CSW.”

The rulebase also prevents an engineer from making senseless mistakes. For example, the rulebase would prohibit a draftsperson from designing a connection that splices a 477 conductor to a 4/0 conductor. The system would inform the technician that those are incompatible devices.

Fine Tuning the FM System

CSW`s FM Project Team tested the database, rulemaking functions and three applications for three months in Laredo from late 1994 to early 1995. The actual benefits generated during the pilot actually exceeded the team`s original estimates. By extrapolation, results of the pilot indicated enterprise-wide implementation of the FM system would save $10 million annually.

Cost savings were identified in several operating procedures for TLM, outage analysis and feeder analysis. Real dollar savings were the only ones included in the cost/benefit analysis, although intangible benefits such as improved customer service should not be overlooked.

In TLM, the test project proved CSW could more accurately estimate the size of a transformer needed for a given job. Some companies tended to overinstall, which cost them wasted kVA each year. In addition to the kVA savings, the companies will purchase smaller, less expensive transformers in the future.

TLM also enables the engineers to pinpoint transformers that were likely to overload during peak periods. Rather than blow a transformer and pay a crew overtime to replace it, the utility can swap the smaller transformer with a larger one and reuse the smaller unit elsewhere.

Feeder analysis allows the engineers to model the primary system and examine the condition of the system. The insight provided by this modeling enabled the utility to plan exactly when new substations should be built. CSW estimates feeder analysis will save its companies $5.8 million annually by deferring construction costs.

Outage analysis has the lowest hard dollar return but offers the highest customer service benefits. Using input on power outage reports from customers, the outage reporting system predicts where the problem lies and directs the repair crews to the correct equipment location. In general, this reduces the response time to an outage and gets a customer back on line much more faster.

Results of the Laredo test also helped the Project Team identify another cost savings in the enterprise-wide implementation. The Laredo area is a mix of urban and rural lands. During map conversion, CSW realized that cost benefits related to rural map conversions are much lower than urban ones because of the differences in population density.

By examining cost benefits in terms of population, as opposed to land area, the Project Team concluded that 80 percent of the $10 million annual savings could be realized by implementing the FM system for roughly half of the total CSW customers. By focusing the project on 12 selected urban areas, CSW would reduce data conversion from $12 million to about $5.7 million.

Enterprise-Wide Roll Out

CSW has initiated implementation of the FM system in the major urban centers served by Central Power & Light and Public Service Company of Oklahoma. Next year, the system will be expanded to include West Texas Utilities and Southwestern Electric Power Co. All of the same hardware and software systems and service vendors involved in the pilot have been retained for the enterprise-wide project.

Future plans for the project also call for enhancing the rulebase to contain all distribution facilities data, e.g., poles, secondary, etc. Eventually, a single AM/FM/GIS system will serve as a comprehensive transmission, substation and distribution facilities database for all four CSW utilities.

Author Bio

Ken Rowland is the project manager for CSW`s Facilities Management Project, responsible for coordinating implementation of the project for the corporation`s four electric operating companies. He began his career in distribution engineering in 1968 at Central Power & light Co. Rowland earned his bachelor of science degree from Texas A&I University in 1976.

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Utility Profile: CSW

CSW is the holding company for Public Service Co. of Oklahoma, Central Power & Light Co., West Texas Utilities and Southwestern Electric Power Co. These four utilities provide electricity to a major portion of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas.


  • The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at

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