IBM helps improve water, energy management in Central, South Texas

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ARMONK, NY, Nov. 13, 2009 -- IBM today announced the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) is using IBM software to reduce the complexity and costs of managing the utility's resources and services, which span across more than 36,800 square miles and 58 counties in Central and South Texas, serving more than 2.2 million residents.

The IBM software gives LCRA's maintenance and operations staff a bird's-eye view of the assets across the utility so they can address issues before outages occur, and the software helps to accurately predict resource needs as the utility continues to grow and gain new customers.

LCRA supplies low-cost electricity for Central Texas, develops water and wastewater utilities, provides public parks, and supports community and economic development in 58 Texas counties. LCRA sells wholesale electricity to more than 40 retail utilities, including cities and electric cooperatives that serve more than one million people in 55 counties. LCRA also regulates water discharges to manage floods -- in one of the nation's highest flood risk regions -- and releases water for sale to municipal, agricultural and industrial users.

LCRA was spending a substantial percentage of its maintenance resources on costly reactive repairs. LCRA managers could see the overall operating costs, but they couldn't track them over time, which ultimately hindered cost projections and predictive inventory analyses. If someone needed a specific report, that person had to request the report from management, who directed IT staff to produce the report. This process could take a couple of days, by which time the data could already be out of date.

Using IBM Maximo Asset Management software along with IBM Business Partner Syclo's SMART Mobile Suite for Maximo, LCRA was able to consolidate asset information into one repository and integrate it with inventory, accounting and labor information to help staff identify issues before outages occur, accurately predict future resource needs and generate up-to-the-minute reports.

"IBM Maximo software has helped us redefine how we do business, giving us insight across our infrastructure that we didn't have before," said Brian Urbanek, business systems analyst for the Lower Colorado River Authority. "This has enabled our managers to better plan for equipment failure and schedule preventive maintenance to reduce equipment breakdowns."

Eliminating paper for a mobile workforce
LCRA also took advantage of IBM Maximo Mobile suite to mobilize nearly 75 crew leaders, technicians and supervisors in the field. Prior to deploying IBM Maximo software, employees received a printed work order from the service center, drove to the job site to perform the maintenance and then drove back to the office to file a separate report on the actual work completed, with details such as parts used. The employee would then receive another printed work order for the next job to be done and start this process again. LCRA now uses:

  • IBM Maximo Mobile Work Manager SE to push electronic work order information to an employee's PDA or laptop, so the employee can spend more time performing maintenance, and less time filling out paperwork and filing reports.
  • IBM Maximo Mobile Inventory Manager SE software to let LCRA personnel manage inventory, spare parts and equipment from almost anywhere, to help ensure field employees have the parts they need to complete their work.
  • IBM Maximo Mobile Auditor SE software to replace the "clipboard approach" to gathering detailed information about equipment, such as transformers, their status and the need for maintenance. Employees can quickly populate fields on their PDAs or laptops so managers have a real-time view of asset location and status.

"Utility providers around the world are facing issues with managing their region's natural resources to supply water, power and other critical services to their customers," said Sharon Nunes, vice president, Big Green Innovations at IBM. "IBM is helping the Lower Colorado River Authority develop a smarter and more dynamic water and energy management system so they can respond quickly and successfully to changes as they occur."

IBM has developed a number of smarter water and energy management offerings under its 'Big Green Innovations' initiative, part of a $100 million investment in 10 new businesses based on ideas generated during Innovation Jam, an IBM-led effort to gather ideas from thousands of clients, employees and thought leaders around the world. The Big Green Innovations team at IBM has concentrated its efforts on water management, alternative energy and carbon management.

LCRA -- a public, nonprofit utility provider -- plays a variety of roles in Central and South Texas: delivering electricity, managing the water supply and environment of the lower Colorado River basin, developing water and wastewater utilities, providing public recreation areas, and supporting community and economic development.

For more information on the Lower Colorado River Authority, visit: http://www.lcra.org
For background information about IBM's efforts around building a Smart IT Infrastructure, visit http://www.ibm.com/ibm/ideasfromibm/us/smartplanet/topics/itinfrastructure/20081215/index.shtml?&re=spf

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