Magazine / Process Optimization & Automation May 19, 2022 11:15:00 AM

Why utilities need automation and how to do it

The reason why automation today is an essential factor in utility companies comes from the peculiar characteristics of this type of organization in relation to current market trends. Utility companies represent particularly complex organizations above all because they have to meet numerous compliance requirements dictated by legislation and by the regulatory bodies to which they are subject. At the same time, they operate in a business that continually requires agility and speed to meet the demand of increasingly demanding customers. To be able to reconcile these two tendentially contrasting aspects, it is necessary to introduce a simplification that makes the processes lean and connected. Hence the need for utility companies to exploit automation as a lever on the one hand to optimize their operations and on the other to accelerate time to market. Beta 80 Group can bring an emblematic example in this area, the result of the collaboration with SNAM, a historic Italian brand and one of the main energy infrastructure companies in the world. 

SNAM, an example of a utility company adopting automation 

The collaboration between SNAM and Beta 80 dates back to a few years ago. The last stage of this collaboration focused on workload automation. 

For a utility organisation such as SNAM, the need for automation was coming from regulatory requirements, including the need to provide commercial services to its customers 24/7. SNAM also wanted to identify technological solutions and architectures able to guarantee high geographical reliability 

Another requirement was to ensure the traceability of job scheduling on all systems to the internal compliance function for the purpose of centralized control. The choice, therefore, fell on Control-M, the business process scheduling platform offered by BMC Software, which was integrated with the IT Service Management tool used by SNAM. In this way, the company now has at its disposal a tool capable of providing all the information necessary for carrying out the audit activities. 

A single technology to rationalize automation 

The project, still in progress, aims at an optimization of the automation tools present in SNAM, for example with the porting of jobs relating to the SAP world within Control-M to make maintenance activities more efficient and enable optimal load distribution of work. The use of a single technology and the consolidation of the application logic has allowed the utility a greater simplicity of approach and an increase in quality as it does not require disparate skills on different technologies. Furthermore, it is an effective way of containing costs from various points of view. Suffice it to say that the solution adopted has so far made it possible to reduce the RTO (Recovery Time Objective), that is, the time required to restore system operations. The challenge now is to carry out the onboarding of over four thousand jobs while managing the technological peculiarities of the various integrated applications. The ultimate goal is to simplify the technological catalog and optimize cross-sectoral services. 

The 3 features that automation guarantees to utilities 

In utility companies, the automation of processes, in addition to the purposes highlighted above, also serves several other purposes. In the case of SNAM, for example, it serves to accompany such an important player in the role of enabler of the energy transition. A role for which the technologies required are implemented together with partners such as Beta 80, which confer 3 characteristics: agility, versatility and sustainability. Agility must support initiatives that are subject by definition to sudden changes in direction, such as those that refer to new hydrogen markets, to integrated services in the field of sustainable mobility or to activities that aim to achieve decarbonisation goals. Versatility, at the same time, must ensure continuity with respect to technological evolution and what emerges from the different businesses. Finally, sustainability is a topic to which all organizations today must pay particular attention if they want to be competitive, especially the utilities called upon to operate on the free market. 


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