Energy and utilities management: how to adapt to an ever-changing environment

Submitted by Ricardo Giacomin on Mon, 08/28/2017 - 17:33
Gestão de energia e utilidades: como se adaptar a um ambiente em constante mudança

How the process management discipline can support you in the difficult task of planning and managing energy and utilities in times of frequent change. 

  

The business environment has been changing rapidly and profoundly in recent years. These changes are the result of a much more challenging competitive environment, continued pressure for increased operating performance, economic crises, tougher regulatory and corporate governance issues, more rigid regulatory and governance requirements, and closer integration into the value chain, among other causes.  

This environment demands that companies be able to adapt quickly and efficiently, sometimes completely overhauling their strategies, rethinking their operations and methods.  

Companies with energy-intensive operations face this challenge on a day-to-day basis. They experience changes in their operational context and typically do not have the agility to react to these changes.  

BPM and energy and utilities management 

The Business Process Management ( BPM ) discipline promotes a systematic approach to optimizing business processes and, therefore, the results of organizations. This systematization is made possible by the union of business management and information technology, and includes the continuous improvement of workflows, including the identification of their weak points and the adaptation of processes to changing scenarios. Methods and tools are used for analysis, modeling, simulation, execution and optimization of processes.  

Companies can be seen as large collections of processes. All departments have a set of procedures, standards, and workflows that define how they operate. The human resources area, for example, daily performs processes of admission, dismissal, promotion, training, and performance evaluation, among others. The financial area operates by making payments, billing customers, closing balance sheets, etc.  

In the same way, the energy and utilities manager must create and monitor the energy budget, periodically manage and close contracts for the buying and selling of energy and utilities, perform monthly appropriation of costs centers, publish energy balances, audit and periodically report energy performance indicators, perform cycles of continuous improvement in energy performance (especially those companies certified in ISO 50001), and predict consumption whenever production plans are changed, among other processes.  

These are workflows led by the manager of energy and utilities, but involving the participation of several people from different areas, as well as various information and automation systems.  

There are several factors that make the task of institutionalizing, controlling and optimizing these processes very difficult: dependence on the people involved, their skills and discipline; the inherent complexity of the processes; the frequent need to change them, demanded by strategic, regulatory or market issues; and lack of visibility and ability to measure points of inefficiency. 

BPMS Tools 

In this context, BPMS (business process management system) tools come into play. These systems comprise software that automates the management of business processes, including modeling, execution, monitoring, and simulation. Each process is modeled using formal notation (see process example in the diagram below), capturing the responsibilities of people or groups of people, as well as access (read and write) to information or automation systems. 

BPM Tools

 

All of the execution of the process takes place inside the BPMS, which acts as an orchestrator of the modeled flow and ensures that it is always followed. It keeps an historical record of what was done, who it was done by, how long each step took, and other information. This rich history serves as the basis for performance analysis and the proposing of process improvements.  

Key Benefits of Adopting a BPM System 

The key benefits of adopting a BPM system for energy and utility management are agility in adapting to change, ability to respond quickly to opportunities, alignment of processes to corporate goals, cost reduction of process institutionalization, enhanced process control and associated performance increases, and the standardization and auditing of the processes. 

In this context of frequent changes and pressure for performance enhancement, the energy and utilities manager should reflect on whether it is worthwhile to insist on the "heroes with spreadsheets" approach to manage their business processes, or catch the wave of digital transformation and adopt a BPM system. 

The Viridis system has a built-in BPM tool that is integrated with all its modules. The Viridis BPM tool allows each company to define how they should execute the processes of costing, forecasting, budget management, contract management, performance management, and many others. In addition, it provides metrics of execution of all processes, allowing greater visibility and continuous improvement of managerial workflows. Click here and read more about Viridis's Products. 


EVP, Viridis

Viridis founding partner with more than 20 years of experience in developing and commissioning technology systems for industrial clients. He has led projects in Latin America, Europe, and the United States for companies in different industrial sectors. He is a specialist in the design and deployment of technology solutions for shop-floor management. He holds a MSc and a BSc in Computer Science from UFMG.

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