As utilities in North American continue to embrace the cost savings and operational efficiencies of Advanced Metering, they continue to struggle with the complexity of implementation and on-going support of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). As if replacing all/most of their field devices is not a monumental task, utilities must also grapple with new internal systems that are required to manage the ‘smart grid’. This complex infrastructure causes some utilities to experience a dampening of benefits from their AMI roll out.
In this white paper, we examine a traditional AMI architecture and compare it against Utegration’s Orion, a new breed two tier solution.
Understanding a 3 tier architecture
A traditional AMI deployment is made up of three major components:
1. Head End System
2. Metering Data Management System (MDMS)
3. CIS/Billing (SAP)
Head End System
A Head End System (HES) is a hardware and software solution that is responsible for ‘command and control’ of the smart meter on the Advanced Metering Infrastructure.
Metering Data Management System (MDMS)
A Metering Data Management system provides long term storage and management for the metering data received from the Head End System.
SAP CR&B/SAP AMI
SAP CR&B provides customer service and billing functionality to the Utility.
While this 3 tier approach has been widely accepted in the past, this architecture creates many operational and efficiency gaps.
Gaps in the 3 tier system
In a 3 tier environment, data between SAP and the MDM must constantly be synchronized in both directions. Data correction activities must be carried out in different applications by potentially different business units. If the systems are out of sync or data errors are “in play”, the downstream system is in a holding pattern until the particular data element is corrected. Irrespective of the issue, several steps in different applications must be performed for billing to execute correctly (retrieval of reads, calculation of billing determinants). These corrections and necessary data synchronizations across multiple systems involving disparate business units are inefficient for all parties involved, can be a source of errors, and result in incorrect or delayed billing.
Poor Customer Experience
When metering data is stored outside of the SAP CIS system, visibility of that metering information is reduced to the Customer Service Representative (CSR). The CSR is unable to see meter reading and meter status information (connected/disconnected). It is this loss of visibility that impacts the CSR’s ability to provide accurate and timely answers when dealing with a customer inquiry. Furthermore, customer “hand-offs” are increased because a CSR must have another person investigate a metering/billing related query. This results in a poor customer experience as the issue cannot be resolved quickly and the customer must wait for someone to get back to them.
Infrastructure, Knowledge TrAnsfer, and Change management costs
The time and resources devoted to operating another vendor’s MDM solution can be substantial. With a traditional MDM, additional hardware and costs for hosted solutions can add up, not to mention impact on monitoring and disaster recovery procedures. Furthermore, the need for dealing with another vendor, including upgrade cycle, terminology, and UI look and feel can add substantial time/cost in knowledge transfer and change management activities.
A new breed of MDM bring Two Tier operational simplicity
Utegration’s two tier solution, reduces operational complexities by removing the MDM enterprise application from the AMI solution. As an SAP certified ABAP add-on, Utegration's two tier solution installs and runs directly on the SAP platform. This greatly simplifies the AMI by removing the need for interfacing with an external system. All metering and event data is now directly available to billing and CRM systems which greatly reduces billing errors/delays as well as improves CSR visibility of operational data. With Utegration's two tier solution, knowledge transfer will be a snap, upgrade footprints are reduced, and all that SAP has to offer will be leveraged by Utegration's solution.
To see how you can achieve AMI operational excellence, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Chad Edens, uTegration
Chad is currently a Senior Manager at Utegration specializing in CR&B and AMI related technologies. He has been a key player in several technology implementations including AMI and MDMS. Chad has worked in nearly every facet of the utility business from Engineering to Operations to Customer Service. Chad has a Master's Degree from the University of Tennessee and is currently working on his MBA.
Alon Raskin, uTegration
Alon is Product Owner of the Utegration Two Tier solution, a two tier MDM based on the SAP platform. He has been consulting in the SAP Utilities space since 1997 in Australia, Europe and USA. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.