5 Ways Mobile Technology is Empowering Leaders in Wind Energy

5 Ways Mobile Technology is Empowering Leaders in Wind Energy
April 7, 2016 Babak Sardary

5 Ways Mobile Technology is Empowering Leaders in Wind Energy

Rapid industry growth and intensifying competition are pushing wind energy leaders to adopt new innovative technologies to run their operations.  With today’s practical mobile app platforms specialized for field work these companies are changing the rules of the game when it comes to efficiency, speed, employee engagement and service quality.

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With the global push to move away from fossil fuels, wind energy experienced a 22% increase in global annual installed capacity from 2014-2015 while the industry experienced 446.5% increase in the decade between 2005 and 2015. The US alone now has an installed wind capacity of 74,472 MW. The industry in China added over 30,000 MW in 2015. The total global capacity was 432,419 MW that same year, a 17% increase over 2014.

However, as the number of wind energy projects skyrockets, the operational tools used by most wind energy companies to carry out vital operations are still fragmented. Many companies still resort to a loose combination of paper forms, documents, spreadsheets, legacy IT systems and email to carry out wind turbine maintenance inspections as well as similar upstream activities such as wind turbine installation and commissioning checklists.

In general a great deal of the day to day work at wind turbine installation, commissioning and maintenance companies involves personnel executing a multitude of standard checklists, inspections, audits and field reports.  Examples include Gearbox Borescope Inspections, Turbine Blade Inspection & Reporting and Generator Installation and Startup Checklists. These activities are the lifeblood of operations as they help ensure proper installation and commissioning steps are followed, issues are reported and can be addressed prior to warranties terminating, and that machines are operating within safe and optimal parameters.

Of course as always when an industry experiences rapid growth, what separates success from failure is the ability to change, adapt and become more efficient.  The rudimentary methods that got companies here will not get them there as the expression goes. So the key question is: How can companies improve the quality, efficiency and user experience of these procedures given the pivotal role they play?

Mobile apps are changing the game at wind turbine maintenance companies

New mobile, cloud and data analytics technologies are providing wind energy maintenance companies with fresh new opportunities to transform how they run shop and the leaders of the pack are already well on their way:

1. Do the job right the first time

“The key to running a successful and efficient O&M regime,” says one industry representative, “is doing the right job, right the first time.” Do everything to prevent repeat work. Insurance inspections and equipment inspections need to be completed regularly. If it takes “three technicians three days to complete the 500 hour service and ten days for the annual service of each turbine, every little bit of efficiency adds up”. Mobile technology and purpose-built work apps can guide technicians to follow the correct steps, gather the right data and audit trail and even get remote help if they run into trouble.

2. Save time and money by requiring fewer field visits

If you use a mobile reporting technology like Scoop to communicate from field to office, you can gather data even when you don’t have an Internet connection. The system automatically uploads the data to a team portal and sends the appropriate notifications to the right people. Management gets immediate visibility into issues, rather than having to wait for technicians to check in or return to the hotel or site office, compile all the information, upload files manually, and so on.

3. Manage & scale growth

In a high-growth industry like the wind industry, you can use technology to make sure your business is ready for the onslaught of demand. You can use apps tailored to each of your wind turbine maintenance and inspection procedures to make sure your teams are up to date with the latest and greatest steps and instructions even when they are relatively new on the job. Many wind industry companies today are growing through mergers and acquisitions. One of the key challenges is harmonizing and standardizing how work is done. Mobile work apps can be very effective in this regard.

4. Automate data collection, communication and analytics

Instead of fiddling around with cumbersome paper forms or spreadsheets, field techs can access work-specific apps to ensure inspection or installation steps are followed consistently. With mobile technology, wind professionals can get quicker access to data and get more done with fewer people. It’s less likely you’ll make mistakes or miss key data (one reason is that there’s no paper-to-digital reporting that can often result in duplication or missed data). It’s not hard to see how all of this can significantly reduce operational costs for companies (see business impact calculator on this page).

5. Improve employee engagement and service quality

Because field techs have a friendly app in their hand they are much more likely to collect complete and high quality inspection or equipment data, and keep important recommendations or corrective actions from falling through the cracks. Mistakes and errors can damage your brand and reputation. With a solution like Scoop, you can produce customized, branded, high-quality reports that ‘wow’ clients without the manual work and associated costs.

Bottomline: As in any industry, wind energy companies must innovate to stay relevant

In 2013, the wind industry saw a dip. “Uncertainty over the industry subsidy, the production tax credit (PTC), and low-cost competition from natural gas has made the situation within the wind industry in the US incredibly tough. Many players have exited the market or diversified out of wind within the past year.”

Since then, the industry has been on the rise. Entrepreneurs are continuously looking at ways to innovate, like building better towers, rotors and turbines. Companies are finding new ways to compete with each other and pushing the industry to evolve. Mobile technology, cloud-based analytics, real time collaboration and business intelligence are playing a pivotal role in separating the leaders from the rest of the pack.

Next: Examples of wind energy mobile field apps and business savings calculator.