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CIO50 2021 #26-50: Cobus Nel, Transpower

  • Name Cobus Nel
  • Title General Manager Information Services and Technology
  • Company Transpower
  • Commenced role 2014
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 160 staff, eight direct reports
  • Transpower general manager for information services and technology Cobus Nel has led a team driving innovation throughout the organisation’s operations.

    Data and analytics operating model

    Data is an asset, but it must be supported by sustainable operating models in order to extract the most value. To address both emerging opportunities and current business challenges, Nel’s team developed and are implementing a cross-organisational Data and Analytics Operating Model.

    The model establishes new data and analytics capability within Transpower – raising the profile of the asset, giving it the emphasis and attention that it needs by putting in place the necessary governance, processes, platforms and capabilities to deliver it. By focussing attention on the data already available and the insights that can be derived from it, the criticality of the asset can be better understood and utilised.

    The operating model is one of the first within Transpower, to fully leverage cloud-based capability, and as such is involving a wide group of stakeholders from across the enterprise including procurement, legal, security, application services, infrastructure and end-user services, architecture and delivery services. These groups have assisted in the definition of the target state and in procuring a partner to assist in the modernisation project, the first step to moving to new technology platforms, and subsequent migration of existing data and analytics systems.

    Matai Field Application

    In the past, transmission lines work in the field has been paper intensive, relying heavily on manual record keeping in order to manage all aspects of the work. While Transpower’s service providers were at varying stages of digitising their own operations, data was still predominantly captured on paper in the field and then handled multiple times before being manually loaded into Transpower’s asset management system.

    To improve service provider work management practices, avoid costs associated with increasing administrative complexity and to improve timeliness and quality of collected information, Transpower established the Matai project. It’s a mobility initiative designed to digitise the capture and management of information from the field, with an initial focus on Condition Assessments and Patrols together with substation-based assessments.

    Through Matai, field workers can access relevant timely information such as maintenance and fault history, meter history, online asset manuals, online Standard Maintenance Practices (SMPs) and Service Specifications. By enabling service providers to be more efficient and make better informed decisions, Transpower aimed at reducing overall asset maintenance cost by improving First Time Fix (FTF) efficiency, Mean Time To Repair rate (MTTR) and Mean Time Between Failure rate (MTBF). This will ultimately result in reduced costs for customers and improved availability. To date Matai has delivered:

    •      Improved quality, consistency and timeliness of data in our asset management system.

    •      Operating costs savings from automating the field maintenance tasks.

    •      Consistency through full uptake by field workers. 

    Addressing the skills shortage

    Transpower is co-designing and sponsoring a new in-school Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) programme called the Power Challenge, as part of Engineering New Zealand's Wonder Project. The eight-week challenge is free for schools and has been designed for 11 – 13 year olds. It has been in pilot stage in around 30 classrooms from July and will roll out nationwide in 2022. It will be an annual event across Aotearoa New Zealand in term three for year 7 and 8 students aimed at inspiring children to engage more in science and maths-based subjects.

    “Engineering is one of the fastest growing fields in the world, but in Aotearoa we don't have enough young people pursuing careers in the STEM subjects which could lead them to a career in the energy sector. As owner operator of the National Grid, it's our responsibility to empower New Zealand's energy future. We're going to need thousands more highly skilled people in the sector, from engineers to analysts, lines people to developers, as we work to create a low carbon future. Our current programmes of innovation depend heavily on these skills. Getting young people from all walks of life interested in STEM careers is an important step,” Nel says.

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