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Decision Analytics for Critical Infrastructure

BK: Welcome back to HXGN RADIO. Thanks for joining us today. My name is Brian. Our society functions in large part due to the complex infrastructure that surrounds us. Electrical power that keeps our homes warm and safe. Clean, safe drinking water, essential to every aspect of life, flows through thousands of miles of complex pipes and pumps and is available whenever and wherever we need it, while oil and gas pipelines move great quantities of fuel across our country safely every day. This critical infrastructure is truly the backbone of our modern life and our society grows and evolves. Much of our modern infrastructure was installed in the mid-century and is approaching its end of design life. Making decisions on how and when to invest in this infrastructure is becoming increasingly complex. Copperleaf Decision Analytics offers a new and advanced approach to companies tasked with the stewardship of this infrastructure, allowing companies to focus their limited resources on the continued quality and reliability of these essential services, while simultaneously investing in technologies and initiatives to meet future demands.

I am here with Barry Quart, the Vice President of Marketing at Copperleaf Technologies. In today’s episode, we will discuss Copperleaf’s Decision Analytics solutions. Barry, thanks for joining us.

BQ: Hey, Brian.

BK: Great to have you.

BQ: Thanks a lot for having me here today and giving me the opportunity to talk to you and the Hexagon Community about Copperleaf. We’re a relatively small software organisation located in beautiful British Columbia and what we do is we are a global provider of decision analytic software and we focus on organisations that are tasked with managing the challenges of critical infrastructure. We are somewhat unique in the way that we handle the problem in that we pull together operational data from those assets, but we also marry it together with financial data on those assets and then provide analytics that help these companies more effectively manage the risk, improve the performance of the infrastructure and ultimately deliver better service and value to all of their stakeholders.

BK: Excellent. What is your role over at Copperleaf right now?

BQ: My official title is VP of Marketing, but like I said, we’re a small and growing company, so everybody at Copperleaf wears a couple of hats from time to time. As VP of Marketing, my day job is to expose the world to Copperleaf and the value that we can unlock for our products and our services, but another hat that I wear is developing partnerships. Copperleaf likes to work together with partners to offer more and more value to our shared customers. Hexagon is one of these partners, and we both believe that there’s a lot of opportunities to leverage the data that’s collected through Hexagon technology and marry it together with our decision analytics to help these infrastructure companies make better decisions that can ultimately have a positive impact of their performance.

BK: Explain a little bit about how Copperleaf helps these companies.

BQ: Copperleaf has been in business for quite a long time, over 20 years, but we started as a consultancy organisation.

BK: Interesting.

BQ: Our founder worked as a consult with the local electrical utility in Vancouver called BC Hydro. After doing that for a couple of years, she thought there’s gotta be a better way and there was endless of spreadsheets, a lot of manual processes. She took the company in a little bit of a different direction and decided that we were going to develop a software product to handle this ‘cause every utility in the world was going to need something like this and we felt that there was definitely a big market for doing it.

BK: Yeah.

BQ: As you can imagine, infrastructure companies manage thousands, sometimes millions distinct pieces of equipment, or assets, and each of these assets is in a varying kind of state or condition and each one has its own consequence of failure. It’s really difficult for these organisations to understand when and where they need to invest to make sure that they’re avoiding serious accidents and ensuring the continued reliability of the services that we all rely so heavily on.

Our product is called C-55 and was developed around the key principles of a newly released standard related to asset management from the International Standards Association called ISO 55,000. This standard is really focused on helping organisations, as they say, realize the maximum value from their assets. When you think of infrastructure companies today, they’re being asked to do more and more with less and less.

BK: Oh, yeah.

BQ: There’s declining demand for things like electricity, but nobody’s giving them a break on the levels of service.

BK: More and more.

BQ: In fact, we’re demanding more and more.

BK: Yeah.

BQ: More reliability in these services. These companies have to essentially continue to provide reliable, safe, cost-effective and environmentally responsible services. Being able to manage this effectively across millions of diverse assets is a really difficult task.

BK: Mm-hmm.

BQ: These managers must be able to compare vastly diverging investments, do they invest in a transformer over here, or maybe do they invest in a new cafeteria for the employees. No they’re trying to compare completely dissimilar things and understand what the right thing to do for their organisation is.

BK: Yeah.

BQ: They must balance all these risks, all these benefits, all these costs and identify the optimal investment strategy to balance their near- and also their long-term needs. Our Solution C-55 is really tailor made to help them address this type of problem.

BK: You know, that really is a problem for so many companies. You start to get to a point where they’re saying, okay, there’s just too much to do, but we really don’t have the resources to do it and they’re trying to make decisions that they just simply can’t make. There’s really no win, something’s going to lose in the process. How does this work?

BQ: We actually break the problem down into three distinct areas. We call these three areas predict, optimise and manage, and they really deal with different timeframes. The predict part is really about predicting the needs of their asset base. It’s looking out five, 10, 15, 20 years out into the future and understanding based on the current state of their assets and their predicted degradation over time, when are they going to need to invest in those assets to essentially maintain an acceptable level of service and an acceptable level of risk. Essentially, it’s identifying the ideal time to intervene in every one of their assets to essentially …

BK: Okay.

BQ: Provide the right value and reliability to their constituents. That brings us to the second part of the problem, which is optimising. Invariably, what happens is you collect all of these needs, and as you just pointed out before, when you roll them all up together and try to make a budget for this year, all of a sudden you don’t have enough money, or you might not have enough people.

BK: Yeah.

BQ: Or, you may have some projects that you absolutely need to do cause your regulator is forcing you to do it. You have all these real-world constraints. How do you make the decision on what you’re going to do, and what you’re going to defer? You have to understand and make a value-based decision and a risk-informed decision around what you need to do when and what can wait. That’s what the optimise part of our solution does. It’s an analytics that essentially looks at all the different combinations and permutations and understands how value shifts with time and it can essentially come back and propose a solution that these are the projects that you need to do and why you need to do them. This is the value that you’re going to get out of that portfolio that it proposes to you.

BK: Cool. Wow. I like that.

BQ: Then, the last part of the problem is manage. What happens to any plan? Typically, a couple of days after you start executing the plan, the world changes, right. All of a sudden, there’s an unplanned incident.

BK: Yeah.

BQ: Maybe there’s an ice storm that knocks out a couple of transmission towers in your electrical grid. You have to obviously respond to that.

BK: Always something.

BQ: You have to spend money on that. You have to go and respond to that. All of the assumptions that you made your initial plan on have changed. Now, you have to look at the available funding that you’ve got left and re-optimise your plan. You need to look at it again and make sure that with what you’ve got left, and the time that you’ve got left, that you’re actually focused on the things that are going to continue to provide the most value to your organisation. Really, we’re looking across three timeframes. Predict is looking 20, 30, 50 years into the future. Optimise is finding a plan that works within the next one to three years and manage is how do I stay on top of everything that is happening around me today and stay focused on the right things, at the right time.

BK: What’s been some of the feedback that you’ve received already?

BQ: We’ve been working with a number of the largest utilities across North America and typically, what they’ve been telling us is that they’ve been able to achieve somewhere between 5%-20% return on the portfolio of investments that are managing through our solutions, so when you think of these utilities, typically, they manage portfolios that can be anywhere from $200 million to a billion dollars. Five percent of that …

BK: That’s a lot.

BQ: Back to the bottom line, there’s a lot of value delivered back to the organisation …

BK: That helps them.

BQ: And ultimately, funneled back into society because we’re helping. We say we help make the world a better place one decision at a time.

BK: Yeah.

BQ: Because we’re helping them to make the right decisions, which improves the reliability of the infrastructure that we all depend on.

BK: Great. That’s great to hear. What’s your affiliation with Hexagon?

BQ: Copperleaf is a new member of Hexagon’s Access Partner Programme and like Hexagon, we try to help organisations make better decisions by extracting insights from data, finding the eye in data. Our C-55 platform integrates into an organisation’s IT infrastructure and, as I said before, leverages operation and financial information to make risk-informed and value-based decisions. We rely on information that is essentially delivered to us from other Hexagon systems, such as GIS data, asset health information data coming from sensors or industrial engineering things, or project execution details coming from project managing systems.

BK: Excellent. Wonderful stuff. I’m really very impressed with what you’re doing and you’re helping a lot of people, and obviously, in a very big way as you were sharing just even with some recent examples. Thank you. Anything else you want to share?

BQ: No. I think that covers it. Thanks a lot for giving me the opportunity to spread the good word about Copperleaf.

BK: Absolutely. Barry, thank you for your time. Thank you so much. And, you can learn more about Copperleaf over at copperleaf.com. Check it out please. Also, tune into more episodes on HxGNRADIO.com or iTunes, Soundcloud or Sticher Radio. Thanks for listening.

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