John M. Shearman, CEO, UMS GroupJohn M. Shearman, CEO
“The greatest misconception about asset management is that it is simply lifecycle care of physical assets. Actually, it involves a more holistic approach, and commitment to transparency in the business, with accountability for making well informed decisions, measuring the results of those decisions, using that insight to improve decision making over time,” begins John M. Shearman, CEO, UMS Group. Broadly involved globally in the utility asset management space for more than 25 years, the company has deep experience overcoming the obstacles that block organizational effectiveness. Rather than starting from scratch with each new client, UMS Group draws on an extensive library of proven tools, templates and applications to help organizations quickly tailor and adopt well-aligned asset management strategies, based on where they are on their asset management journey. Today, asset management is experiencing a paradigm shift. Take, for example, the advent of IoT-powered low-cost sensor technology, which benefits data measurement and collection to automate asset inspections, asset condition assessments (ACA), and risk management. In addition, best practices from Europe and new technology from Australia are finding their way into North America through organizations like the Institute of Asset Management (IAM). Organizations have ventured out to keep up with and adapt to these trends, but encounter several hurdles.

First, this type of transformation demands significant IT investments. However, quantifying the business impact and value of such investments remains challenging. Significant complexity arises from enterprises’ reliance on legacy systems (ERP, GIS, or CRM) with large volumes of data, which may be sufficient for core business processes such as accounting or customer billing, but are woefully inadequate in the accuracy and repeatability required for analytics and digitalized asset risk management. Internal efforts to address these gaps often fall short of the need, are always time-consuming, and can be a source of frustration to management Instead, UMS Group deploys a consultative approach and provides tailored software applications which pierce information silos and provide integrated views and more rapid definition of business rules in areas such as reliability, productivity, asset integrity, and performance analyses. Shearman says, “it is commonly held that asset management has five key processes: asset risk strategy, asset investment planning, delivery assurance, performance measurement/management, and Industry Intelligence. Our tools improve an organization’s ability to leverage data and make better decisions across these key areas.”

The company’s spend optimization suite (“SOS”) supports the strategic asset management planning process by delivering an optimized portfolio of capital investment and operations and maintenance spending plans. AERO, the company’s asset economic risk optimization tool leverages asset health data and risk indices, allowing visualization and analysis of data to drive more effective decision-making regarding repair, replace, and allow-to-fail decisions.

UMS Group’s OPx (Operational Performance eXcellence) dashboard, enables clients to automate reports and analytics to improve work quality, effectiveness and efficiency, enhancing workforce productivity, work planning, scheduling and compliance, as well as asset performance.

Our goal is to help clients accelerate and sustain performance improvement to be ready for changes coming in their markets

Additionally, their DRx (and TRx) - Distribution (Transmission) Reliability eXcellence platforms ensure the integration of enterprise asset, outage, GIS and work order data from across the business to offer faster insights, enhanced transparency and documentation, and actionable reliability benchmarks, as well as storm hardening/resiliency effectiveness.

UMS Group leverages its deep understanding of how information is collected and gathered, and continually develops algorithms and approaches for data clean up, while simultaneously providing guidance in the design of data governance processes. The company’s consultants have in-depth expertise and experience, and travel across the globe advising CIOs and development teams on how to move beyond obstacles and achieve better business outcomes. Such a nonpareil approach of providing custom solutions instead of trying to fit every client into the same box has enabled the company to carve a niche in the market and stay ahead of its competitors. “We do considerable work around the globe helping utilities understand different trends, project likely future scenarios, and frame robust strategies for dealing with the uncertainty involved in planning for the ‘Utility-of-the-Future’,” continued Shearman.

Their access to emerging technologies and insights into best practices and new business models has been instrumental in UMS Group’s recognition as an IAM (Institute of Asset Management) Endorsed Assessor and Trainer for ISO 55000. The company today serves almost 100 utilities each year. As an example, PSE&G has been an asset management client of UMS Group since 2001 and currently has one of the more robust asset management programs in the US utility sector. This has allowed them to retain a position as the top Mid-Atlantic utility in customer reliability for 17 consecutive years. Over the past five years, their asset management capabilities have enabled a significant turnaround in reliability and customer perceptions at PSEG Long Island (1.1M customer utility owned by LIPA, and managed by PSEG).

With many compelling accounts of customer success under its belt, UMS Group is now expanding its presence into other regions such as South America. One significant differentiator in that market is that regulators have taken a much more aggressive stance on leveraging competition, than is prevalent in the U.S. “It is literally the only place in the world where you can drive into a large substation and see maintenance crews from 6 or 7 different companies working there, because many companies own parts of these substations,” mentions Shearman.

The greatest challenges and opportunities facing utilities today stem from rapid technology evolution and uncertainty in the changes that will spawn in regulation, competition, and customer expectations. Shearman believes that UMS Group will play a vital role in helping utilities address these challenges and defining new industry models for success. “Our goal is to help clients accelerate and sustain performance improvement to be ready for changes coming in their markets,” he concludes.