Underground cable maintenance and management in power sector

Underground cable maintenance and management in power sector


Sumit Sen1 and Dr. Smita Sengupta2
Tata Infotech Ltd., SDF V
Seepz , Andheri, Mumbai , India 400096
Tel: 91-22-8291320/0319/0321, Fax: 91-22-8290585
1[email protected], 2[email protected]

Issues In Focus
A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer-based tool for mapping and analyzing data. Spatially enabled information provides a unique geographic dimension to the understanding and interpretation of information. GIS based solutions are playing a key role in today’s power scenario mostly in distribution system maintenance management and in efficient customer services [1].

The dynamic nature of the electricity distribution system causes a complicated procedure to analyze, as it includes both graphic and non-graphic data [2]. In an underground network this becomes more challenging due to the criticality of the information [3]. To achieve a higher level of accuracy and increased productivity in maintenance operations, an efficient system to manage the spatial and aspatial information is required. Such a system is required to operate with all existing data and also adapt to currently used workflow of operations. The system assists in choosing suitable alternatives within the limits of the design parameters, working out a precise diagram of existing network and mapping them onto actual (geographical) maps of the area. Optimal allocation of resources for maintenance can thus be ensured.

Problems with Cable Maintenance and Management Information Systems have been encountered at many places [4] and Solutions have been sought through Customized packages linked to the GIS based information [5, 6, 7]. Such Solutions are product based and hence development efforts are more inclined to product customization.

A brief outline of an effort to do away with these conventional solutions by retaining their merits is given below.

Solution Overview
In the present Project the activities have been carried out in the following Phases in the Development of a Cable Maintenance and Management System.

First Phase
Customized MIS, Log in, Screen, Fault Pre-Location, Updating, Workflow

Second Phase:
Maintenance Management and Network analysis Modules

Third Phase:
Advanced Analysis and Real-time support

First Phase
The solution provided at the First Phase consists of different functions and takes into care few aspects of the conditions that are involved in the development and integration of the modules. These are:

  • The creation of Vector Map data of Electric Feeders from Paper drawings. The main layers in the spatial data are Cables and Cable Joints. The Relevant Attribute data of each layer is associated.
  • Feeder information is mainly used for the Activities like Cable Fault Repair, New Construction and Query on Feeder and Feeder Components
  • The 3 levels of Security Access like: Administrator, User & Guest have been developed for the application.
  • Marking of a distance or a percentage distance along a feeder, finding distance between two points on a feeder and generating Joint To Joint tables with the help of Cable Fault Repair Job (CFRJ) and New Construction Job (NCJ).
  • It is essential to have Single Line Diagram and Sectional Details of the Feeder and Cables.

    The Entire Application and Data for the Proposed system is in the MapInfo GIS Environment and runs in a Windows based Desktop Scenario.

Using the above information the Block diagram of the First Phase solution is as described in Figure 2

Underground cable maintenance and management in power sector

The Second Phase
Second Phase of the Solution envisaged consists of Standard Maintenance Modules and Network Analysis.

Fig. 3: Log on screen

The Module would ensure the benefits as below:

  • Maintenance

    Management ensures use of scientific and centralized inventory management.

  • Operations Management and Scheduling
  • Crew and Spares control
  • Call Center or Trouble Ticket Management

Network Analysis of the Distribution System would also be covered under the module ensuring the following:

Load Model
With the Near Physical environment provided by the system, true load points can be used. Network Simulation and Analysis can thus be performed.

Network Tracing
Load flow programs would help in ‘tracing’ Load in all lines and components of the network. Data Redundancy would be reduced [8]

Fault Isolation and Restoration
Fault isolation and Restoration in the Network could be done directly done on the system using modules provided for the same.

The Third Phase
The Solution would have to be finally integrated to a Online data acquisition system (SCADA) and would thus enable online query and analysis on real-time system.

Fig. 4: Tracing Distance

Also Expert System based module would be provided for improved administration and management of the system.

These modules would work on top of the previous two modules. Such a System is expected to provide Knowledge based allocation and Scheduling along with Decision Support System[9].

Fig. 5: Different Querry Modules

Problems on the Way
The Solution aimed at though comprehensive and unique, as discussed earlier has to be implemented in phases and the success of the system as a whole would depend very much on the successful completion of each of the phases. Though the architecture of the same is modular success of the initial phases would determine the effectiveness of the system to a large extent. This is very much in consistence with waterfall cycle of Software Engineering [10].

However there are some External and not so easily controllable factors that are critical to the success of the system which are discussed as follows.

Data Related
Both the Geographic and Non-Geographic data is to be entered and kept updated by the users. The system being as accurate as the databases it works on, it follows naturally that the database should be secure, actively updated and easily accessible.
Open Standards
All the Data to be used by the system requires being available across platforms and applications. This requires use of Open standard norms at least in database connectivity(ODBC) and Interfaces (API)

Fig. 6: Change of password & logout module

Technical issues related to the solution are of two types, viz, representable (where the representation of the problem is possible) and the unrepresentable (where the representation is not possible or abstract. Both types of difficulties have been faced in the first phase of development.

However it is the Second category that can be expected to be the main hindrance.

Project Cost Estimate overruns could occur in the course of the various difficulties stated above and others that may not be foreseen at this stage.


  • Use of Open Standards in Various products related to GIS, Network Management, Maintenance Management, and Databases and also in the Development of the Tools help in standardization, reuse and Interoperability of the system components.
  • Development of Solutions in the phased wise manner as envisaged in the paper would lead us to better, customized and stable systems. Development activity should be continuous and thus ensure scalability and updating.

The Cable Maintenance And Management System described above can thus prove to be a cost effective, scalable and customized solution. Completion of the first phase of the solution has provided significant inputs that can lead to a faster, stable and effective Total Solution as Planned.

The Cable Maintenance And Management System solution would provide for the real benefits of automation and use of GIS in terms of improved distribution Management of Power. Such Software development efforts can serve for the needs for Most Indian Power Companies and also worldwide.

We wish to thank Tata Infotech Ltd., for allowing us to present this paper. The views presented in this paper are that of the authors.


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