Intelligent automation is the smart move for utilities

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World Energy Market Observatory supports a shift to new technologies to streamline operations, deliver a better customer experience, and transform business models.

The traditional utilities business model is being disrupted and, to respond, the industry needs to move towards digitalization. Intelligent automation will play a pivotal role in managing the balance between demand and supply, boosting efficiencies across the entire value chain, innovating the customer experience, and transforming business models.

Intelligent automation is the combination of automation and artificial intelligence to create systems that make real-time changes and adaptations to operations based on input from sensors. The Capgemini Research Institute (CRI) recently spoke with 530 business leaders about intelligent automation in energy and utilities, including oil and gas, electricity, water, and energy services.

The numbers are staggering. The report estimates that the industry can save between $237 billion and $813 billion globally over the next three years. But not everyone sees the opportunity. Nearly half of the leaders surveyed underestimated the benefits derived from their intelligent automation initiatives.

The roadmap to intelligent automation at scale

Intelligent automation projects can meet with resistance, because they are not business as usual. A conservative mindset can hold companies back, especially as research shows frontrunners are going to have the advantage. Wait too long, be overtaken by your competition.

If you want to move intelligent automation use cases forward, you need new thinking and ideas. Having a solid framework is the path to success. To succeed, you need:

  1. A pragmatic approach to evaluate and choose intelligent automation use cases to move forward, with the impacts known before scale-up. They also need to address fundamentals such as legal, ethics, and risk.
  2. An investment of effort to integrate and optimize the right processes for intelligent automation deployments. More than 50% of frontrunners have a plan to set up dedicated teams over the next two to three years to investigate the impact and adoption of automation, compared to 11% of their peers.
  3. A greater emphasis on technology, backed by larger budgets. Frontrunners are spending more now and plan to spend more in the future.
  4. A dedicated and centralized leadership supported by governance for intelligent automation. The centralized approach builds the experience and expertise needed.
  5. A drive to involve the workforce and invest in their capabilities. Resistance can be a significant barrier, but frontrunners have higher employee satisfaction levels, and that has created new job profiles rather than eliminating them.

The demand for traditional, centralized provision of power from coal, gas, and nuclear sources is diminishing. The industry needs to move forward. Automation and AI will be instrumental in meeting the new demands of the market, including addressing climate change – and it is the early adopters who will be successful.

Randy Cozzens is an Executive Vice President and North American Energy, Utilities, and Chemicals Market Unit Lead at Capgemini and he can be reached at randall.cozzens@capgemini.com.

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