Photo-Voltaic Module as an Engineering Asset

Structure of engineering asset management

As opposed to financial assets, an engineering asset is defined as an object that has a financial value and technical capability to perform a given task. The Photovoltaic Module (PV) module has both attributes and qualifies to be known as an engineering asset. Theory suggests that the value depends on the purpose for which the asset is to be used. In this case, Photovoltaic modules generate electricity by converting solar energy into electricity. The aim is to keep the environment clean.

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Engineering asset management is defined as “organization, supervision, or direction; the application of skill or care in the manipulation, treatment, and control (of a thing or person) in the conduct of something” (Amadi-Echendu et al. 2010, p.4). Different models of structural engineering asset management systems have been proposed. For the PV case, the structure of engineering asset management consists of the total management of physical assets of an organization. Engineering asset management incorporates activities that provide guidelines on how to manage the physical assets for optimum utilization and efficient service delivery. It also includes aspects of repair efficiency, low cost of production, and an impingement of motivational approaches that drive people to work hard to achieve the strategic goals of the organization.

Control Elements

Solar Operations Center in Boulder, Colorado uses an engineering asset management system for performance optimization and analysis, ticketing and dispatching, operations maintenance scheduling, and governance compliance reporting. Site monitoring includes evaluating the performance of PV modules, assessing power outputs, and colleting weather data.

Engineering asset management is structured in such a way that it enables the managers to fulfill the objectives of the organization. This is where different models have been suggested that the organization and individual customers use to acquire the PV modules. From a user organization, the model suggests that the first step is to conduct financial analysis of the cost effectiveness of the entire lifecycle activity, making appropriate planning and acquisition of components that are used to manufacture the PV modules, and ensuring efficient acquisition of PV modules.

The second step is for the management to develop a plan on how to deploy PV components with proper installation, testing, and commissioning procedures (Kiritsis 2013). The third step is to operate and maintain the PV modules by identifying and scheduling all the activities concerned with maintenance efficiency. Here, the product availability entails maintaining the PV modules in good working order and health to increase the lifespan and operational efficacy of the system. Among the key defining elements are flexibility, performance, and quality. The fourth and last step is to retire the PV modules as per the disposal of assets requirements. A deeper analysis shows that asset related structure engineering management activities include planning, design, operations, maintenance, reliability, protection, environmental health, and technical risk.

Interrelationships between the engineering asset management systems

Organizations incorporate different engineering asset management systems to pursue the strategic goals of the organization. Different models have been adopted and one of them consists of the management and the operations systems. Management is defined by governance and the associated best practices (Edoff 2012). In addition, the supply chain system is connected with the management, which designs policies for ensuring that sound environmental policies are put into practice to make efficient and sound PV manufacturing processes that ensure the health of the workers and the environment are observed. On the other hand, the manufacturing system must be placed where the environment is appropriate for the production of the modules and where demand for the product exists.

In this case, the specific departments include the procurement, finance, and accounting systems that help the stakeholder and the asset manager to assess investment requirements, determine the funding and budgeting requirements, perform cost analysis that enables or provides the requisite data for decision-making. On the other hand, there is the information technology that is an integral component of the system because it provides information flow that links all departments and asset management activities (Goodrich, James & Woodhouse 2012). The overall goal is to create a database that is used to store information on operations, repair of PV components, and co-ordinate each activity in the system. External suppliers provide the components that are used to manage the asset lifecycle, i.e. the PV Modules.

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The technical support and maintenance for the production of the PV Module should include the definition of assets and asset management processes which incorporate new technologies to enhance PV performance. On the other hand, the need for safety and health of the human resources that work for the organization is an indispensable component of the system. The relationship among the components is clear because each component allows for better performance in support other system related activities (Foray, David & Hall 2009). Figure 1 shows the supporting activities for the PV module lifecycle. These include technical support and development, procurement, human resource, finance, accounting, IT, quality, and safety modules.

A company uses the supporting activities to fulfill the requirements for the asset management lifecycle activities. The activities include research, design, and engineering of the processes and technologies that can enhance the quality and performance of the PV modules. Besides, the acquisition, deployment and installation functions of the PV modules, maintenance, replacement, and disposal are interdependent activities. Supporting activities can be mapped into the asset or PV module lifecycle activities to ensure excellent product performance (El-Akruti, Dwight & Zhang 2013). Technical support ensures that the PV modules meet the minimum specifications and comply with the product standards. Each of the supporting activities provides the required services that provide support for the asset lifecycle activities complete in engineering asset management activities as shown in figure 1.

Relationship among activities
Figure 1: Relationship among activities. Source (Mints 2012).

Role of engineering asset management in the organization’s management and strategy

This deals with the tangible and intangible physical assets and provides the framework for implementing the organizational strategy development process. Organizational managers always work hard to formulate strategies that lead to better product and organizational performance. Engineering asset management enables the strategic paradigm consisting of different activities which include:

The first activity involves the control of asset status and process evaluation step. In this step, continuous evaluation is done with respect to the stakeholder’s requirements throughout the asset’s lifecycle. The second activity involves management strategy that can be implemented by managing innovation such as introducing new changes to the PV modules in accordance with changes in technology and compliance requirements to keep the environment clean. The organization should identify the design specification of the PV Module to improve its performance as per product specifications and demand schedules. Examples include using incorporating inert technologies and use of dry vacuum cleaners among other new discoveries to make the device more effective.

The third activity involves creating a control and management board to assess the asset lifecycle and its impact on the environment to ensure that measures are taken to protect the environment from the effects of disposing the PV modules that have come to the end of the product lifecycle. The fourth activity involves organization-wise cooperation. This is where interdepartmental work is done to fulfill the operations and maintenance requirements of the PV modules after they have been deployed and installed to be used to generate electricity. The alignment of the entire system through different interfaces is done as the fifth activity. This leads to the sixth activity that requires the integration of information systems that link different departments besides linking the organization with the stakeholders and the outside world. The seventh activity is to deploy a supply chain system that involves the configuration of a value chain to improve the performance of the system.

Besides, asset management consists of different teams and one of them is the corporate asset management team. The asset management team is crucial in providing organization with the requisite capabilities of ensuring sustainable asset management processes. Accordingly, the entire concept is incorporated into the asset management system for PV modules to realize the support for sustainable development, support corporate buy-in and responsibility, ensure that the entire organization has uniform sustainable corporate practices, use of hardware and software across the organization, and championing proper asset management practices (Mirzahosseini & Taheri 2012).

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The process corporate asset management team undertakes its corporate responsibilities through a five phase process steps. These include phase one which is dedicated to the organizational strategy development that is used for the improvement of asset management programs within the organization. The second phase consists of the key terms of PV module development, installation, and commissioning and a review of the data related to the development and deployment of the PV modules. The third phase consists of developing and implementing the PV module management plan, assessment and evaluation of the PV module asset management plan outputs, and continuous reviews and improvements of the PV module to respond to new technologies, standards, and environmental requirements.

Besides incorporating the corporate asset management component, the financial component is a necessary strategic element of the engineering asset management component because it enables the manager responsible to design, develop, and supply of the PV modules to achieve the financial obligations of the company. The key elements that define financial PV module management strategy include policy formulation on various aspects of the PV module production and supply, strategy, plan, service level agreements, and data and systems for accurate data collection. Once the strategies have been defined and agreed upon by the engineering asset manager and the stakeholders, the process is taken to further step of defining the mission and vision statement of the company. Under the direction of the asset manager, a strategic plan is established that sets the objectives and goals are written for the design, development, and distribution of the PV modules to the consumer.

Sequential task breakdown

  1. Control of asset status
  2. Management strategy that
  3. Creating a control and management board
  4. Organization-wise cooperation
  5. Interface alignment
  6. Integration of information systems
  7. Performance improvement

Asset management system

The system is defined on three level control activities which include strategy formulation activities, task control activities, and management aggregate control activities. The three activities can be achieved by use of an asset management system whose six core components include:

  1. Analysis and evaluation
  2. Control and reporting
  3. Measurement and motoring
  4. Work task control
  5. Coordination and planning
  6. Decision-making

Analysis and evaluation

The analysis and evaluation consists of business strategy formulation and asset management components that enable managers to determine with a high degree of certainty the performance requirements. That is for the PV modules and devices and ways of ascertaining better performance outcomes. In this case, value contribution to strategy include entry into new markets, low product unit costs, high returns on investment, better profits, customer satisfaction, and high quality products. PV module performance gaps which are grouped under the analysis and the evaluation module, are done to

Control and reporting

The asset engineer sets communication standards and integrates information systems across the organization to ensure that there is continuous flow of information and integration control. Information flow is appropriate for setting key performance indicators of the management for PV module product specifications that comply with the environmental laws and standards (Mints 2012). That is besides ensuring action compliance control and management activities. Besides, there is need for the asset engineer to ensure that there is appropriate interaction between the PV module lifecycle and supporting activities. In addition, support for compliance controls activities is enabled throughout the control ad reporting function.

Measurement and motoring

The technical performance parameters can be determined by the engineering asset manager who sets appropriate performance parameters of the PV modules in compliance with the standards and guidelines for solar panels. Measuring and monitoring components provide the asset manager with the capability of testing, validating, and establishing the functionality of the PV modules in accordance with the stakeholder needs and expectations. Besides, condition inspection and parameter recording is part of the measurement and monitoring component.

Work Task Control

Another key component of the engineering asset management system is the work task control. Typically, each of the PV module design, development, deployment, and retirement activities are scheduled and executed as per the lifecycle support activities. That is besides using the right procedures and follows up activities that are designed to show the design, deployment, installation, and use of the PV module for electricity generation. Each asset management task should comply with the standards and measures for the deployment, use, retirement, and disposal of the PV modules.

Coordination and planning

This is a necessary function of the coordination and control and providing the ability to reinforce the integration of different activities and systems that provide the required asset quality and performance. The coordination and planning component planning for asset or PV module action and its lifecycle support activities. That is besides the ability to address the coordination and supply of PV module products throughout the product lifecycle.

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Triggering events and other strategic activities define the core activities under the decision-making component of the asset management system. At the decision-making stage, core decisions on the PV module to acquire should meet the performance outcomes to achieve the strategic goals of the organization as defined. Policies and strategies are designed and developed at this stage to ensure appropriate achievement of PV module asset solutions. That means to control and develop plans as defined. Asset solutions include adding new products, galvanizing the PV modules to create protection and resistance to environment related activities, and increasing the electricity generation capacity with the same size of module.

Establish the boundaries (crossed by relationships) of the asset management

The boundaries that define the system include the environmental factors, community needs and expectations of the users of the PV modules, government policy on the use and disposal of the PV modules, organizational strategic management options, strategic planning, asset management policy, objectives, strategy, tactical and operational planning, asset management plans, and service delivery, and evaluation.

Table 1: System boundaries.

Relationship of the PV module asset management/interactions
Asset management system
Knowledge management (PV module performance) Environmental factors Community/user needs and expectations Organizational management/Financial management
Government policy Organizational strategic management
Service delivery strategic planning Tactical and operational planning
Service Delivery Evaluation
Human resource system

Nature of the interactions

Environmental interactions: These are caused by the effects due to photovoltaic cell fabrication activities, routine and accidental events, occupational and public health problems, toxic PV manufacturing carcinogenic, liquid and solid wastes, abrasive slurry, and slicing of wafers resulting into adverse environmental impacts such as when decommissioning of PV modules. This calls for sustainability and risk management of the use of PV modules on the environment.

Community/User needs and expectations: Interacting with the community or the user is based on the size of the PV module (e.g. 48 watts rating equivalent to 45 watt-hours per day), provision f appropriate solutions in the conversion of sunlight energy into electricity to meet user needs and expectations. The stakeholder management is a critical component here.

Government policy framework: Solar cell recycling feasibility, legislation, capital and recurrent expenditure, and policies. Such interaction’s ensure that the asset perform as required.

Organizational and strategic management: At the managerial level, interactions include risk identification and assessment of the use of the PV modules, development of new and reusable PV modules, budgetary allocations, and skilled employees to work on the PV modules, ability to develop relationship with existing social and organizational structures, and lifecycle assessment and maintenance of the PV module.

Service Delivery Strategic Planning: This is about determining the Level of Service (LOS) based on the lifecycle of the PV module. Service delivery in this case is asset based to provide electricity from solar panels. That could lead to high value service delivery in ensuring that the modules provide the required functionalities. This includes intra- and inter-agency planning, organizational capabilities, policy alignments, utilization of business processes.

The Asset Management Strategy: Create an asset portfolio, establish management priorities, identify asset risks, develop asset management plan, and check whether it meets international PV module standards.

Service delivery strategic planning: This calls for the asset management strategy which consists of various activities which include the acquisition of the asset or the components that make up the asset, PV module operations throughout the product lifecycle, and the management strategy that constitutes the plan on how to manage the asset efficiently. The activities involved here consist of:

  1. Acquisition plan: The key elements that the company considers here include the cost of maintenance of the PV modules, risks associated with the acquisition and use of the PV modules, the non-asset alternatives, and the connection with the organization’s service delivery standards, work schedules, and budgeting processes.
  2. Operations plan: This include elements such as maintenance issues of the asset, which in this case is the PV module, operational costs, and defined standards and responsibilities.
  3. Maintenance plan: That is about how to ensure that the optimal working capacity and lifespan of the PV module are met. Typically, the performance standards that include the amount of electricity and other performance measures must be maintained.
  4. Disposal plan: This is done in accordance with the disposal strategies developed by the company in dealing with the disposal of PV modules that have come to the end of their lifespan. Typically, appropriate disposal activities will address leaching of lead, cadmium, and other ‘extremely toxic’ materials. On the other hand, it is appropriate to consider the effects of recycling the materials to ensure that the panels can be reused instead of dealing with the disposal problems.
  5. Service delivery: This is defined as the services that are provided in the maintenance and operation of the PV modules, which includes installation and maintenance and other related activities have been suggested and provided for. In this case, the maintenance plan includes must be factored into the process.
  6. Evaluation: The evaluation plan consists of the technique of assessing the performance of the PV module and conducting regular reviews of the performance of the asset that has been discussed in details.
  7. Human resource system: Ensures that appropriate human resources are available to provide the skilled labour for the provision of technical and other services necessary to ensure complete execution of asset management processes.
  8. Financial management: This feature interacts with the management to ensure that enough funds are made available for the strategic processes of the company.

On the other hand, the aspect of knowledge management is a critical component because is necessary to ensure that user and the organization are aware of how the asset works. Knowledge of the PV module must be presented to the users and the management to ensure that any interactions which occur as shown above are appropriately addressed. It is important to establish the asset registry, In this case, the data on the functionality and details of the amount of electricity generated as per the given size, and other technical details required for the component.

Evaluation of the functions identified in response to part (ii)

One of the functions that are evaluated is the PV module performance. The PV module performance is critical in asset management of the PV module in its lifecycle. In interacting with the rest of the asset management systems components, the energy payback period is bigger than the energy used to produce the PV modules. Typically, a detailed analysis of the component shows that the energy used to manufacture based on the PV system lifecycle, and the performance ratio of the modules has shown positive results. An efficient solar cell is appropriate for application in industry with the long term goal of saving the environment. The response and amount of energy generated is appropriate in protecting the environment and achieving environmental protection targets and standards.

References List

Amadi-Echendu, JE, Willett, R, Brown, K, Hope, T, Lee, J, Mathew, J, Vyas, N, Yang, BS, 2010. What is engineering asset management?. In Definitions, concepts and scope of engineering asset management. Springer, London.

Edoff, M, 2012, ‘Thin film solar cells: research in an industrial perspective’, Ambio, vol. 2, no. 41, pp. pp.112-118.

El-Akruti, K, Dwight, R, Zhang, T, 2013,’The strategic role of engineering asset management’, International Journal of Production Economics, vol. 1, no. 146, pp.227-239.

Foray, D, David, PA, Hall, B, 2009, ‘Smart Specialisation: the concept,[w:] Knowledge for Growth: Prospect for Science’, Technology and Innovation, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 24047.

Goodrich, A, James, T, Woodhouse, M, 2012, ’Residential, commercial, and utilityscale photovoltaic (PV) system prices in the United States: current drivers and cost-reduction opportunities’, Contract, vol. 1, no. 303, pp.275-3000.

Kiritsis, D, 2013, ‘Semantic technologies for engineering asset life cycle management’, International Journal of Production Research, vol. 1, no. 51, pp.7345-7371.

Mints, P, 2012, ‘The history and future of incentives and the photovoltaic industry and how demand is driven’, Progress in photovoltaics: research and applications, vol. 6, no. 20, pp.711-716.

Mirzahosseini, AH, Taheri, T, 2012, ‘Environmental, technical and financial feasibility study of solar power plants by RETScreen, according to the targeting of energy subsidies in Iran’, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, vol. 5, no. 16, pp. 2806-2811.

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