Measuring and optimising energy consumption
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Measuring and optimising energy consumption

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What we can learn from Apollo Towers partnership with Infozech

Energy costs constitute a large percentage of the operating expenditure incurred by telecom towers, which means that measuring and optimising energy consumption is among the top priorities for towercos today. One of the strategic partners that towercos are working with to solve this is Infozech.

With a keen focus on an easy to use and cost-effective platform, Infozech has an impressive record of deploying IoT and telecom site management solutions for various telecom infrastructure companies and operators across the globe

To understand more, we invited Infozech’s user Apollo Towers to share their experience on how Infozech assisted them to streamline business processes and provide data-driven insights which are being used to inform their energy related decision making. Infozech have been working with Apollo Towers in Myanmar since 2018. 

TowerXchange: How are Apollo towers leveraging Infozech’s solution to digitize your tower fueling and maintenance processes?

Paul Jacob, Operations and Support Manager, Apollo Towers: 

We’ve worked with the Infozech team to implement a real-time site incident ticketing protocol. It allows us to use the Infozech dashboard through their mobile interface mandatory for all of the vendors in our MSP network to use.

In terms of fueling, we have been able to use the iTower system to completely remove the need for any excel based reporting or data entry. All of the fueling is now monitored and tickets are generated and sent via the digital platform. It’s much more accurate, because it’s better monitored. This even extends to emergency fueling - where our dashboards are being monitored by the network operation centre and when an emergency situation arises, it  can be dealt with swiftly, ensuring uptime. This makes the teams more efficient, and optimises our fuel consumption.

The data collected is used to  inform our governance committee. Our performance engineering team submit this themselves and we also collect inputs from third parties. Having a central system makes assembling these reports much easier as they are all stored in one place.

More than a platform provider, Infozech is like a partner to us. The information we receive through their system lets us keep a check on the efficiency of our operation. We can proactively interpret the raw data gathered by monitoring systems and implement quick changes. 

One area that we have had particular success in using Infozech’s data is in monitoring battery performance. We can see when a battery is reaching the end of it’s life well in advance due to the shift in the metrics we are getting back. We could identify and escalate issues contributing to frequent battery bank discharge and avoid battery bank failure. In Myanmar, it can be exceedingly difficult to import assets that we use on the towers, so we need to squeeze every bit of life out of what we do have, and Infozech helps us with this. 

TowerXchange: What would be your key advice for towercos looking to use digitization to improve their energy management?

Ankur Lal, CEO and Founder, Infozech:

 Energy sustainability is a key priority for towercos globally, so my key advice would be to invest in a fuel management system which digitises the fuel supply chain and tracks fuel logistics from petrol station to delivery on sites.

Infozech’s fuel management solution consolidates data from multiple sources, including mobile apps and sensors from specific sites. It helps to monitor, analyse and predict the fuel requirement, distribution and consumption through energy data records over mobile networks. The system helps to optimize the consumption of fuel and bring in transparency and efficiency in the fuel management process.

With a digitized energy management solution, Towercos can benefit in terms of cost reductions, achieve accurate billing, improve outage management, speed up failure resolutions. Another core area is to effectively manage the pressing challenge of getting approvals in real time for the partners, MSPs or the fillers and ensuring faster turnaround. 

From our experience, streamlining and automating the genset fuel filling process from planning to payments could help reduce fuel costs by 20% while at the same time creating process efficiencies by reducing paper forms and paper-based approvals. 

Towercos must look into gaining the ability to not only have real time insights into operations but also to predict what the energy needs are and would be over a period of time through digitization. This can enable planning for smarter filling across sites and allow a towerco to gain complete visibility across energy gaps. It also helps to be able to identify and resolve operational anomalies. 

This information can be used to plan ahead of time for capex and opex intensive investments.

TowerXchange: How applicable are the lessons we learnt from Apollo in Myanmar to elsewhere in Asia?

Ankur Lal, CEO and Founder, Infozech:

In Myanmar we saw that the majority of sites still run on generators even though there grid energy is available, due to inconsistent power. 

This situation is similar across other countries in Asia where Towercos are expanding into rural locations. Diesel Generator run times at these sites are much higher, and the Opex in terms of fuel consumption is significant to their profitability. 

An automated solution here has empowered the field teams to easily capture data and analyse it thoroughly. The mobile application we worked on with Apollo ensured accuracy and offered ease of documenting as well as data reconciliation.

A centralised energy management solution benefits Apollo by ensuring uninterrupted power supply and avoiding downtime, improving reliability. These benefits can be applied in other countries as well.

Real-time energy tracking and monitoring solutions have enabled Apollo to assess anomalies and instant rectification. Based on collected data, energy audits are conducted and differences are settled. The turnaround time for bill approvals and payments also improved significantly.

Globally the trend of M&A activity and extensive consolidation is catching up and tower divestment is becoming a big opportunity for operators. 5G capex requirements, recognition of the value of independent towercos as well as streamlined operations are some of the factors behind this push.

Digitisation becomes crucial during acquisitions because it can enable the buyer to access an accurate view of the condition of sites and assets and their maintenance. So with these applications in mind, the lessons and applications of Apollo can be transplanted all across Asia and the world.

TowerXchange: A big part of the energy efficiency puzzle is reducing the frequency of site visits. How does Infozech help with this?

Ankur Lal, CEO and Founder, Infozech:

We share our experience and the best practices across not only energy management but across end-to-end lifecycle management from planning to execution of sites. This includes conducting preventive and corrective maintenance alongside energy and billing with all our customers. We ensure to not only deepen the engagement with them but also assist them in achieving process efficiencies. 

Our distinguished program governance is a key part of how we help towercos. With our expertise of 22 years we guide telecom and tower companies across different geographies and engage with them on a regular basis. We dedicate most of our time to understanding their problems and identifying how the solutions can be customized to cater to their requirements.

What we've learnt from this is that many of our customers are using our solution to address high preventive maintenance costs that are due to the frequency at which a site visit takes place They are able to consolidate similar tasks to avoid repetitive site visits and can efficiently plan all the pending  activities to take place on the same day. In reality, this has led to some of our clients being able to reduce their site visits visits by 55% in a month.

TowerXchange: Infozech and Apollo Towers co-hosted a roundtable at Meetup Asia to discuss these issues with the regions towercos, operators and vendors. What were some of your key takeaways from that discussion:

Ankur Lal, CEO and Founder, Infozech:

1) There is an increased focus by towercos on collecting, storing and viewing insights from energy data. But most importantly, they want to be driving actionable insights to bring in operational efficiencies.

2) Systems flexibility to integrate with different platforms is important- Apollo has applied remote monitoring system (RMS) from different power vendors into their sites, and with Infozech’s iTower 2.0 solution they were able to integrate with each of the different functionality available.

3) Towercos must utilise energy insights from RMS data to optimise their energy management processes

4) Filtering and quality management is critical to draw meaningful insights from data collected from RMS systems. The insights derived from accurate real time data is helping Apollo to monitor the health of their batteries, analyse the amount of fuel being consumed, and monitor the run hours of power sources. 

5) Battery bank health reports can help towercos avoid the problem of deep discharge.

6) Digitisation alone can help cut costs and time spent collecting data and increase the accuracy and reliability of it as demonstrated by Apollo successfully transitioning away from fuel planning on excel and towards more innovative solutions.

7) Fuel theft and wastage can be addressed by creating a digital plan for emergency filling which can generate tickets quickly.

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