Once an obscure country on the fringe of Asia, Taiwan is now a well-established, industrialized nation with a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) exceeding US$14 million and an annual average growth rate of 5% in the GDP. The transformation of its economy is viewed against a background of an educated workforce, favorable governmental policies and a strong infrastructure supported by its reliable and efficient power supply.

A government-owned utility with more than 9 million customers, the system covers more than 36,000 sq km (14,000 sq miles) with an extensive network of transmission and distribution circuits. Even with the introduction of computers to manage the network and to enhance customer service, many operations at the utility still relied on manual work. Problems related to paper maps frequently occurred because of errors, inaccurate and outdated maps and high operating costs. In addition, regional differences created difficulties in sharing information. A solution lay in the prospect for changing the operation by instituting an automated mapping/facility management (AM/FM) system. By providing access to facility and network information in graphical form, the proposed system would increase efficiency, customer satisfaction and reliability of service.

Taiwan Power Co. (TPC) started to plan for the new system in 1992. Proposals from several vendors were evaluated, using benchmarks that tested capabilities for AM/FM/GIS, CADD, raster support, facility conversion and integration with external applications. TPC engineers, along with experts from the National Taiwan Institute of Technology (NTIT), evaluated the proposals. Focusing on technical capabilities, cost and availability of local support, Intergraph Corp., Huntsville, Alabama, U.S., was selected as the vendor of choice. With an initial pilot project that covered a small area around the Taipei district office, a team was organized to im-plement the AM/FM portion of the project. The area under study affected about 15% of the city area, consisting of about 100,000 customers (Fig. 1). At the outset, the strategy was to evaluate and adjust the system, gain experience and begin work on data conversion and standardization with only a small investment of resources.

The AM/FM System By November 1993, TPC completed installation of hardware, software and networking, which were valued at US$2.3 million including services and support. The AM/FM system is an intelligent computer model that includes both graphic and attribute data from TPC's electrical network. Customized software modules were developed that reside on Intergraph servers and workstations along with software purchased from ABB (Fig. 2). The foundation of these modules is the FRAMME application, which provides all the tools necessary to maintain the model and the network data in support of the other modules in the system. In this context, FRAMME shares information with ABB software using an underlying Oracle database containing the physical and electrical characteristics of the network. Data from existing IBM databases are exchanged with the AM/FM system through ASCII file transfer on a daily basis. The system then distributes these data to stations throughout the network (Fig. 3).

Three customized software modules were developed for customer outage management, distribution facility management and distribution facility planning and maintenance. In addition, NTIT developed another module, under contract, for transformer load management (Fig. 4). These four modules control outage and fault data, outage and load transfer schedules, maintenance records and histories and load conditions of transformers. If maintenance is required, or if there is a fault or outage, the system generates maintenance schedules or fault reports and distributes them to engineers for remedial actions. Users can immediately locate the geographical area of the fault by specifying an address, a transformer number or pole number.

A key feature of the AM/FM system is the integration of Intergraph software with ABB applications for computer-aided distribution planning and design (CADPAD) and for computer-aided distribution operations systems (CADOPS). The ABB software supports trouble call management, engineering analysis and planning. Among other functions, the programs determine the best layout, optimum conductor selection and economic substation sizing and location based on its capability to forecast small-area load. The system uses TPC's IBM system, which contains software packages on customer information, distribution construction information, property management and distribution automation. The IBM databases track customer information by account numbers, names and addresses. They also track work order information including compatible unit codes and bills of materials.

The main difficulty faced in designing the database was localizing FRAMME and the ABB software, where all the interfaces, command prompts and instructions or helps had to be presented in the Chinese language. Though not difficult in itself, localization was a time-consuming process. The AM/FM system was installed and the database designed by early 1994, paving the way for bringing the system on line and preparing TPC for system management.

Data Conversion Perhaps the most difficult obstacle during the pilot project was data conversion in the pilot area. Since no accurate digital landbase maps were available, more than 500 map sheets required conversion, including landbase, duct, network and system maps. The TPC conducted initial field surveys and record validation, but converting old maps and data into a useable form was the responsibility of IIT, Inc., a U.S.-based Intergraph subcontractor in Marlborough, Massachusetts with offices in Taiwan.

To expedite the process, IIT employed Intergraph's scanning and semi-automatic raster-to-vector conversion technologies with heads-up digitizing for graphic data conversion. IIT also developed a program to allow entry of database attributes, which were tagged to graphics using a MicroStation MDL-based application. In this way, data was converted on low-cost PCs. IIT also developed software for data testing, verification and quality control. The converted data was further validated by the FRAMME rulebase of the system. The process was completed by July 1995.

Retrospective and Prospective The success of large projects involving personnel from different corporate venues relies on technology, team organization, project management and training. In this particular case, an overall team synergy was established at the outset with monthly meetings to discuss progress, problems and recommendations. TPC assigned more than 30 individuals to work with Intergraph to establish requirements, coordinate the project and commission the system at the conclusion of the pilot project. An important milestone set by the team dealt with personnel training to relieve user apprehension in dealing with new technology. The training employed was a key ingredient in facilitating a smooth transition from the old system to the new. In October 1995, TPC commissioned the system, and in February 1996, the pilot project was completed. By keeping the project scope small and manageable with well-defined objectives, it was possible to realize effective planning and to monitor progress. An evaluation of the project revealed tangible benefits in: - Improved efficiency due to frequently updated network data. - Reduced outage frequency, time and area. - Reduced facility maintenance costs. - Saved time and resources in dealing with drawings and map maintenance. - Improved customer services.

In 1997, TPC will begin expansion of the AM/FM system to cover all of Taipei. Preliminary work will encompass a study to find the most efficient work flow and to modify applications to interface with other TPC systems involving SCADA, GPS and the Taipei Land Hub Information System. By integrating its FRAMME-based system with SCADA, TPC will have the latest operational information available without re-keying information. With links to GPS and the Land Hub, TPC will be able to locate facilities better and to make geographic data available for other Taipei utilities.

With a possible time frame of five years to complete, TPC plans to have the AM/FM system operating for all 22 district offices, covering the whole of Taiwan. In the meantime, the improved efficiency and lower costs from the new system are already offsetting the wait for completion.

TPC's pilot project has proven that an AM/FM system was the best strategy for improving operations for TPC and Taiwan.

Sun Tze-Chiang is a business administration graduate from the University of Chinese Culture, Taiwan. He has more than 35 years of specialized electrical engineering and management experience, primarily in distribution network planning, design, operation and maintenance. Sun joined TPC in 1960 and was progressively promoted to director of the Business Department. In this capacity, he is responsible for a staff of more than 11,000 people and for the engineering activities in all 22 districts of TPC.