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Life as an asset manager at National Grid Metering

Ant Stokes, Asset Risk and Strategy Specialist for National Grid Metering (NGM) shares his thoughts and insights into what it takes to provide a great asset management service.

Hello, I’m Ant Stokes and I’m an asset risk and strategy specialist within NGM.

When you work in a company that owns assets that supply such customers as chemical processing plants, Buckingham Palace and more ordinary houses lived in by some of our own employees; Asset Management is never still!

All of these sites have their own requirements and nuances, which makes the management of an asset portfolio of around 8 million of them a really interesting and exciting challenge.

Behind that challenge sit three important principles and these enable us to focus on the why of what we do:

  • Firstly, to maintain safety. This is non-negotiable. The impact of poor safety can be catastrophic and we make no apologies to return to this theme regularly.

  • Next, and along with safety, comes our customer’s other needs. The energy suppliers require: security of supply; fit for purpose assets that deliver measurable gas flow at the correct levels to those various end consumer; available support services; and, of course, it must come at the right price for them.

  • The third consideration is for NGM to provide these first two elements at a cost for us that is effective in order to deliver a profitable business.

Behind these outcomes sits a fair amount of work to understand our assets, their purpose, costs to operate, and how they wear and tear over time and eventually fail. This then enables Asset Management to understand the risks involved in operation of those assets. From this we develop policies and procedures for maintenance, testing strategies and replacement programmes, which enable us to manage risk that enables us to deliver those three key principles. And then, like all good processes, we evaluate outcomes and then go again, ever seeking to improve.

This work all sits against a backdrop of commercial market, which is highly competitive for metering services and where individual sites have sometimes very different needs to each other. Where to be off gas for even four hours at the wrong time can potentially cost our customers lots of money.

The aim we have is for our customers to have a seamless uninterrupted service. Our asset management system ensures that service is maintained for them. We manage our assets proactively before they experience any issues. Using various asset management tools that we have developed, we manage asset health. This enable us to either replace or maintain our assets, at the right time, before a failure occurs and inconveniences people.

When we focus on delivering improvements we often forget that, for many millions of our customers, their satisfaction is measured in their lack of need for interaction with us.

My job is about people as much as the assets. Relating our customers’ needs and requirements to our assets and asset strategy. Taking an academic risk model for example and then relating the results into strategy and work programmes that we then engage with service providers to deliver on our behalf.

Truth is we are all asset managers; from cars to houses, from washing machines to X-boxes. It’s a very easy thing to understand that we want something that works reliably for the occasion, but also gives us an experience that is cost effective and delivers when it needs. NGM’s assets are very niche in their purpose, but the principles of Asset Management are found in our everyday experiences.

If we don’t appreciate people, we miss opportunities to listen, learn and collaborate. This enables us to connect our asset story with our customers’ own experiences. Then everyone benefits when we all understand the values that drive our work. Delighted customers and happy asset managers!