Reducing the Cost of Unplanned Downtime for Utilities

Learn how preventative maintenance and data management can reduce the cost of unplanned downtime.

The utilities industry often faces the financial and operational impact of unplanned downtime. A renewed focus on preventative maintenance and proactive data management can help them save time, money, and effort.

The Rising Cost of Unplanned Downtime for Utilities

reducing the cost of unplanned downtime for utilities

Unplanned downtime has always been a concern for the utilities industry, so why is there more of a focus on reducing the cost of unplanned downtime now?

To start with, the average cost of a single hour of unplanned downtime has increased. According to a survey by Information Technology Intelligence Consulting (ITIC), the average cost of unplanned downtime has risen by 25-30% since 2008. In manufacturing environments, the cost of unplanned downtime is a staggering $260,000 per hour on average. With so much at stake for their customers, utilities face an added pressure to ensure uptime is maximized.

Because utilities are so vital to both physical and economic wellbeing, the industry is facing stricter regulations and higher fines for prolonged downtime as well. The number of companies being fined by NERC, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, is on the rise. Many of these fines are for a lack of compliance to Critical Infrastructure Protocol (CIP) regarding cyber threats that have the potential to cause unplanned downtime.

With more financial pressure than ever, utilities are actively searching for ways to reduce the cost of unplanned downtime.

Preventative Maintenance Reduces the Cost of Unplanned Downtime

The best way to reduce the cost of unplanned downtime is to avoid it whenever possible. While some outages, like those caused by natural disasters, are unavoidable, it is often possible to prevent downtime caused by equipment failure or human error. For example, proactively replacing aging infrastructure before it fails or preventatively maintaining existing automated devices like HMIs or SCADA systems can go a long way.

Detect Unauthorized Changes

One of the most proactive ways to reduce the cost of downtime is to detect unauthorized changes and errors before they become larger issues. Malicious hackers or careless employees alike can make changes to PLCs or other automated devices that have the potential to cause significant unplanned downtime if gone undetected.

By using a change management tool like versiondog, utilities can identify who changed what, when, where, and why for devices all throughout their facility. If versiondog detects a difference between the version running on the device and the version stored on the server, it sends a notification to approved users who can identify the appropriate action to take.

Proactive Data Management Reduces the Cost of Unplanned Downtime

When downtime can’t be avoided, the next best thing is to reduce the duration. Every minute counts. There are a few data management strategies that can help utilities speed up recovery faster than ever.

Backup Devices Regularly

One of the most important data management strategies for utilities is to ensure that all device data is properly backed up. Without recent, error-free backups readily available, unplanned downtime has the potential to last hours or days.

Manual backups can be time-consuming and inconsistent. An automatic backup software that supports devices like PLCs, HMIs, SCADA systems, and more can save significant time and effort. For example, versiondog supports a wide range of device and data types.

Centrally Store Project Data

Utilities need to ask themselves how easy it actually is to find the most recent, error-free backup for any device in the plant. Without a centralized data management system, it could take precious time for their maintenance team to locate and identify the correct version to use. With versiondog, however, utilities can quickly find the data they need within a centralized project tree. This accessibility ensures that the correct version can quickly be found.

Identify Error-free Project Versions to Restore

After the correct program data is located, it is important that utilities can ensure they are restoring a recent, error-free version. Version control software allows users to see a complete change history for every project. In particular, versiondog allows users to graphically compare versions, so that they can quickly and easily identify the correct one to restore. This significantly reduces the time it could take to troubleshoot automated devices after unplanned downtime.

versiondog Reduces the Cost of Unplanned Downtime for the Utilities Industry

versiondog logoDon’t wait for downtime or disaster to strike. Let versiondog, a fast and reliable version control and automatic backup software, cover your bases. Learn more about versiondog for the utilities industry here or email us at

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