Indian Power Giant Recognized for Automation Innovation

RFID, video conferencing and e-procurement were among the components that helped land an award for the National Thermal Power Corp.

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The automation in National Thermal Power Corp. (NTPC, www.ntpc.co.in), the largest state-owned power generating company in India, has come into the limelight as a unique example of how automation helps improve the quality and quantity of power generated in the country.

Innovative use of radio frequency identification (RFID), video conferencing, and e-procurement systems is helping India’s public sector giant monitor its 40 upcoming projects locations, as well as maintain its existing plants better.

According to “PC Quest,” an Indian technology publication, the NTPC has won first place for the most innovative project among the best information technology (IT) implementations of the year 2010 in India.

Dinesh Kumar, Executive Director-IT of NTPC was quoted by “PC Quest” as saying, “Innovative exploitation of technologies has brought complete information required by management and other stakeholders under one umbrella, leading to overall productivity enhancement. The Project Monitoring Center is one example of this initiative. And collaboration with external systems like FOIS (Freight Operations Information System) of Railways has led to availability of the right information at the right time.”

Coal train tracking

Using a combination of RFID technology and the GPRS-based (General Packet Radio Service) Tracko system, National Thermal is able to track the movement of locomotives which carry coal to the plant’s unloading point. The system also notifies personnel in the event a breakdown, thus improving maintenance response times.

To ensure the security of National Thermal’s power plants, RFID tags have been deployed across the entire route of security force personnel who make their rounds. Each security officer has been armed with hand held terminals, which records the date and time of his visit. RFID is also used in keeping track of contracted drivers that enter the premises to collect the ashes from thermal plants.

As part of this implementation, NTPC has also conquered one of the one of the largest and toughest challenges that  an IT team typically faces—rolling out an enterprise resource planning (ERP) application throughout an organization. Last year, Kumar and his team was neck deep in rolling out an SAP implementation across NTPC, and as change management initiatives were in full swing, Kumar decided to introduce a collaborative framework across the enterprise. This would not only help with change management, he reasoned, but also take the organization beyond the ERP deployment, enable increased productivity and reduce costs.

Payoff

Post roll-out, the new system is being leveraged to conduct crucial activities such as management committee meetings, project monitoring and reviews of upcoming thermal or hydro power generating projects. Management committee meetings take place regularly across all of the organization’s 40 locations with over 150 participants taking part simultaneously.

Dr. Ashok Matani, a Mechanical Engineering faculty member at the Government College of Engineering in, Amravati, Maharashtra, sees automation as an essential requirement for the survival of the power industry in India. “Having visible controls on all processes makes waste minimization, zero accidents and a high amount of accuracy possible. Automation, computerization, quality competitiveness and Lean Manufacturing are driving the industry today,” he said.  
 

About the author

Uday Lal Pai, udaylalpai@gmail.com, is a freelance journalist based in India.

National Thermal Power Corp.
www.ntpc.co.in

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