by Alan Ross
When you start to put a risk and reliability program together for high voltage electrical equipment—primarily transformers—you have to go through a cultural change. I’ve seen it repeatedly, both in the industrial marketplace and the utility marketplace.
It’s never a one-person decision.
Step #1: The Reliability Leader
As a reliability leader, we can normally veto any project, but more often than not we cannot say yes to a project; in other words, we are influencers, not decision makers. The problem is that there is seldom one decision maker when implementing a major change in the way we handle the reliability of electrical systems.
Because of that, our first step is to decide on the scope of the project. Do we want to implement a maintenance program and extend the life of our transformers? Are we planning lifecycle management? Are we talking about capital budgets as well as maintenance budgets? We first have to clearly define the scope of what we are trying to accomplish.
Step #2: The Plant Manager
The next thing we have to do is sell the scope of the project to the plant manager, the person responsible for the P&L of that facility. He spends money based on what will affect his Profit and Loss. It’s not that plant managers don’t think long-term, but to some extent they are forced to think short-term because corporate America thinks in terms of quarterly profits. So, consequently, when you take a huge scope to him, he can’t digest it.
You have to sell him on the scope. How big do you want me to make this? How reliable do you want me to make this system? And are you willing to support me?
The diagram shows these steps in a circle, but it’s actually more complicated than that. It’s a catch 22.
Step #3: Purchasing Department
You can’t go to procurement until you have approval from the plant management, but you can’t go to plant management until you know you’ve got procurement on your side.
So, you do the thing we all did when we were kids.
“Hey Dad! Mom says it’s OK if you say it’s OK!” followed by “Hey Mom! Dad says it’s OK if you say it’s OK!”
If procurement says that they can’t spend the money or don’t see this expenditure in a positive light, the plant manager will likely defer to them. But if the plant manager says, “We’re going to fix that” then procurement is going to get behind the idea.
You have to get both procurement and plant O&M bought in to the scope.
The next part is much simpler. You have secured the agreement of those who can say yes. Now go after those who can complicate things, those who can say “no.”
Step #4: IT/Data Management
So, you’ve gotten a “yes.” Great!
But what is the IT department’s role in this? In the world of condition monitoring it will always involve massive amounts of data. They want to know if it is secure. Can they handle the vast amounts of data? How is that data integrated with everything else they do?
You’d better get IT on your side.
Remember, IT is not first. Get the plant manager and procurement on your side, then IT. And then you sell that package to corporate risk management.
Step #5: Risk Management and Insurance
Good news. Corporate risk management is going to think the reliability leader walks on water because you’ve done all of this and you can tell them how you’re managing risk much more effectively because of it. You’re eliminating risk, or mitigating it, or you’re transferring that risk and risk management needs to know about it so they can tell your insurer.
Insurance companies come in through the risk management level, and they report out at the risk management level. So, you sell the project to risk management, and they can sell the project to the insurance company.
Insurance companies are professionals at identifying and covering risk; that is if they can’t eliminate. If the insurance company sees you implementing a transformer reliability program, they will go to risk management and say: “Your reliability people are doing a great job.”
That can be career defining.
These projects are not simple. They’re hundred-thousand-dollar site projects or they’re million-dollar corporate projects. If you’re going to get a million-dollar corporate project approved, you’d better make sure you have all these people lined up.
First thing is scope; get that sold. Then get buy-in from IT and Risk Management.
Then you’ll be in like Flint.
Alan Ross is the President of the Electric Power Reliability Alliance (EPRA). He is responsible for leading the alliance to build electric system reliability in the industrial and commercial marketplace. Formerly, Alan was the Vice President of Reliability at SD Myers.