12 | September 2017
concern in bad conditions. Giving crews
panic buttons they wear on their person
allows dispatch to quickly respond to
emergency situations on jobsites as well.”
Training is a foundation for all successful
fleet deployment and maintenance success.
Excellent training, Pacific Gas & Electric’s
fleet operations manager Ana Sarver point-
ed out at the EUFMC event, requires
engagement from mechanics, engineering
and garage operations leadership.
CMS Energy’s Jones added that his
utility has developed a mechanic effi-
ciency index that includes average time
for preventative maintenance, demand
workload, hours billed, overtime and
something called “quality comebacks.”
Repair comebacks, of course, cost time
and additional money. Organizing these
factors into an index was a comprehen-
sive way of making sense of fleet data.
“This index allows us to take the most
important actors of a technician’s day
and track the progress through a single
metric,” he said. “The method of the
index focuses on several key performance
indicators at once, giving us the ability to
quickly identify gaps and determine what
adjustments need to be made by each
mechanic to achieve the desired results.”
Like a good driver who pays attention
to oil pressure, temperature and RPMs,
electric utility fleet managers must have
several gauges to measure progress. They
take stock of factors such as fuel, repairs,
dispatch timing and, of course, safety. They
drive innovations through planned trials
and gain invaluable experience in how
their crews respond to unplanned crises.
They can never yield on that journey.
The health of a fleet is most important
when it’s needed in sudden fashion, such
as disaster calls and other field repairs.
Another key is knowing what assets are
positioned where and using technology to
make calls quickly and accurately.
Efficient and highly-connected dispatch
services can be the bird’s-eye view for
repair crews responding to an outage.
Gaps in deployment wastes time and
money, so things like GPS tracking
technology can not only get crews where
they need to be, but also allow both dis-
patchers and fleet managers to know in
real-time when one job is done and when
it’s time to move on to the next.
“Having the ability to
dispatch crews— based
on who’s closest to the
outage, type of truck or
skillset of the crew—
makes response times
faster and makes the fleet
more efficient when they arrive to the
outages,” said Ryan Driscoll, marketing
director for tracking software firm GPS
Insight. “Safety of these crews is also a
measurement (and) it did not provide
the view in how we impact the overall
operation. We are currently utilizing this
metric to ensure we are controlling costs.
. . We established the mechanic efficiency
index to show how our performance was
impacting unit availability.”
It’s not enough to simply buy new bells
and whistles. Someone must know how
they function. In addition, fleet managers
must ensure they have the supply chain
ready to roll and the skilled technicians
to work with new components.
Meanwhile, some things never change,
no matter how much the technology
improves. Jones said that good managers
must always get back to the basics. They
must spend time with the mechanics and
field crews to understand what works and
what is not running on all cylinders. They
must determine how to keep it all running
at premium levels, sometimes with low-er-octane budgets.
“The most challenging part of fleet is really
two-fold: Delivering world-class performance in service of operations and competing for capital dollars while keeping
the balance of lifecycle in check—all the
while dealing with the annual demands
of reducing O&M,” Jones said.
Downtime in the garage cuts down margin as much as any other kind of waste.
FIGURE 1: Accidents with automated vs. no automated safety aids