Maintenance outages are a stressful and action-packed time for electric generating stations. It is not a small deal when a utility idles a large generating unit because if things go badly and return to service is delayed, that unit’s generation may not be available for peak season during the summer or winter.
Given the tight deadlines, large amounts of coordinated work to be done, and the influx of masses of contractor resources, accurate and timely collaboration is of the utmost importance.
In our company, outage managers were expected to compile reports at the end of each day during outages. The poor outage managers already had plenty of other coordination work to do and I never met one that enjoyed building their daily reports at the end of 14-hour work days.
Compiling a daily outage report involved mining information from the individual report emails coming from everyone managing diverse aspects of the outage. These incoming emails were from project managers, safety coordinators, maintenance supervisors, and others. None had consistent formatting. Some contained report attachments, while others simply had reports in the email text.
Outage managers had to mine that dissimilar incoming information and paste it into their own reports, while attempting to also merge formatting somehow. As you can imagine, reports were often inconsistent and difficult to read.
Once reports were compiled, they were then emailed to large distribution lists that included station employees and multiple vice presidents. While this process got the job done, it was time consuming and inefficient.
Our task was to streamline the entire outage reporting process using SharePoint.
I worked with an Outage Manager to design a custom list to receive daily individual outage reports from employees in the field. With all reports now being entered into the same web form with consistent formatting, there would no longer be a need to copy/paste and reformat individual reports.
Knowing that there was always a post-outage “lessons learned” meeting to ensure continuous improvement in future outages, we took the additional step of adding fields to capture lessons learned and barriers with each report. We did so because we knew the tendency of busy outage participants to forget most learnings long before the “lessons learned” meeting was held weeks later.
We then built an outage page that displayed the current day’s reports in a pleasing layout along with the lessons learned and barriers of the day.
With only the communication of the link and the change to the reporting process, the SharePoint tool worked as planned beginning on the first day of the next outage. Besides cutting the outage manager’s work days by at least an hour apiece, the tool also saved email clutter for those on the distribution list.
The recipients of the report no longer had to wade through the emails; they simply had to click the link to the outage page and view the up-to-the-minute reports. Those that insisted on an emailed version were signed up for automatic SharePoint alerts that arrived in a nicely formatted email.
Additionally, consumers of the report data could sort, group, and filter a few weeks of reports to see only those items of immediate interest to them. For example, safety professionals could quickly filter for safety items for the entire outage rather than searching through weeks of inconsistently formatted Word documents.
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