``Being able to track info about planned and unplanned work was one of the key performance indicators we were trying to improve on. Because of the way Avantis interfaces with the workforce time-tracking program, we are able to get to this data much more easily. - David Reherman, Reliability Engineer
Evansville, Indiana − For those in the basketball-crazy Hoosier state and surrounding areas, Vectren Resources is what you might call a “power forward.” From its base in Evansville, Indiana, on the extreme southern tip of the state, this $2 billion utility provides electricity or natural gas to nearly two- thirds of Indiana and 16 counties in Ohio. A merger of two companies, Vectren today plays an integral part in the day-to-day lives of more than one million energy users.
Vectren operates two power plants, which together use five coal-fired units and six gas turbines to produce about 1,400 megawatts of generating capacity. Keeping these plants running continuously and efficiently is vital to Vectren’s mission to serve customers. Vectren is also in the wholesale market for power sales where availability has tremendous financial implications.
David Reherman, Reliability Engineer, said, “We invest in maintaining our plants to be sure that they are available when the demand calls for it. Our challenge is to reduce our overall operations, maintenance, and capital spending, while keeping the availability high.”
As a key part of its strategy for meeting this challenge, Vectren management set out to eliminate inefficiencies in scheduling maintenance, ordering parts and keeping track of completed work. It accomplished this with the help of AVEVA’s Avantis enterprise asset management software.
Avantis gave Vectren an enterprise database that enabled management to capture and analyze data about the current and historical maintenance work. It also helped track the cost of maintaining any given piece of equipment, keeping track of work orders and labor time, and ascertaining key performance indicators and benchmarks throughout the maintenance operation.
The process of revamping maintenance operations at Vectren’s electrical power facilities began in mid-1999 with an evaluation of procedures. Complicating matters was the fact that data, labor, and parts were all managed in two separate locations, about 30 miles apart in the Evansville area. The A.B. Brown and F.B. Culley facilities combined use more than 6,000 unique assets and more than 33,000 individual spare parts. Changing the management procedures for these assets and parts could have a potentially significant impact on the daily work activities for some 225 maintenance personnel at the two plants.
According to company officials, the evaluation process was driven primarily by the need to streamline maintenance work and equipment processes rather than by any explicit requirements for software functionality.
“We weren’t necessarily looking to switch from our legacy Champs software,” said Gary McCarty, Maintenance Supervisor. “It was really more a case of asking ourselves how we could develop a maintenance model that would help us drive down the cost of doing unplanned work, and allow us to improve the ratio of planned to unplanned work. At the end of the process, though, it did become clear that a new maintenance software solution was in order. The trick was to find a tool to help us do this without compromising the process.”
After evaluating several competing offerings, the Vectren management team selected the Avantis software and Avantis InRIM™ (Industrial Rapid Implementation Methodology). One important reason was the way in which the Avantis solution has enabled maintenance personnel to interface with other key programs – notably Oracle for financial reporting, procurement and accounts payable and the company’s workforce time and resource planning/ utilization software.
The Windows look and feel of the Avantis software also played into the decision.
“With all of the people we have working in this—from janitors to mechanics to supervisors to planners to management—the familiar Windows interface was a huge plus. There was not a lot of redevelopment of skill sets in learning to use it,” said, Randy Simon, Manager of Technical Services, A.B. Brown facility.
The ease of use also helped Vectren to implement one of the cornerstones of maintenance practice: the rapid acquisition of replacement parts.
According to McCarty, “Previously, we would buy a part, and it would just sort of disappear. Now, using Avantis’ Purchase Item Catalog feature, it’s easy to find that part, to purchase it if it is not in our stock, and to keep track of it afterward.”
The Avantis solution also helped the Vectren plants achieve a breakthrough in tracking data at the work-order level. Previously, separating expenditure data from information about what planned and unplanned work was being done was the source of considerable frustration.
Two other partners were key to Vectren’s success. I.M.A. Ltd., an inventory management firm from Ontario, Canada, renamed and renumbered every part that Vectren uses, making it much easier to access and order both stock and non- stock items. Performance Consulting Associates (PCA) of Atlanta conducted the asset reliability improvement initiative.
This combined assessment and implementation project stands as an excellent example of the kind of teamwork needed to make this kind of initiative a success, with Performance Consulting Associates, I.M.A. Ltd., Avantis and Vectren all working together to provide the optimal solution for the Indiana utility.
Measuring the benefits of preventive maintenance is a long-term proposition, but the Vectren team is already gathering information that will help improve operations continuously. “We publish what are called ‘Avantis Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)’ every two months. These look at work task backlog trends. They track the priority of work completed, tell us whether it was an emergency, a break-in, or scheduled. They tell us whether the work was preventive or corrective. We also get the top ten system costs year-to- date and top ten entity costs year-to-date that help us determine how to spend our O&M (operations and maintenance) and capital dollars,” said Reherman.
For example, with this type of information, Vectren knows that since July, it completed 12,000 work tasks, 7,300 of which were corrective repairs and 3,500 were preventive maintenance work tasks. In addition, employees completed 250 “safety” work orders.
In the future, Vectren will receive comparable benchmark information, which will guide continuous improvement of its operations and services. Vectren will be better equipped for more preventive maintenance, scheduling, or planning work ahead of time and will not be driven by an emergency, break-in, or a scheduledisrupting activity. Avantis software also helps track progress of metrics such as productivity of workforce or reasons for delays on work orders.
“As planners and supervisors, we want to provide to the workforce the means to efficiently perform the task at hand by giving them all of the resources and information needed to do the job. Avantis facilitates this and allows us to track what work was completed, the costs involved, failure analysis, and even statistical information for us to do this job smarter if it shows up again. As the reliability engineer, I will be looking at and doing failure analysis using Avantis to improve equipment performance and life expectancy,” said Reherman.
The success at Vectren is a strong testimony to the value of approaching asset management solutions methodically with adequate up-front planning, collaboration, and the right software solutions. Vectren has completed and effectively transformed the maintenance operation at its electrical facilities. Its 225 maintenance workers have changed the way they work and are now actively engaged in the process of continuous improvement. They have better information about what work they have completed, what needs to be done, and what can be done to make the process better.
The result will be lower cost to Vectren with greater availability that will pay dividends to the Indiana and Ohio customers that Vectren serves.