Closed Circuit

By Lisa Meiman 

A new effort is underway at WAPA to help supervisors and managers balance staff and organization priorities. 

The Workload Management Initiative is charged with establishing the knowledge and processes to allow WAPA to effectively allocate personnel for routine operations and maintenance work and capital projects built into regional budgets and 10-year capital plans. 

“There are two sides to the workload management seesaw,” said Enterprise Risk Management Specialist Matt Light. “There are our resources—our people—and then the workload. This effort is going to help us understand what our capacity is to complete that expected work right now, and then we can identify and adjust to solve any imbalances.”

The scope of the project is twofold: First, establish a baseline for how long it takes to complete base workload, typically considered O&M, and then evaluate how that staff will be able to accommodate long-term capital projects. The baseline assessment is designed to be a holistic cross-craft review of their workload to gain common and consistent understanding. 

“Our scope is both long- and short-term,” said Financial Manager Traci Albright. “In the short term, we want to get our arms around routine maintenance that we need to do to maintain the existing system. Once we have that, we can look at the long-term view and better address forecasting capital project timelines in the 10-year capital plans.”

The core team, which is made up of employees across WAPA in a variety of disciplines, is embarking on an ambitious endeavor, trying to capture the work currently completed by craft to complete routine O&M projects. 

“We have a tremendous amount of existing data that we can use to understand our baseline state and forecast what future O&M will look like, such as the Maximo database, Reliability-Centered Maintenance program and Asset Management program,” said Supervisory Electrical Engineer Travis Anderson. “We also need to seek input directly from the craft and get their feedback. Their participation is critical for the success of this project.” 

The team will begin its assessment with the line crews around WAPA, partnering with them to assist with data analysis. Afterward, the team will involve electricians, meter and relay technicians and other craft employees in the assessment. 

“Our customers here are the craft and the folks trying to accomplish the work,” said Light. “We’re trying to get a much better picture of where WAPA stands. We have heard the need for more resources and conflicting priorities, and we want to address that gap so it is clear to everyone what our priorities are.” 

The team plans to complete the baseline O&M assessment for each craft discipline by the end of the calendar year. Assessment to improve project management, communication In addition to supporting the craft, there are many benefits to improving how WAPA schedules, prioritizes and executes its work, especially in managing and communicating project plans. 

“Managers try to estimate in the job plans how long a maintenance activity will take, and there are a lot of assumptions in those estimates,” said Albright. “Current job plans don’t take into account the specifics of a piece of equipment or location. We want to build a bottom-up database based on the work we do and model how long it takes realistically. This is our opportunity to bring elements of uniqueness into the project planning process.”

With a better project plan on hand, WAPA should also be able to better communicate budget needs to both managers and WAPA’s customers, who ultimately pay for the projects through financing arrangements and power and transmission rates. 

“This initiative will give us the ability to stay on our timelines and demonstrate how one project affects another to our customers,” said Albright. “We can be more accountable with a forecasting tool based on data.” 

“There is a lot of recognition that we have budget constraints and need to do a good job executing our priorities,” Anderson added. “People are hungry for a tool that better informs how they prioritize, implement and execute projects. We will be better able to share our funding needs and why we need it.” 

Other WAPA work groups should also be able to benefit, particularly the many functions that directly support craft employees in maintaining the grid such as Lands, Environment, Procurement, Design and Engineering and more.

“This effort will be a big driver for a lot of other organizations around WAPA,” said Light. “By having a clearer picture of the project plan, those supporting offices will have a much better idea of the demands on them and be able to staff and prioritize appropriately.”

In the end, though, the major benefits come back to craft employees who are on the front lines facing a large and ever-increasing mountain of work. Although some of their work will always be to respond to unexpected malfunctions or system emergencies, providing a predictable schedule for planned work may ease some of the burden. 

“Our end goal is to build a better plan that supports management and staff in decision making,” Albright concluded. 

Note: Meiman is a public affairs specialist.

Last modified on March 5th, 2024