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Electronic work packages could benefit North American power generators

With electronic work packages, power generators can digitize the entire work package cycle.

Each year, thousands of physical work packages are manually assembled in power plants across North America. Now, digital technologies could generate millions of dollars in savings for leading utilities.

Embracing digital technologies has been a challenge for highly regulated asset-intensive industries, including North American power generators. Operations and maintenance activities at nuclear plants, for example, have adhered to detailed paper-based procedures for decades.

The industry’s paper-based work packages traditionally are created well in advance of project execution. Changes to scope or nature of the work require manual updates. Frustrating delays occur as gaps in understanding are queried through multiple communications.

Utility leaders are now starting to realize the immense potential of digital technologies to help them streamline the end-to-end work cycle and productivity for plant workers, while continuing to meet stringent regulatory requirements.

Digital technologies—enabling greater mobility, real-time monitoring and predictive analytics—may offer compelling opportunities to more effectively manage work streams while improving data accuracy and reducing cost. The technologies have evolved to such an extent that utilities are now able to integrate enterprise IT systems with operational technologies in the field, as well as with mobile devices. Potential benefits of seamless integration include improved operational efficiency, reduced cost and collaboration in real time for improved safety.

Electronic Work Packages (EWP) build on recent advances in data management, analytics and mobile technologies to help employees become knowledge workers who collaborate to drive operational efficiencies.

With EWPs, power generators can digitize the entire work package cycle. Leading technologies in EWP enable power generators to transform work management, operational execution and preventive and corrective maintenance. The proof can be seen in a recent pilot project:

Working with Accenture, one North American power generator digitized the work cycle throughout its entire plant and back office. For example, planners now begin by creating documents and schedules in digital formats, offering pictures and videos to maintenance crew members to speed execution.

Workers at the plant use tablets to view plans, capture additional data and submit information to supervisors. Electronic tablets allow for transmission of digital images from the field to engineers for faster resolution of plant issues.

Early results showed this EWP implementation streamlined processes from initiation to closeout. More timely collaboration diminished rework and reduced:

  • The cost of assembling work packages sample only

  • Hours spent making revisions in the field

  • Length of planned outages due to streamlined processes

Bottom line: EWPs are a game changer for the power generation sector. Initial results from the pilot project estimate multi-million-dollar savings in nuclear operations and maintenance. The company is looking to extend the EWP solution to its full fleet of nuclear plants in the United States.

The future is clearly digital and not for just for cost savings. Plant workers now have the ability to apply advanced analytics to improve reliability, maintenance effectiveness and plant safety.

Power generators are on the cusp of a transformation. Electronic Work Packages are simply the first manifestation of the many opportunities that could ultimately be available for the digital utility to transform for value and growth.

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