EPCOR's experience balancing Performance Improvements with Succession Planning for Water Main repair crews

Author: Ancel, Susan P.

Source: Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation, The Utility Management Conference 2008 , pp. 196-204(9)

Publisher: Water Environment Federation

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Abstract:

Over the past five years EPCOR Water has undertaken a number of initiatives to improve efficiencies and reduce operation and maintenance costs on their water distribution network. These have included changes to the process for set up and close out of main break repairs and other reactive construction related activities. Changes were also made to the shift schedules to reduce overtime charges and have a more effective crew makeup throughout the week. A commercial services group was added in 1999 to provide water main repair and installation services to external clients, this service allowed for redeployment of crews impacted by the efficiency projects and allowed for some additional hires into the workforce.

In 2005, the decision was made to reduce the amount of external services being offered by our commercial services group which would have resulted in the requirement to reduce staffing to maintain historical budget expenditures. This was not desired as a review of the retirement eligibility of the entire group showed a 60% attrition as being possible over the next 10 years. The dilemma was then what meaningful, required work could be developed that would allow the retention of the existing trained staff within budget constraints but would be flexible to the changing overall staff complement as individuals announced their retirements.

The solution was to take a detailed review of EPCOR's capital program and the projects that would have traditionally gone to external construction companies. This review required an assessment of the existing equipment used by the internal crews and identification of projects that were small enough to allow rapid redeployment of the crews to repair activities should they be required.

This solution was further complicated by EPCOR's Performance Based Rates standards which set timelines for completion of both emergency and planned work on our distribution system. This required the set up of more formal and regular communication between our capital engineering groups and the water main repair department.

The new process implemented in January 2006 identified a target of 22,780 man hours of new Capital work to be completed by the distribution repair crews. At the end of 2006 the crews accomplished over 29,000 hours of capital work and met all their performance measures for repair times and exceeded planned targets for external commercial service work as well.

This paper will review the process utilized to select the suitable projects, the organization changes that occurred to support this initiative, the key findings and recommendations from the first year of implementation and the final budget and human resource impacts of this initiative on both the engineering and maintenance repair departments. This program has been a success and is expected to continue in the coming years.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2175/193864708788806007

Publication date: January 1, 2008

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