Turning tribal knowledge into everyday practice with multi brand documentation
A chance meeting at wind conference helped a major US energy utility develop a systematic approach to their turbine operation and maintenance procedures, thereby reducing operational inefficiencies.
Knowing how to correctly operate and maintain wind turbines is essential if we are to supply a steady flow of green power and put any qualms to rest about its reliability. Nor should the human aspect be forgotten, as a lack of knowledge about the correct procedures can lead to unnecessary accidents or routine service operations taking an inordinate amount of time. This has ramifications for both the individual employee involved and the company’s bottom line, as accidents can result in energy production grinding to a halt, with employees that are unable to perform their duties and an expensive asset that is sitting still.
With this in mind, what should the USA’s largest renewable energy utility do when it became apparent that knowledge of correct operations and maintenance procedures for its Siemens 2.3 MW turbines was largely residing in the heads of a few, highly experienced field technicians?
What Duke Energy Renewables, an American energy utility with one of the country’s largest renewable energy fleets was suffering from, was the issue of tribal knowledge – where instead of procedures and information on how to operate and maintain the wind turbines on the sites they serviced being documented, they were unrecorded, and knowledge was transferred in a non-systematic way. This left new hires unprepared and lacking access to easy-to-understand information on how to service and operate the turbines. The success of Duke Energy Renewables’ business also meant they couldn’t divert as many internal resources to documenting and standardizing procedures and processes.
While in attendance at the annual AWEA conference in 2019, representatives from Duke Energy Renewables ran into CREADIS, who were also attending the conference. They had heard of CREADIS’ expertise within the wind sector and wanted to know more.
After discussing their challenges with several consulting engineering companies, CREADIS, which has over 20 years of experience in working on multiple onshore and offshore wind projects, meaning that it understands wind turbines, their systems, and processes innately – was ultimately selected to assist them. With a strong core of technical experts, engineers, and project managers it can draw upon, CREADIS could supply the technical writers Duke Energy Renewables needed to structure and document its procedures for the Siemens turbines – all the while adhering to the company’s specific language and the terms it uses.
In a little over half a year, six staff from CREADIS and procedure writers from Duke Energy Renewables collaboratively developed customized multi-brand turbine documentation for the company that encompassed approximately 100 corrective procedures. Over a series of regular meetings, workshops, training days and bi-weekly review sessions, technical instructions were developed and tailored to align with Duke Energy Renewables’ document format and style of language. The collaboration has resulted in a measurable improvement in technician task efficiency. Furthermore, the scope of the engagement has been widened to encompass several more of the different types of wind turbines Duke Energy Renewables services – not only Siemens, but also Suzlon, GE and Mitsubishi.
For Duke Energy Renewables, working with CREADIS was “a breath of fresh air. They were easy to work with, cooperative and adapted to the company’s way of writing procedures very quickly. Their access to technical writers proved the decision to partner with them was the right choice”.
By developing standardized documentation, CREADIS and Duke Energy Renewables has ensured that consistent technical content across the company’s assets is now in place and all operations and safety requirements are met. The mutual understanding of Duke Energy Renewables’ operation and maintenance procedures that now exist throughout the company, regardless of an employee’s location, function, or level of experience, means that efficient practices have become part of the daily routine, and the renewable assets the company operates and services are utilized to their maximum potential, allowing for significant return on investment and a robust safety culture and operational excellence culture.