Now more than ever, we see the U.S. power market sharply focused on maximizing return on investment. We see power producers responding to economic uncertainty, high costs for new emission controls, and a decline in new nuclear construction. Low natural gas prices seem to be the driving factor in every economic decision. Power producers, contractors, and vendors must be flexible and readily adapt to changing market and economic decisions. For Day & Zimmermann (D&Z), this means we must deliver value that can be measured, including safety, project and labor management, and processes and tools that drive efficiency and reduce costs.
Safety remains the number one priority for the industry, and contractors are continually challenged to deliver a well-trained workforce that concludes each shift as it started—safe and injury-free. In 2013, D&Z launched its Behavior Observation Learning Tool (BOLT), a web-based worker observation process designed to identify safe and at-risk work behaviors. Using web-based mobile technology, supervisors and craft workers, both independently and paired with our customers, record real-time behavior observations to correct at-risk conduct and reinforce safe work practices. We also are enhancing our Key Performance Indicator (KPI) data capture and trending tool that correlates leading vs. lagging indicators.
The Value of Alliances and Partnerships
Day & Zimmermann’s strategic focus is on the U.S. power operations and maintenance (O&M) market and on the process and industrial markets. We have a significant industry footprint in both nuclear and fossil generation. As such, our customers depend on us to deliver industry best practices and lessons we have learned from our experience. Alliances and partnerships are integral to this business philosophy and strategy. We find they are most effective in multi-site relationships, where we can leverage the use of consistent standards and systems across a fleet of facilities. Our strategy has been successful as we embark on fleetwide contracts with new and returning customers, including American Electric Power, We Energies, Public Service Electric and Gas Co., NRG, NextEra, Duke Energy, Southern Company, PPL, Public Service Co. of New Mexico, FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co., Westar, Portland General Electric Boardman, and others.
The alliance model provides the optimum environment for us to work with the customer. It provides safe, quality services at the lowest cost. When given a seat at the table, we regularly share ideas and develop the best solutions together. We establish KPIs or pay-for-performance measures. These measures help improve the process and the work product. We adjust them to continue to better meet business needs. Our experience with these types of contracts has enabled us to focus precisely on areas of improvement so that the plants we work on can operate more competitively.
Meeting Workforce Challenges
The development of craft labor and project management has challenged the domestic power industry for some time, and we believe this trend will continue. Labor availability, skill, and management are essential to performing O&M work now and in the future. Many of our clients are seeking one or more delivery models: supplemental contingent workers, managed task, and project work. D&Z has been very successful offering a scalable combination of all three. Our cost-effective and flexible model is one of the reasons that we have been successful in this market. D&Z’s focus on increased accountability, customer satisfaction, and operational excellence makes us a valuable option for customers who seek an alliance or partnership relationship.
One of the ways D&Z has addressed this is with its workforce training programs. We are actively involved with trade schools and community colleges securing government grants and developing worker training programs. For example, D&Z’s implementation of the Electric Power Research Institute’s (EPRI) Standardized Task Evaluation program complies with EPRI’s Administrative Protocol for Portable Practicals (AP3). Our program was found to be compliant through a comprehensive review and audit by EPRI evaluators and the unanimous vote by 11 industry partners and utilities.
We also have strengthened our leadership team and invested in new talent with both owner and contractor experience in operating nuclear and fossil plants, in capital projects execution, and with OEMs. In field operations, we determined it was important to demonstrate competence in project management and team leadership and selected the Project Management Institute’s registered Project Management Professional (PMP) credential. Many employees have earned the PMP designation, and we plan to provide boot camp training for more this year.
The competition for talent at all levels of the organization is intense. It is not enough to invest in professional development and offer a competitive salary and benefits package. We are finding it’s the combination of our betterment culture and family ownership, and a strong commitment to core values of safety, diversity, integrity, and success that help us attract and retain exceptional talent. ■
— Michael McMahon is president of Day & Zimmermann ECM. Power producers, contractors, and vendors must be flexible and readily adapt to changing market and economic decisions.