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Perfect Power: Quality Education Process


Mr. Galvin began to apply continuous improvement methods to Motorola in the 1970’s. Applying these tools built a culture of consumer focus, innovation and performance, which allowed Motorola to effectively compete in the face of fierce international competition. In the 1980’s Motorola built a Quality Education school to train employees, suppliers and competitors. Mr. Galvin believes that utilities can achieve dramatic improvements in reliability using quality methods, lowering costs for utilities and consumers.

Adopting quality and continuous improvement methods can significantly improve reliability and performance. As an example, Allegheny Power utilized continuous improvement methods to reduce work related injuries by 60% and reduce O&M expenses by 40% since 2004. Operations, maintenance, and repair savings can be invested into new innovative smart grid designs that dramatically improve reliability.

Smart Grid Continuous Improvement Approach Example

Possible quality education program goals include:

  1. Produce quality and systems thinking proficiency for about 25 to 40 key employees and executives.
  2. Work with the executive team to establish a plan and strategy for maximizing the short and long-term benefits while ensuring the long-term sustainability of the learning.
  3. Produce significant performance improvements and cost savings by identifying and completing four to five projects during the proposed education program.
  4. Provide the tools to allow utilities to sustain a quality focus without external support

Project selection is an important element and the team should seek to identify projects that would have significant potential for reliability and cost improvements.

The education program could include two four-day education sessions separated by six weeks to allow the smart grid project team(s) sufficient time to apply the methods to their projects. In the first session, the smart grid teams are provided with the quality education foundation, tools and methods that will allow them to apply these methods to their projects. The Initiative will provide a “quality coach” two days per week to support the project teams. In the second session, the learning is deepened by providing additional education while the team(s) presents and discusses the results of their smart grid project improvements.

The project team could apply the following continuous improvement process to operational practices and selected distribution system areas (e.g. smart grid prototypes)

  1. Determining what is critical to quality (CTQ): This task involves reviewing the project goals from the perspective of the customer and identifying the specific quality metrics and requirements for the project.
  2. Process mapping: This task involves leveraging quality methods and tools to develop a detailed process map including feedback loops, critical process interfaces, and all of the key process components.
  3. Failure Modes and Effects Analysis: This task involves identifying all possible failures modes for each process component or step, as well as, the impact of each failure mode. This includes assessing both the severity and probability. This task provides a means for the utility to anticipate failures and address these failures prior to deployment.
  4. Error proofing, innovative problem solving, and solution set generation: The purpose of this task is to develop solutions to address all failure modes with special attention to the failure modes that cause both the greatest severity and have the highest probability.
  5. Prioritization and implementation strategies: The purpose of this task is to develop a plan for integrating the results into the smart grid designs and processes.

The education program could include a separate education session for utility executives. This session is designed to facilitate the development of a strategy for integrating continuous improvement methods into the business strategy and culture.