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The value of implementing best practices within utility transmission and distribution

Successful and highly effective companies demonstrate the capacity to incorporate and embrace “best practices”, especially when learned from other top performers in the industry. This is becoming especially true for utility transmission and distribution businesses. The question is always “what are the best practices, how do they influence performance, and where does my company stand?”  The Polaris Transmission and Distribtuion (T&D) benchmarking program includes a best practice implementation assessment (from Fully Implemented to Not Being Considered) that gathers data on best practices in nine core processes and correlates practices to a variety of operational performance results (spend, reliability, safety, etc.). PA’s top performers have over 75% of the best practices fully implemented. They now focus on the gaps and seek further organisational improvements.

  • The core processes with proven best practices are: Safety and Accident prevention (walking the talk if you will)

  • Asset Life Cycle Planning – new asset additions and replacement

  • Asset Strategy – maximising asset utilisation and minimising cost

  • Investment Optimisation – developing a balanced portfolio of spending

  • Work & Project Management – how effectively work gets accomplished and managed

  • Field Engineering – activities dealing with customer work, asset replacement, and local operations and maintenance activities

  • Operations – daily dispatch work and outage restoration

  • Vegetation Management – preventing vegetation related outages; and finally

  • Performance Management – effective use of metrics to drive performance improvement

PA develops correlation between best practices and performance in several ways. First, we look at quartile performance, selecting those companies that are Q1, and comparing their best practices with non-Q1 performers. This provides the initial base for the correlation. We then survey those Q1 performers and ask which best practices have had the greatest influence on performance – whether it be financial, reliability, safety, vegetation management, etc. Based on the data gathered in the best practices and other benchmarking sections a top performer profile is then developed.  This provides the comparisons by which our benchmarking clients can determine for themselves how they stack up against their peers.

Spider charts are used to portray results for each best practice area. This allows clients (green line) to readily see how they compare with other program participants (red line) and quartile 1 performers (blue line). They can then decide which practices within their own organisation may need a review.

Best Practice T&D Diagram

Lastly, PA develops best performer profiles which consolidate the “best  of the best” practices. For example, a top performer in reliability shows the following characteristics. They,

  • Have a senior management mandate that has clearly articulated the focus and supports it through remuneration metrics

  • Focus on discrete improvement opportunities by component (feeder, substation, geography, asset group)

  • Base decisions on asset repair/replace/upgrade and run to fail options on reliability improvement and quantifiable cost/benefit criteria incorporating risk

  • Use technology in the appropriate balance to enhance process and people efficiency (GIS, OMS, GPS, AMI, MDT, BI)

  • Use the appropriate diagnostic and modeling tools to understand the impacts of altering maintenance practices and asset replacement strategies

  • Incorporate worst performing circuit analysis (SAIFI, SAIDI, CEMI) with maintenance and asset replacement programs to achieve maximum improvement

  • Ensure the Control Centre (Dispatch Centre) has a clear mandate to restore first and fix later (make safe, isolate, restore, repair)

PA presents an annual award to the company that demonstrates the optimal balance of best practice implementation and cost/reliability quartile performance. 

Best practices are continuously evolving as best practices become industry common practice. The Polaris T&D benchmarking program is designed to assist companies in keeping pace with these changes and assessing the impact on operations and the bottom line.  Polaris’ team of subject matter experts has been involved in supporting companies in the development and implementation of best practices for over 20 years.

For further assistance regarding transmission and distribution benchmarking or performance improvement, contact us now.

Ron Norman
Energy and utilities
contact us now
Liz Parminter
Energy and utilities
contact us now


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