I have blogged on many occasions about pathological business processes for designing, building and operating and maintaining infrastructure that plague many utilities. Some of these processes don't seem to have changed since Edison and Tesla's time and result in redundant data, wasted effort, backlogs, and poor data quality.
At the EDIST 2013 Conference in Toronto, Ottawa Hydro described how they used a Lean Process to address this problem specifically in the capital execution (design and build) process.
Ottawa Hydro spends $90 million every year on capital projects and this is forecasted to increase, because of aging infrastructure and the transformation to the new smart grid. But in this time of aging and shrinking workforces at utiities, they have found that while capital expenditures are going up, they have less staff to manage the process. The result has been frustrated staff and delays in construction because designs are not getting completed in time, increasing spend on overtime, and most importantly a significant carryover of capital, and worst of all and unhappy regulator (the Ontario Energy Board).
The Lean Process involved convening a team of 10 grass roots people from all divisions of the company who spent 5 days identifying the the current state and the issues associated with it. 66 issues were identified. They took a break for 2 weeks and then got together for 5 days of brainstorming resulting in a set of recommendations to upper management. They prioritized the recommendations based on their projected impact and size. They moved first with simple processes involving one department with immediate payback. After successfully completing a few of these, they moved on to more complex processes involving multiple departments.
The results speak for themselves. Even though the capital budget has increased they are getting the work done and have reduced overtime by 35%.