Management – Improve plant communication document control with SharePoint

New Harquahala Generating Co LLC

Owned by MachGen Holdings LLC

Managed by Competitive Power Ventures, Operated by NAES Corp

1080-MW, gas-fired, three-unit, 1 × 1 combined cycle located in Tonopah, AZ

Plant manager: Dean Motl

Challenge.

New Harquahala, which began commercial operation in September 2004, sells its capacity and energy into the WECC market. To meet the intent of the “care, custody, and control” provisions of today’s insurance policies, facility management identified an opportunity for improvement with plant-wide communication and document control. After conducting internal discussions on both topics, the management team decided to use “technology” to assist it in goal attainment. Because the plant is a pure merchant facility, operating in the very competitive Southwest electricity market, it needs to use as many cost-control mechanisms as possible. This approach results in a lean staff of highly qualified personnel who have to work as efficiently as possible to achieve the targeted performance that allows them to compete.

Outside of the technical challenges of operating a facility of this capacity with a lean staff, communication of goals, plant schedules, administrative activities, and document control can be a challenge when approached with conventional methods.

Solution.

After conducting a review of available options the team decided to develop a facility-dedicated Microsoft SharePoint® (SP) intranet site. Its goal: Establish a centralized information hub that would incorporate document storage as well as provide a communication interface which was user friendly and reliable. Some of the primary benefits to the use of SP are:

  • Provides simplified query tools for locating technical and administrative documents.
  • Ensures that all documents are archived in one location with consistency.
  • Secures information storage by backing up all files both locally and remotely on servers every 10 minutes and enlists a hierarchy of user rights that allows for easy management of documents.
  • Integrated web features allow the plant to move closer to a paperless work environment.
  • Centralizes file storage, which allows a single file to be accessed from multiple links on the same website.
  • Integrates version control that eliminates multiple revision copies of the same document.
  • Site specific required reading, polling, and voting interface.
  • Encrypted remote access for corporate management.
  • Low cost of implementation.

How the facility would implement SP was closely reviewed to ensure that the desired goals were achieved cost-effectively. Bids from outside contractors were considered but were rejected both on cost and limitations to site-specific customization. The plant decided to use its internal resources and sent two department heads to SP training and brought in a SP consultant/trainer for one week to facilitate the initial site architecture and layout. Once that was accomplished the team began the development of the topic/department specific web pages (Fig 20).

In the next phase of development, the site was configured to utilize linking methodology, which allows for single document locations and document “versioning.” The linking function prevents multiple copies of the same document and allows all users to access information within several clicks of the mouse once SP is accessed through the web browser (Fig 21).

The versioning feature of SP is one of the software’s powerful tools. It eliminates the need to save copies of multiple versions of files that are frequently edited by several parties and allows users to access previous versions of the file and recover historical document information that otherwise would be lost (Fig 22).

Document security also was a concern that needed to be addressed, because there are many vital documents that a powerplant must retain—such as contracts, permits, drawings, outage and maintenance reports, etc. The server back-up functions and offsite archiving of SP are superior to that of conventional server back-up methods. Additionally, access control to certain documents can be easily administered via the user level access functions of SP, which essentially allows the SP administrator to set access and editing rights based on specific needs. Access rights are infinitely customizable and can be established in groups or adjusted for each individual.

Another key tool that comes integrated with SP is the ability to set up surveys, polls, and read acknowledgement functionality. Prior to the implementation to SP, the plant had a “Required Reading” program that provided a mechanism to ensure all important plant announcements, procedural changes, or governmental regulation correspondence was clearly communicated and acknowledged by each employee. With the tools available in SP, the administrator can easily post a survey, poll, or read- acknowledgment link which each employee can then interact (Fig 23). In the case of the read-acknowledgment function, SP maintains an electronic roster of all employees who have read and acknowledged the vital information that plant management is trying to communicate with the crew. This is not intended to replace formal face-to-face procedure review and training but does provide excellent documentation of communication.

Results.

The design, implementation, and activation of the entire site took approximately six months—January to June 2010—with approximately 300 man-hours split between two department heads. With the time savings for document retrieval, information access, and ease of communications the facility believes that this will be easily recovered within one year of implementation.

Additional ancillary benefits have already been realized, highlighted by the highly favorable impression that it has presented to two different regulators conducting routine inspections. They commented on the significant time saving associated with presenting documentation for their inspection efforts. Both also agreed that the facility demonstrated commitment to a culture of compliance by ensuring that regulatory documentation was kept orderly and easily accessible to the plant personnel.

In summary, the plant believes that this project will provide long-term benefits with all aspects of communication and document control. It will support the desired goal of centralized electronic storage and archiving of critical data, and promote efficiency for the team. By taking ownership with the development, design, and layout of the site, the team has customized a tool that fits the plant’s specific needs, without trying to force a canned product to fit what they were trying to achieve.

There are still many features and more functionality to be added and incorporated over time, but the solid foundation that has been set will facilitate all future additions. Management already is seeing benefits of the system that it didn’t foresee and is confident that as more time is spent using the interface that more great ideas for improvement are only a click away.