Almost every work process can be improved, and people who do the work every day are the best ones to identify those opportunities. AEP has adopted Lean as our primary framework to continuously improve. Lean relies on a well-known experiential learning cycle known as Plan-Do-Check-Adjust. By giving employees ownership and the freedom to experiment with possible solutions, we foster entrepreneurship which, in turn, sparks creativity, innovation and prudent risk-taking. We have celebrated many successes as a result.
Creating lean business processes started modestly as a pilot program at AEP’s Gavin Power Plant over three years ago and quickly grew. Through 2015, there have been more than 65 deployments of Lean throughout the enterprise and thousands of employee ideas submitted to improve processes that create efficiencies and reduce waste, as well as, create a favorable sustainable bottom line financial impact. The initial deployment of lean continuous improvement efforts has been completed at 16 power plants, all 31 distribution districts, all five regions of Transmission Field Services, Cook Nuclear Plant, Commercial Operations, Information Technology, Customer and Distributions Services, and Procurement-Supply Chain and Fleet group. Other business units across AEP are also adopting Lean principles and have begun their own journey to continuous improvement.
Here are some successes:
AEP’s finance department launched the “Every Dollar Counts” campaign to remind employees of the importance of being good stewards of AEP’s financial resources.
One way we are doing this is by leveraging the Supply Chain, Procurement and Fleet Operations organization. Procurement is not about buying the cheapest item; it is about having the right item, at the right place, at the right time, for the right price.
Through this focused effort, the procurement team, working with business units across AEP, was able to contribute a substantial operations and maintenance savings in 2016 through the strategic sourcing of goods and services. Our goal is to become an industry leader in cost, performance and value in Procurement, Supply Chain and Fleet Operations activity, and we believe this effort reflects positively on our journey.
Employees in the Transmission Field Services organization found that in remote areas in West Virginia, locating line faults could be time-consuming. When called upon to locate a line fault they would sometimes end up on long hikes through mountainous terrain to find the problem. The solution the team adopted was to install relatively low-cost fault indicators along lines prone to outages in those remote areas. During a fault event, simple LED indicators direct crews more quickly to the fault location, helping to reduce the duration of the outage.
What works well in one location may also work in another. That is why we are making a concerted effort to share ideas and solutions learned from other Lean deployments. One example of idea-sharing occurred at AEP’s Conesville Plant, where an equipment operator saw an improved FGD (flue gas desulfurization) belt wash system at another plant and took the idea back to Conesville. Sharing ideas in this way indicates that a continuous improvement culture is maturing.
A key driver behind the success of these efforts has been the high level of employee engagement. Going forward, we will focus on embedding Lean/continuous improvement principles in our daily work, sustaining those efforts and developing leaders as coaches to promote and support a problem-solving culture.