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About three years ago we decided to make our brand promise “A Higher Standard of Service™”. It wasn’t because we are arrogant, or believe we are better than others, but purely because we wanted to establish a bar for ourselves and an expectation for our customers. The question is, how do we measure or benchmark for this goal?

We measure customer satisfaction and drive continuous improvement through our quality program and while this is an important exercise, it does not benchmark our service level against the industry. We needed to find another approach, a true benchmark, with an acceptable unbiased method by which to measure it. So, in March this year we commissioned DNV GL to undertake an ‘O&M Capabilities Assessment’ of UpWind in order to gain insight to the critical questions, “how good are we” and “how do we compare to others”?

This exercise was a deep dive into 9 key areas that DNV GL identified as critical to comprehensive O&M services. They benchmarked UpWind’s capabilities against the industry (Self-Perform, OEM and ISP) and assessed the level of our service capabilities against a scoring method scaled to Industry Best Practice. In all categories, we scored in the high range and in a few categories, our capabilities were considered to be at Industry Best Practice level by DNV GL, who stated "UpWind’s O&M service offering ranks in the highest capability range of any O&M service provider." Although DNV GL did not specifically verify and validate our performance metrics, service quality or customer satisfaction, we are pleased to say our service capabilities approach or are at Industry Best Practice level.   

We are thrilled with the results because they give some positive validation on our efforts to develop a culture of service excellence and we also see areas where we can continue to invest and develop.

O&M Capabilities Assessment – UpWind Solutions

Operations & Maintenance Audit

O&M Excellence© powered by UpWind Insight™

From the earliest days of UpWind, under the leadership of Bo Thisted and then Marty Crotty, UpWind established a service foundation with three core elements: Safety, Quality and Training.

We have invested in these functions for seven years, built comprehensive programs and evolved them to deliver what we now call O&M Excellence (a model that focuses on the delivery of flawless routine maintenance, augmented by complimentary service offerings of UpWind Insight, Repairs, Upgrades and Parts). Creating a high impact solution that goes beyond basic maintenance.

Ultimately, this is about driving Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) over the life of an asset, ensuring owner ROI is maximized through more production, lower operating costs and longer asset life. For us, UpWind Insight is the technology vehicle used to deliver RCM through the application of data driven knowledge in our daily operations.

Short Term Gain …at what Long Term Cost?

The common industry assumption is that all service providers are equal where anyone can deliver planned maintenance (OEM, ISP, or Owner/Operator) and the lowest cost wins out. This is a flawed approach and one that could cost the owner in the long run. It’s flawed for four reasons:

1)      Infrastructure

Systems, processes, people and technology used to deliver planned maintenance will vary. This means the scope, content and execution of the service will vary significantly with different near term and long term impacts on production and operating costs.

2)      Collaboration and Transparency

Not all service providers are willing to collaborate with their customers on O&M services. It has been our experience that collaboration and transparency with customers, partners and communities uncovers opportunities to improve asset performance.

3)      Production Focus

It is essential that the service provider thinks beyond the simple metrics of maintenance schedule completion and time based availability. Focusing on production based availability, true life cycle costs and the optimal asset life is the only way a service provider can align with the goals of the owner/operator and maximize their ROI.

4)      A Core Business of Service Innovation

Service focused businesses are dedicated to service excellence and not distracted by product development, turbine sales, or asset management. This pure focus enables the development and implementation of superior service content and results, where innovation comes through the ‘how’ and not just the ‘what’. A traditional procurement focus on near term costs, without adequate assessment of service content, misses the true value of what is being offered by a comprehensive service provider.

Will this short term approach hurt the industry in the long run as the longer term performance of the assets suffer, ultimately costing more in major maintenance and lost production over time?

Time for a Reality Check

Take a closer look at your O&M strategy, options and preferred solution. At best, only the very basic elements of standard planned maintenance might be considered a commodity, IF and only IF, the service is backed up by rock solid safety, quality and training.

The moment you want more …more production, lower costs, longer asset life …you have to look beyond the O&M Manual at Reliability Centered Maintenance. Where service excellence and advances come through investment, systems, processes, core values, programs, capabilities, reliability, technology, great people, a commitment to asset performance and a passion for delivering an exceptional experience.

The next time you consider your O&M strategy and select your service provider, ask yourself ‘what happens after the next 3 years’. Get an independent audit of your service provider, including your in-house departments, look beyond the near term costs of basic maintenance, and go for the option that optimizes the value of your asset over the life of your asset.

A short term gain may feel good right now, but what is the longer term pain and cost going to be?

Peter Wells

Peter Wells

Peter Wells is a senior executive business leader with 27 years of global experience in renewable energy, energy technology, power projects, construction engineering and consulting. He was named Chief Executive Officer in September 2011, after serving as the company’s Chief Operating Officer. His demonstrated leadership, vision, and strategic thinking have been instrumental in fulfilling the overall corporate strategy of consistently providing customers a full-service offering at a lower cost per kilowatt hour.

Peter is focused on the continued growth and development of UpWind as the leading wind energy independent service provider (ISP) on utility scale wind power projects in North America. His commitment has been demonstrated through the development of an ISP that both sets the industry standard for O&M Excellence© but also continues to innovate how O&M providers can produce better results for wind farm owners.

Topics: reliability centered maintenance, operations and maintenance, audit, upwind solutions, o&m, Peter Wells, RCM, DNV