It’s almost impossible to pick up a newspaper these days without seeing headlines that announce more layoffs or cost cutting measures being implemented at blue chip energy, resource and utility companies. OK, in reality, you probably opened a website or checked your Twitter feed to get the latest news updates, but you see the point. In a world of lower commodity prices, global competition and energy users working with fewer and fewer dollars, the pressure is on all of us to find ways to “get more with less”. With a lot of the low hanging efficiency fruit harvested long ago, the search for innovation in what is normally a pretty unchanging industry is a tall order to fill.
Having said that, there have been times for all of us when we see a new invention and say to ourselves “well, that’s a no brainer. Why didn’t I think of that?” For me, a couple of recent entries in my “that’s brilliant” category are the curved shower rod and the smartphone. The shower rod with a bend in it gives the user a lot more room while scrubbing up, and all it took was a very simple change to the traditional straight rod. Low tech, cheap, and marvelous. Now I feel closed in when I have to suffer the shame and indignity of a shower with an “old school” rod. The debit card was indeed at the opposite end of the technology spectrum, but once it came out of the gates, everyone had to have one. Granted, it might have caused you to spend more of your hard earned money because it’s so convenient, but you gotta admit that it changed the way you access cash. Remember the Friday afternoon bank line-ups where we all waited dutifully to cash that paper paycheque? Both of these items came to market because someone decided it was possible, then relentlessly pursued the idea from concept to implementation.
OK, before you stop reading this article with the thought “cute”, but what do shower rods and bank cards have to do with me needing to build a powerline or upgrade a substation? The answer is…drum roll please…how would you like to get it designed and built on schedule and save 10-20% of the cost? Do I have your attention now? OK, now you have a second question. OK, shower rod debit card guy, if the low hanging fruit is gone and the industry is already pretty efficient, where does the money come from?
Excellent question. I see you’ve thought about this already. The answer is in the delivery. If you are a power system owner or wind farm developer and decide you need to build or upgrade something, you will likely hire a number of people and companies to work on various parts of your project. One company may manage it for you, someone else will design it, a third might be working on getting permits secured, various construction contractors will be brought on to build it and yet others will focus on First Nations and regulatory support throughout the course of the project. It sounds like a good idea to hire all of this expertise, but there are a few inherent and enduring problems that soon emerge.
All of these different organizations have both competing interests and motivations. The designer may well be looking to design something that uses fewer materials but doesn’t realize the cost and/or schedule impacts to the construction process. The quality control folks will satisfy you that every nut, bolt and work procedure has been vetted by three committees each, but be unaware that the process has added six months to the schedule and just cost you thousands (or more) in financing costs alone. Community outreach workers can make promises to concerned citizens regarding the view lines of the powerline and not understand that the right of way consultant will need to change and re-submit the land applications. And so on. Everyone is well meaning and likely competent in their own field, but each is ultimately more concerned about executing their own part of the project and doesn’t necessarily understand the big picture. Their contract is also likely to reflect this idea as well.
It’s extraordinarily difficult to coordinate all of these groups (herding cats comes to mind), and along the way everyone adds a slice of profit to their costs. That’s fair enough, as everyone needs to make a living. However, it all adds up pretty fast, and before you know it the costs have outpaced the budget (stop me if you know the ending to this story). Once the dust settles you’re explaining to your boss why things got a bit out of control and privately thinking to yourself how to prevent the same thing happening next time.
So, wouldn’t it be cool if you could hire one single entity that would take all of your headaches away? One group that has the entire suite of services in-house, someone that would help you refine the project to ensure that not only would it be done on time (or earlier), on budget, and guarantee it all? Heck, maybe even help you pay for it. To achieve these lofty goals there is only one pre-requisite – you need to see the world like the curved shower rod guy. By doing things just a little bit differently, you can get a big benefit. Want to save all those precious dollars, starting now? Let’s talk.