Improving the Flow of Work At Rocky Mountain

Oglethorpe Power Corporation uses the workflow application in its Maximo asset management system to manage all operations and maintenance work performed at the 846-MW Rocky Mountain pumped-storage project in Georgia. Using this application improves the efficiency, accuracy, and accountability of work performed.

By Donald D. Smith and Daniel C. Morton III

Using the workflow application in its Maximo asset management system improves the efficiency, accuracy, and accountability of maintenance work performed at Oglethorpe Power Corporation’s 846-MW Rocky Mountain pumped-storage project. The Rocky Mountain project has been operating since 1995. When the company installed a Maximo asset management system supplied by MRO in June 2003, it also adopted the workflow application. The program allows plant personnel to automate routine maintenance work, enter custom work orders, and efficiently handle emergency work. After five years of using the workflow program, personnel look on it as an important tool that helps them perform tasks efficiency and effectively.

How the application works

Workflow allows you to electronically route and control records created in the system. Virtually any process can use workflow, such as work orders, purchase requisitions, or purchase orders. Records can be inserted into the workflow process either manually when a user initiates the process or automatically by the system. Once in the process, records follow paths through a logic diagram that consists primarily of “evaluation” and “task” nodes. Evaluation nodes route the record down action paths. Task nodes are the points where a record is assigned to a person or group and an action is required to determine which path the record follows next. Each path allows different actions to be taken on the record. For example, a primary action employed in workflow is status control and changes. Other actions include notifications and data setting, which adds data to the record.

Each morning, personnel at the 846-MW Rocky Mountain pumped-storage project meet to review new work orders in the workflow application of the Maximo asset management system. This meeting helps them prioritize and route the work to be performed.
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A newly created work order offers an example of the workflow process. First, the originator of the work order manually enters it into the system, with a “waiting approval” status. The work order then flows through one or more evaluation nodes that determine the department of the originator and assign initial review of the work order. The record then follows a path to a task node that assigns its review to a department manager. When that manager logs into Maximo, the work order record is in his or her inbox, with a task description, such as “review new work order.” After completing this review, the manager hits the route icon to open a dialog box where he or she chooses to either approve or cancel the work order. If the manager chooses approve, the work order status changes to “waiting planning” and the order flows to a planning group task. If the manager chooses cancel, the status changes to “cancel” and the originator of the work order receives an e-mail notification of this status.

The workflow application is very flexible, and a workflow process easily can be made more complex. Simple flows can be combined, leading to many flow options. A record can even flow from one process to another through a sub-process relationship. Task nodes can be combined with manual choice nodes to provide the assignee a choice of multiple flow paths. Virtually any data on a record, as well as related data from another table, can be used for evaluation and definition of actions. For example, for new purchase requisitions we evaluate the general ledger account code and notify the project manager if the requisition references specific capital codes.

Developing the workflow process for Rocky Mountain

Development of the workflow process was a significant task, but one that provided valuable insight into our organization. We had to ask many detailed questions about how we do business. Hours of discussion and interviews with plant personnel helped us create business flow diagrams that we used as the guide for our workflow designs. Just going through the exercise of defining every step in our processes was valuable. Creating the business flow diagrams assured that we defined a continuous flow for our records, from initiation to completion.

Designing the detailed workflow processes was a challenging and time-consuming task. One consultant and one Oglethorpe associate dedicated to the development effort spent about four weeks on the design. Several other associates assisted in clarifying work details and in testing. At the conclusion of this effort, we had one primary flow process for work orders, with three sub-processes, and one primary flow process for purchase requisitions, with five sub-processes.

Work orders

When a work order is entered into workflow, it goes through evaluations that send it to one of three sub-processes. These cover routine preventive maintenance work orders, predictive maintenance work orders, and all other work orders.

As with most computerized maintenance management systems, Maximo has a preventive maintenance application that automatically generates work orders based on predetermined frequencies, meter readings, or conditions. We use this application to launch many preventive and predictive maintenance work orders. By identifying a work group through the preventive maintenance application, we are able to route work orders directly to the appropriate supervisor for assignment. No more searching through report listings to find newly generated preventive maintenance work orders!

To make an assignment, the supervisor simply enters the assignee’s labor code in the “lead” field on the work order and routes the record. The work order status changes to “in progress,” and the record shows up in the worker’s inbox with a task of “work order assigned and work to be performed.”

Personnel at the 846-MW Rocky Mountain pumped-storage project complete the tasks called for in the work orders in the workflow application of the Maximo asset management system.
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Preventive maintenance work orders also can be routed directly to a crew using a specific work group. The work order is broadcast to the inboxes of the entire crew and is labeled “PM work order waiting selection.” Typically, a supervisor who reviews the work scope will direct the crew toward the work orders on which they should take the lead role. However, anyone in the crew can accept the lead role by routing the record and choosing the “accept lead” option. When this action is taken, the “lead” field is populated with this person’s labor code and the task is assigned to that individual.

Manually created work orders (typically for corrective or modification work) are inserted into workflow by the originator. A supervisor evaluates the record to determine the originator, status, and priority. A work order entered by a maintenance craftsman flows to his supervisor, while work orders entered by anyone else go directly to the operations shift supervisor. After review by the supervisor, all non-emergency work orders flow to a meeting group. Every morning at 8, plant personnel meet to review the day’s activities. Part of this meeting is devoted to reviewing all new manually created work orders in the system. Using an overhead projector, each record is displayed for review. This routing and review has proven very valuable for improving accuracy and consistency in our work management system.

Emergency work orders – designated as a “5” priority in Maximo – follow a different path and flow to a broader audience. Both operations and maintenance supervisors receive these records in their Maximo inboxes. The only information the supervisor must enter to get the record to the individual performing the work is the “lead” field. Routing the record places it in the assigned lead’s inbox; changes the status to “in progress;” and sends an e-mail notification to the plant manager, maintenance manager, and all supervisory level personnel. The notification uses data from the record to report the work order number, location and description of the problem, originator, assigned lead, and approver.

Purchase requisitions

When a purchase requisition is entered into workflow, it goes through evaluations that send it to one of five sub-processes. It can flow to the contract services, operations, maintenance, contract supervisor, or inventory reorder process. Since implementing workflow for purchases, efficiency has improved greatly. Requisitions automatically follow the routes established for each department’s organizational hierarchy and cost approval levels. There is no longer a need to query the system for requisitions awaiting approval or to make calls or send e-mails requesting approvals. As soon as a supervisor or manager logs into the system, requisitions requiring his or her attention are waiting in the inbox.

Maximo also allows you to establish reorder details associated with storeroom inventory records that will generate requisitions when the quantity reaches a predetermined level. These requisitions are inserted into workflow as they are created. They flow to the plant manager if they are above a predetermined cost. This allows the manager to maintain control of inventory levels for “big ticket” items and the overall inventory value.

One workflow capability that has added value to the requisition processes at Rocky Mountain is the use of communication templates. As actions are taken during the process, notifications about the action are sent. Originators of requisitions receive an e-mail if their request is canceled or when their requisition has been processed for purchase. Through the use of escalations (predefined actions that are triggered when a preset time limit for a task is exceeded), the originator is notified if the manager does not act on inventory reorders within a certain period. We have even employed notifications to alert a project manager to the fact that a requisition with his project account has been initiated.

Completing tasks

Workflow not only makes initial review and assignment of work orders easier; it makes the work review and record close-out process easier as well. When the lead craftsman completes his work, he enters his time and notes in the record, then routes it for completion. The record status changes to “work complete,” and the work order flows to the inbox of the craftsman’s supervisor for review. When the supervisor completes his or her review and accepts the work, the record goes to the person who originated the work order. By allowing the originator a review, we reduce the number of rework work orders and allow a greater sense of ownership for everyone in the process. Only after the originator completes his or her review will the work order flow to the maintenance coordinator for final data review, receiving a status of “complete” and ending the workflow.

Benefits after five years

Workflow is an integral part of the daily operations and maintenance activities at the Rocky Mountain plant. Most associates are so accustomed to workflow that they forget they can work on a task that is not in their inboxes. Over the past five years, Maximo’s workflow has become just as important a tool as any wrench, screwdriver, or meter in the craftsmen’s toolboxes. It’s hard now to imagine using a computerized maintenance management system without workflow.

We have not performed a formal cost savings analysis related to using workflow, but the savings and improved process performance are obvious. For example, assuming that two plant associates have saved an average of just one minute for each of the nearly 26,000 work orders created since we began using the system, the savings would equate to more than 800 man-hours.

The real gain, however, is in the improved acceptance and use of Maximo by plant associates. Being able to log in and have all records requiring their action sitting in their inboxes makes Maximo “the place” for them to obtain and provide information. Routing records to each associate eliminates much of the need to search the database for information. All the records, along with linked access to data they need each day, are at their fingertips when they log in. This ease of access leads to a positive opinion with increased use of the product and makes plant associates more likely to input the information we need to gain increased value from the workflow system.

Another benefit of workflow is knowing that our business rules are consistently followed for every record created. Having all our work orders and requisitions flow to the right people, in the right order, at the right time, improves our efficiency. This leads to more timely completion of work and delivery of materials.

Don Smith is maintenance coordinator and Dan Morton is control specialist at Oglethorpe Power Corporation’s 846-MW Rocky Mountain pumped-storage project.


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