A new technical brochure “TB 744” has been developed by Working Group B2.53 to assist owners of power networks with outsourcing transmission line project management and acquiring expertise to supplement in-house technical resources. Whilst the focus relates to transmission line practices, the principles are applicable to all disciplines associated with power network development and operation. This TB describes the benefits and risks of the outsourcing as well as the criteria that can be used to achieve successful outcomes.
The increasing business focus on financial targets may lead to a lower priority being placed on the retention of sustainable levels of in-house capability. TB 744 provides a historical context, and includes a survey, which examined the nature of services required by Asset Owners, as well as the criteria that have achieved successful outcomes with engagement of external specialists. Major themes identified are to ensure the scope of work is adequately defined and good communications are maintained. These are essential elements irrespective of whether the work is undertaken by internal resources or external technical expertise.
Outsourcing benefits and risks is a key topic. These depend on a number of factors including business relationships, appropriate knowledge/expertise, delineation of roles and expectations, quality of information and so on. Usually, risks are associated with a negative outcome that inevitably will cause suffering of both parties.
Significant benefits for an asset owner are the means to access specialised expertise not held within the organization, especially for introduction of new technology; and consequent transfer of skills to in-house personnel. In return, benefits for the service provider (not identified in the TB) are the opportunities for their team to obtain direct site construction experience and gain awareness of sustainable asset management concepts.
Of particular interest are the business challenges associated with unplanned/emergency events that cause major disruption to the network. Rapid response is highly dependent on knowledge of the system and response strategies. Asset Owners need to retain “institutional knowledge”, including guidelines and generic designs to manage unplanned line failure events. When such events occur, access to very particular skills, expertise and manpower is required at short notice. The maintenance of adequately skilled design engineering personnel can be further complicated if there is total reliance on external service providers rather than in-house expertise.
Globalisation has invited the presence of service providers with a comparatively poor understanding of the Asset Owner’s needs and interests, and also less interest in specifically addressing those needs and interests because they have very little dependency on any one Asset Owner. This includes little understanding about local design practice and asset reliability expectations, as well as lack of knowledge of relevant industry standards and local legislation, particularly safety legislation and work practices. Unless an asset owner has significant purchasing power, it can be difficult to change the behavior of its new service provider. Furthermore, cultural differences can impede communication of expectations & intent for both parties.
While not discussed in the TB, some other issues that could have been examined are:-
The Technical Brochure (TB) 744 can be viewed on e-CIGRE and is free to members. The cost to non-members is €130.