We first learned about the paper-based work instruction problem back in 2015. Devbridge Group was working with a large energy provider to improve the way they managed and executed work packages. We partnered with maintenance managers, planners, procedures writers and craftsman to learn about the enormous effort that went into creating paper-based work instructions. The process was slow, inefficient, and prone to human error. When a plant wanted to perform maintenance, a step-by-step set of instructions was produced specifically for each job. Pages from different equipment manuals, industry standards, and plant-specific knowledge were assembled into binders and taken into the field to complete work.
The resulting binders were cumbersome to use in the field. Procedures contained references that required jumping between pages to find what was needed. Measurements were written down manually with no validation. Place keeping was performed in an untraceable, error-prone method of circles and slashes, and valuable data trends about equipment and operations were lost in archives. The resulting process was costing the power industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year to produce and maintain — and it wasn't producing quality results. An EPRI report found that 52% of unplanned reactor shutdowns occurred as a result of poor work instruction quality.
It was clear the industry was struggling with work instruction quality, and the market offered few solutions. A common approach was to digitize the paper-based process into PDFs and view them on a mobile device, but this only reproduced the same problems in a digital way. No one was fixing the underlying problem: how the procedures were written. These procedures were written in a way that conformed to the constraints of paper. Procedures needed to be rewritten in a way that took full advantage of emerging mobile technology advances.
Another trend was also wreaking havoc on the industry: companies were struggling to attract young talent to replace its aging workforce of planners and procedure writers. Engineers with 30+ years in the industry were retiring and taking invaluable knowledge and experience with them. A US Energy and Employment Report found that 76% of energy employers struggled to find enough qualified workers and the issue was only getting worse.
So, we set out to create a solution that tackles these problems. We want to make power generation more efficient, cleaner and safer — something lean. We chose the name Lean Power not only because it embodies our vision, but also echoes our software development approach — using lean and agile practices to build software quickly and iteratively.
We are focused on achieving three outcomes for our customers: to decrease operational costs, increase worker productivity, and reduce plant risk. To reduce onboarding costs, and aid the transition from paper to digital, we created a parser that converts existing Word and PDF documents into digital procedures. We built a procedure editor, publishing system, and mobile app to perform tasks in the field — all within six months.
In the process of solving the work instruction problem, we realized we could also reduce the knowledge vacuum affecting the industry by making expertise more accessible. We had created a framework of best practice that could be used across plants, fleets, and the entire industry — a community where equipment manufacturers, industry specialists, and operators could collaborate and share best practice. You were no longer constrained by the resources at your plant. You could tap into the power of an entire industry to help you.
We're just getting started, and are excited to see what comes next. If you're interested in creating the future with us, let's chat.
There are three types of work instructions used in the power industry today: paper, electronic and digital. In this post we explore how these approaches differ, and why there is a need to change the thinking in our industry.