Most power plants, whether in a fleet or otherwise, have a parent company that provides centralized services. When a fleet of common generation assets exists, a central office for that fleet might provide support in addition to the parent company. An example of this is Entergy, where the parent company is in New Orleans and the central office for the nuclear fleet is in Jackson, Mississippi. Another is the Southern Company in Atlanta, Georgia with their Southern Nuclear Operating Company headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama.
Fleet organizational philosophies are not “one size fits all”
The degree to which a given fleet relies on centralized services varies. Factors such as geography and existence of common technology can drive a given fleet’s centralization approach. Differing leadership styles may also have different centralization philosophies. Some fleets rely heavily on centralized staff, while others have more autonomous sites and minimize the number of centralized workers. Most fleets fall somewhere in between these two extremes and employ a “hybrid approach” to centralization.
Is standardization and/or centralization worth the investment?
Hallmark traits of a top performing fleet are standardization and centralization. Centralization drives economies of scale, and standardization drives effectiveness. Centralization means that common activities are performed in one location by one organization, rather than by separate groups working on a distributed basis. Standardization means applying common processes, procedures and best practices to the way work is performed. If an organization lacks standardization and is decentralized, an investment of time and resources will be required to centralize and/or standardize that organization. Mangers must determine whether investing those resources will yield a compelling return. Factors such as geography, technology, or regulation might decrease the attractiveness of investing in a change.
Which job functions apply?
The job functions that fleets standardize and centralize vary significantly. We have seen many different examples of effective approaches at different fleets around the world. Centralization may not be possible for some functions, for example on-shift operations at a nuclear power plant must be performed at the sites by licensed operators, and therefore cannot be centralized. Other functions such as Information Technology and Quality Assurance lend themselves to a centralized approach. For a fleet, outage-related activities may present opportunities for centralization. Contractor utilization is another form of centralization, as it leverages the centralized resources and expertise of the contractor on an as-needed basis. It is easy to get distracted by tactics, but to succeed, your fleet’s organizational approach must support your overall strategy.
How do you optimize centralization?
Increasing standardization within your organization requires taking a long view. Like Stephen Covey once said, it is helpful to “begin with the end in mind.” An approach to centralization that is grounded in the long view will help balance opportunity with pragmatism. Taking stock of your assets will help you navigate towards the best possible outcome. Several factors play a role in what and how much you centralize:
In addition to assets you must also evaluate your constraints such as work rules and regulations. With a comprehensive picture in place, you can aggressively pursue centralization in the appropriate areas.