So far in our blog series on automating your Operations and Planning processes, we’ve examined FAC-008 – both Automating the Facility Ratings Management Process (FAC-008) and 6 Ways to Automate Your Facilities Management Processes. Today we’ll take a closer look at a different standard: PRC-005, which addresses Protection System and Automatic Reclosing Maintenance.
Challenges with PRC-005 compliance and processes
PRC-005 is problematic for utilities in a variety of ways. Like FAC-008, it’s complex and covers a vast number of devices that must be maintained on both a scheduled and ad hoc basis. Maintenance, inspection, repair, change management, and more fall under its purview, and also like FAC-008, many of these processes are still being managed manually with hard-copy paperwork, spreadsheets, repeated data entry, and other inefficient methods.
These inefficiencies aren’t typically a problem for NERC; they require that you have a maintenance plan in place, but leave you to determine how to go about it. But they can be a serious issue for your business. Inadequate processes put your electric system (most importantly) and your compliance adherence at risk.
For example, say your organization handles scheduled maintenance by generating work orders for your crew to go out and calibrate and test the required relays. Your staff arrives at the facility and completes the forms by hand. The check sheet then advises that the forms be delivered to the maintenance supervisor, who provides a manual approval that may or may not be documented. The maintenance supervisor passes the hard-copy forms to an SAP administrator, who scans/uploads some portion of the paperwork into SAP and discards the original documentation.
This manual chain of custody almost always results in lost details and low fidelity around what actually occurred. The original crew may very well have completed everything correctly and on time, but without all the details, it becomes difficult to show the correlation between what was done and what ended up in the maintenance system.
The same concerns apply to event-driven maintenance. If your crew visits a facility to investigate an incident, for instance, they are expected to perform “as found” and “as left” tests at the beginning and end of the engagement. If they find an issue, however, there is another process to go through in order to get the protection system fixed. Without clearly defined processes, those steps are often unclear. As a result, they may not know what to do to fix the issue immediately and the equipment is left in service – creating a serious liability for your system.
Advantages to automating your protection system maintenance processes
Automated management software for protection system maintenance addresses these use cases and more. It provides a standardized approach to equipment maintenance, inspection and testing to improve NERC compliance specifically and your maintenance processes as a whole.
At the highest level, automated compliance management systems ensure that the process that your organization created to address PRC-005 actually gets followed. It provides a process-based framework that translates your schedule into tasks and actions instead of relying on someone remembering to do something. The system codifies the steps necessary to manage both ongoing, scheduled maintenance and ad hoc, event-driven issues, so manual error goes way down and documented compliance goes way up.
Tactically, NERC compliance management from SigmaFlow streamlines PRC-005 processes in a variety of ways. With SigmaFlow, you can:
- Implement a controlled process that is automatically triggered based on a schedule. This controlled process makes sure that all engineers follow the same process based on equipment type and can be iterated on based on previous issues for continuous improvement.
- Dynamically assign tasks to the appropriate personnel based on the equipment, its location, department, and other applicable attributes.
- Automatically allocate the task duration based on the equipment type and the type of work that needs to be performed.
- Track and store audit logs of all activity for each piece of equipment.
- Perform lookback analysis using dashboard and trend reports to identify areas of improvement and adjust or refine your equipment maintenance and protection plan.
More strategically, an automated approach from SigmaFlow enables you to go beyond the minimal compliance required by NERC to optimize your maintenance processes across the organization. It gives you the tools and structure to maintain all equipment consistently – not just the equipment mandated by NERC – and incorporate additional maintenance requirements and activities such as those recommended by a manufacturer for warranties or general best practices.
In this way, your organization can avoid a common problem: Companies that struggle because they’ve only put enough controls in place to manage minimal compliance. Sometimes it’s because you miss a single maintenance cycle, but have no “buffer” built in to protect you from a violation. Sometimes the standards evolve and you’re responsible for keeping up. PRC-005, for instance, originally only mandated that you have a maintenance protection program. Now, in v6, it states that you must specify the dates that your equipment must be maintained and what you’re going to do to abide by them. If you’re only set up to “check the box” on the original standard, and you have an event or failure, you will still be held accountable to the latest version and good utility practices.
SigmaFlow allows you to easily exceed minimal compliance requirements while adding business value. We ensure that you’re running an up-to-date inventory of all of your protection assets that need to be maintained, identify NERC’s requirements for each, understand how you currently maintain your protection systems, then build a customized solution that leverages automation in the most effective ways. We add automation across your processes, from event-driven activities flowing into the software to scheduling regular maintenance activities in a way that allows enough flexibility to account for change management. We help you gain a deep overall understanding of your maintenance requirements, activities, and processes so that we can best automate and calibrate your relays and more.
As a result, the business benefits of an automated approach to protection system maintenance go beyond PRC-005 compliance. Instead of tackling maintenance events one-by-one, you gain the holistic visibility to improve the efficiency of your maintenance program across the board. For example, instead of sending crews from station to station chasing relays that have come up for calibration, SigmaFlow can organize where all of your required activities are physically located and optimize accordingly. It may recommend that you work on one station first, because it has several relays with pending NERC-specific requirements, then move to others in the most timely, efficient way.
Protection system maintenance isn’t just a matter of compliance – it can seriously impact your business operations. An automated solution like SigmaFlow offers both the tactical capabilities to stay on top of PRC-005 compliance and the strategic framework to improve your maintenance operations at every level of the organization.
SigmaFlow is a leading provider of Process Execution solutions. The company’s NERC Compliance Solution is a real-time, evidentiary based software solution that solves the challenges of CIP & 693 Compliance. The SigmaFlow Compliance Solution manages all documents, data, and work activities while automatically collecting and building the evidence for NERC compliance in a real-time repository. SigmaFlow products place a strong emphasis on embedding domain knowledge through a process-driven template-based-architecture. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.