Checking-in with our Worcester Electric CMS team

By Maura Mone

Delivering energy to customers is at the heart of what we do – and a big part of that is actually measuring the energy we deliver so that both our customers and our company can track usage for billing purposes. There’s a lot of specialized knowledge that comes along with installing and maintaining our electric meters, so we headed out to check-in with our Worcester electric CMS team to learn more about what they do. Here’s a photo of some team members (Jim Sarkisian, Vera Tenreiro, George Waldron and John Zanfardino):

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The first thing we learned is that there is definitely not a one-size fits all model for electric meters. George Waldron, a senior supervisor in the department, showed us around and explained some of the different models.

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Meter types vary by the way that they measure. For the everyday residential customer, there is a standard meter that measures usage in Kilowatt hours.  A “net meter” is one that is one that can measure KWH both going in and out of a unit (this is what we use for customers who have solar panels).  The Worcester team also installs and maintains Smart Meters, which are part of our Smart Energy Solutions pilot in the area.

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As the amount of energy used increases, so does the complexity of the meters to accommodate varying rate structures. For our largest customers (think big box stores), meters that can measure three elements – KWh, demand and time of usage – are installed. These complex meters allow customers to remotely track and check their usage throughout the billing cycle and make adjustments. Here’s what one of those looks like:

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The meters themselves are just one part of the picture – learning the intricacies of wiring and connecting the meters to the distribution system is a major part of what senior meter workers (Meter worker A’s) are required to do.  It takes about 3 years to progress to the Meter Worker A status, at which time a meter worker can work on connections over 250 volts. To reduce the risk of injury due to arc flash, special PPE is needed, including a face shield, fire retardant clothing and gloves when working on those jobs.

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Meter workers also need to learn a standardized way of connecting wiring to these complex meters – here’s an example of a job aid they use to practice:

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Solar metering is increasingly becoming a major part of what the Worcester meter shop’s work. They help to build the metering systems that are affixed and connected to the poles at our major commercial solar sites, like this one in Southbridge, MA.

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The team is working to improve efficiencies in a number of areas, and they’ve set up a PEx hub to track performance metrics. The HUB has contributed to a number of quality and process improvements for the group. Four “3C’s” were raised and solved within the first 6 weeks:

  1. Long-term Estimates (LTE) backlog – This was a cross-functional CPS with Call Center. As the result of this in-house CPS, a team was formed and is being led by a Meter Worker C (MW-C) directing Meter Service Representatives (MSRs) on a project. The results have been outstanding. Supervisors did not need to be involved with the project and the represented employees involved in the project feel empowered through additional responsibility.
  2. MW-C training opportunity – More hands on training has been provided as a result of the HUB.
  3. Automated Meter Reading (AMR) –Additional notes have been passed along and orders generated to reduce errors in the field.
  4. Second Check process – “Visual looks” on backlogs have been added along with additional tracking to ensure proper accounting is used in timely manner. This process was shared across MA Electric locations an example of sharing standard work/best practices.

In addition, several Communication issues that were either raised by the techs or the supervisors were solved. This ranged from time sheet issues to field or meter equipment issues to stock issues.

“Every meeting has engagement, despite age and experience of the people involved. Techs are willing to share and speak up about topics,” said Vera Tenreiro, Manager, CMS Elec West . “Probably the best part is the way the engagement continues after the hub meeting has concluded within small groups either by themselves or with a supervisor further discussing specific topics brought up in the meeting.”

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There’s a lot going on in our meter departments behind the scenes, and the teams play a major role in the successful operation of our electric business. A special thanks to the whole team for taking time out of their day to show us the ropes!

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