Field Notes: Jurisdictional model at work in Syracuse
Editor’s note: From time to time, Dean Seavers will tear a page from his notebook and share what he’s learned from customers, stakeholders, and employees across National Grid’s U.S. footprint.
September 8, 2015: You can’t tell from the picture, but boy was I happy to be outside and working early. After eating my way through the Great New York State Fair the night before, I needed all the physical activity I could get.
I ended the summer with a whirlwind trip to Syracuse. In addition to attending the fair, I visited a gas main worksite, and then caught up with employees in a roundtable forum. If I had to choose one theme that winded through each stop of my visit, it would be “local focus”. It occurred to me again and again that I was witnessing our jurisdictional model at work.
A number of things stood out for me.
At the fair, we had our own exhibit booth and a rotation of local employees greeting and interacting with customers. One highlight was a stationary bike where folks were invited to put pedal to the metal and generate power. Another was a live line demo. People really pay attention when this is going on! I stood with a crowd of about 100 and reveled in the awe and respect observers had for our line crew’s expertise.
On the job site, safety reigned. I wasn’t allowed to enter the gas main worksite until I participated in a job brief. The purpose of a job brief is to keep workers and the public safe, by ensuring that all aspects of the job are documented and clear. The in-house crew here was replacing about 2,500 feet of leak-prone pipe that was initially installed in the 1920’s. We’ll replace a total of 38 miles this year, and 120 miles of pipe overall in upstate New York over three years. The way we’re working is indicative of the innovation, efficiency, cost savings and reliability that Connect21 delivers: (1) directional drilling, coring, and vacuum excavation to minimize restoration time; (2) re-purposed existing pipe (pushing new plastic main and service lines through it); and (3) system upgrades.
During our roundtable, it didn’t escape my attention that my colleagues in the room doubled as our customers. We talked about growing the company, enjoying long-tenured careers, and appreciating regional differences. Once again, I was struck by the pride employees have in serving a customer base made up of family and friends. This is consistent with every region I visit.
History has taught us that our colleagues closest to the customer and action have the best view. With that local lens, they’re able to analyze issues, better track costs, make strategic decisions, and gain customer and regulator trust.
I was fortunate to interact with employees in and out of work. Everybody I ran into at the fair had something I just had to see, do, or eat. And I was happy to oblige, since as we all know, our locals always have the best insights.