Power plants and their grids have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. As the world relies more heavily on electricity and the need for clean power becomes more urgent, these facilities must adapt and improve. Lean management principles provide the path to that improvement.
As power companies and government agencies aim to upgrade grids and build new power plants, they should consider a lean management approach. Here are five ways these strategies can help organizations create better energy infrastructure.
1. Expanding Renewable Energy
One of the most significant benefits of a lean management approach for power plants is the expansion of renewable energy. The clean energy transition is crucial, but technologies like solar and wind power must become more affordable and scalable for it to happen. Lean enables that shift by minimizing costs and maximizing capacity.
While renewables’ ongoing expenses are cheaper than fossil fuels in most cases, they still come with high upfront costs. Renewable technology manufacturers can counter this by embracing lean principles, minimizing waste and enabling lower prices. Power plants and other users could then install more solar panels or wind turbines with less investment.
As these technologies become more affordable to end-users, renewable adoption will rise, helping the world move away from fossil fuels faster. Removing waste will also allow manufacturers to scale production up to meet the increasing demand for renewables with minimal disruption.
2. Reducing Energy Waste
Lean management principles can help power plants minimize energy waste. While new technologies enable more efficient energy production, the traditional power generation and distribution approach is outdated. Lean management will drive power companies to rethink how grids and plants operate, leading to more substantial, less wasteful changes.
Taking a lean approach to renewable energy distribution is one of the most important of these changes. Since renewables can’t adjust according to demand, they typically overproduce at some times of day and underproduce at others. Lean strategies would rethink how the system operates to mitigate this waste, favoring more flexible operations.
A lean power plant could use smart transformers and battery storage technologies to let them adapt to dynamic power needs. They could then transfer renewable power where it’s needed at any moment and prevent waste.
3. Optimizing Maintenance
Another area of power plant operations needing leaner management is maintenance. A typical transformer can last for 20 to 30 years, but only with proper care — and failures and replacements are costly.
Traditional, run-to-failure maintenance approaches are too inefficient and unreliable for modern energy needs. Lean management principles would bring more proactive repair strategies like predictive maintenance. As power plants embrace these high-efficiency, low-waste approaches, their infrastructure will last longer and operating costs will fall.
Lean maintenance will further reduce costs by removing downtime from unnecessary repairs, as it aims to eliminate anything not delivering value. Predictive technologies would enable need-based early care, maximizing uptime while minimizing expenses.
4. Increasing Resilience
These other improvements all help make electrical infrastructure more resilient — something that’s become increasingly crucial. Major power outages have become more common over the past few years, highlighting the need for more reliable infrastructure. A lean management approach could deliver that improvement.
As power plants optimize their maintenance strategies and embrace new technologies in the name of lean management, they’ll become more resilient. More efficient power generation technologies would push grids away from outdated systems and proactive repairs would prevent equipment failures.
Since lean strategies save power companies money, they’ll have more to spend on infrastructure upgrades. Similarly, lean manufacturing among producers of smart transformers and similar technologies would reduce the upfront costs of these upgrades. Consequently, power plants could transition to more reliable systems faster.
5. Fostering Continuous Improvements
Finally, lean principles would bring a spirit of continuous improvement to power plants. Considering how 70% of large transformers and power lines are at least 25 years old, this shift could bring substantial improvements.
These ongoing upgrades are crucial while the world transitions to clean energy, as renewables carry unique needs and concerns. If power plants embrace rapid innovation and testing, they can ensure they create the ideal environments to capitalize on these technologies.
Lean Management Drives Power Grid Improvements
A lean management approach is essential as power companies look to move past historical shortcomings. If more plants embraced lean principles, the U.S. energy grid as a whole would become more efficient and resilient.
Energy needs in the U.S. are shifting. The industry must also adapt to cater to this transition — and that means capitalizing on lean management’s potential.