By Bill Grunert, Global Resource Operations Leader at FieldCore
From the earliest days of commercial electricity, industry giants like Thomas Edison, Elihu Thomson (co-founder of the Thomson-Houston Company) and others recognized the critical importance of having experts available to install and maintain power generation equipment at customer sites.
Edison, Thomson and others responded to this need by training what were originally known as “construction” or “test” men to back up their salesmen in the field.
Drawing upon his experience as a science teacher, Thomson developed a ground-breaking training program, titled “Experts” to train these Test Men. When the General Electric Company was formed in 1892 through a merger of the Edison Companies and Thomson’s company, GE’s Field Engineering program was born.
Over the past 127 years, this program has developed a well-deserved reputation for quality, technical expertise and strong relationships with utility customers.
Field Engineers as Global Superheroes
As the electricity industry grew and expanded globally, GE’s Test Men mobilized across the globe and the Field Engineering Program began to more closely resemble the dozens of countries in which it operated. In 1962, the GE Technical Services Company or GETSCO was formed to meet this global need. GETSCO began recruiting engineering talent globally, including the first female Field Engineer, Kaye Nordstrom, who joined the company in the 1980s.
As GE continued to grow and expand, a regional structure was adopted to better meet the needs of customers “in a region from the region.” While this approach has many advantages, it is limited in its ability to flex with global variation in seasonality of work, technological advances proliferating globally and other areas.
This regional approach to meeting customer demand continued through 2017 when FieldCore was born.
A shift in approach
When FieldCore was formed in 2017, it was an opportunity to take a fresh look at how we deploy our most important assets- our people. While the company maintains a strong regional presence, we take a global approach to providing expert craftspeople and Field Engineers for our customers. Rather than drawing from only one region, we look across regional boundaries and take a holistic approach to one of our most critical tasks … Having the right people at the right place at the right time at the right cost.
This approach allows our customers to benefit from the foremost experts in the world on a given technology or challenge, regardless of their “home” region. We have the ability to flex and migrate our resources as customers’ needs and outage seasons dictate.
The importance of consistent capabilities
In order to leverage global expertise, it’s critical to have a common understanding and knowledge level across the organization. At FieldCore, our Field Engineers and Craftspeople range from days of experience to decades. When we send a team to a given site, we’re standing on the shoulders of the original Test Men. Our goal is to have a consistent level of expertise across the organization at a given experience level.
We accomplish this through comprehensive training, capability checking, and rating individuals and crews based on their results and expertise. Our ultimate goal is for every customer to receive our best employee on a given job.
Beyond capability … the shift to a process-focused culture
In addition to rigorous capability requirements, common processes are a must in order to ensure a consistent experience. Fujio Cho, honorary Chairman of the Toyota Motor Corporation famously said:
“We get brilliant results from average people managing brilliant processes while our competitors get average or worse results from brilliant people managing broken processes.”
While 127 years of experience would illustrate clearly that we do not employ “average” people, there is an important lesson in Cho’s approach. Common processes must be the way we work in every corner of the globe on every job. We can only deliver consistent World-Class Execution to our customers through this common approach.
From Superhero to Unsung Hero
If we have common capabilities, expertise and processes, we are building a consistently excellent experience for our customers, shifting from the “heroes of an outage” to the “Unsung Heroes” that go about their business delivering excellent results for our customers as a course of business.
In fact, we so believe in this approach that we have established the Unsung Hero award for the Field Engineer, Wind Technician, Craftsperson or other employee that exemplifies this winning combination of capability and process discipline on a quarterly basis. This award has been extremely well received and is indicative of what we value as a company.
While we’re still a work in progress, we strongly believe this combination of capability & process is something Edison and Thomson would be proud of. Most importantly, this approach leads to successful outcomes for our customers.