Execute more work
We are acting resolutely to increase our production, to ensure a successful energy transition. The solution is not to work harder, but to work smarter, in more integrated a manner and more cost-effectively. Thinking bigger and delivering faster are central to this. In 2021, we started applying four strategies to achieve this.
Collating information from internal sources and our partners at an early stage
It is crucial that we gain a better understanding of future demand from customers, so that we know what to expect and what the implications are for our execution capacity, both now and in the future. That information will allow us to work on and guarantee the feasibility of these plans. We can then plan work better and start it in good time to secure spatial integration when needed. We have been realistic, proactive and transparent in communicating our plans to the outside world over the past year and are working to get permit procedures started as early as possible. We liaise closely with many municipalities to speed up the turnaround time for these procedures.
Proactively organise people, materials and services in a timely manner
We can secure more labour capacity more effectively by offering work in new and innovative ways, and for periods of several years. In 2021, we started applying the contractor strategy that we drew up in 2020. For example, in 2021 we continued to tender larger work packages for longer periods of time, with room for innovation during execution of the work. We proactively organise the required production capacity based on forecasts. This is essential if we are to deal successfully with the growing work package and the uncertainties of the energy transition. In addition, we worked on speeding up tenders in less complex procurement categories, with the goal of reducing the internal turnaround time to ten days.
Raw materials are currently less readily available worldwide and many production lines are running at maximum capacity. To mitigate the effects of the materials shortage, we set up a crisis team in 2021 to limit and prevent problems with the delivery of cables and transformers. The solutions they came up with include reusing refurbished transformers, deploying other types of transformers that are currently available, and using new suppliers. We are building inventories of materials and components to cover our needs for four to six months ahead in order to better cope with fluctuations in availability. We are also looking at the longer term. When material shortages appear likely, we want to be able to respond flexibly, for example by seeking alternatives to lengthy tender processes.
We also opened a new central distribution centre in 2021. This location, from which we supply all the materials required by our engineers and contractors, offers more space for material flows and makes the supply chain more efficient, which will ultimately help us increase production.
Recruit technicians and adopt smart training
To produce more work, we need more workers throughout the production chain. We train technicians in accelerated programmes at our vocational schools. We target a broad audience with our recruitment and training programmes, including young people, refugees with residence permits and newcomers to the industry, and we also create jobs for people covered by the Labour Participation Act. In addition, we are working with the sector to make working in engineering more attractive and accessible. Increasing training capacity throughout the supply chain, in combination with a stronger focus on training, developing and retaining technicians, will ultimately result in a greater number of technicians in the Netherlands.
Simplifying and digitalising work processes
We are successfully raising productivity and reducing work stress by organising, standardising and digitalising work in a smarter way. This involves fundamentally questioning current practices and identifying further opportunities to increase productivity. The modular approach for constructing stations is a good example. This means that we have stations built by contractors and outside suppliers according to a fixed design. That lets us build stations much faster and give customers access to the power they need more quickly. Another example is the use of digital tools to perform tasks (e.g. digital visual inspection), which reduces the amount of time employees spend travelling.
The second Alliander Innovathon took place in November. The idea was to identify integrated solutions for the energy transition. For 24 hours non-stop, 150 participants worked on this theme in 32 teams, from within Alliander and outside the company. The key question was: ‘How can we all radically up the pace to meet our customers’ energy requirements smarter and faster?’ The winning team analysed the long turnaround times for placing new transformer substations that are needed to accommodate increasing electricity consumption. The team accelerated the process by getting all the stakeholders involved, both live and virtually, and enlisting their help to decide on the location. By using alternative collaborative approaches of this type, we will be able to get the desired result faster and ultimately produce more work in the long term.