Victoria’s energy transmission into the 2020’s

AusNet Services owns and operates the Victorian electricity transmission network, as well as one of five electricity distribution networks and one of three gas distribution networks in Victoria. In March 2020, Zinfra became the operations and maintenance provider for AusNet Services’ transmission and distribution stations network, playing a vital role in the state’s power system security.

The TOMSA (Transmission Operations and Maintenance Services Agreement) represents a significant change to the AusNet Services’ delivery model, which has previously been achieved through a mix of in-house delivery and service delivery partners.

Mark James, Operations Manager at Zinfra, said that the organisation’s proven track record of being a trusted delivery partner in the utility sector put it in good stead.

“AusNet Services is looking to generate greater value for its customers, shareholders and other stakeholders and to achieve that it required a service provider that was well established in the market, with proven credentials around delivering operations, maintenance works and major projects but more importantly a partner with a proven and successful track record of managing outsourced services within our industry ” Mr James said.

“We were seen as a very credible and trusted partner, and one that AusNet Services felt confident in taking over the operations and maintenance, a large portion of its transmission network in the first stage, and delivering these services safely, cost-effectively and to quality and network reliability standards.”

September 2020 marked the completion of the Transition Phase – a contractual set of milestones in the agreement between Zinfra and AusNet Services for delivery under the TOMSA.

“Now that the Transition Phase is complete, we are subject to the full contractual mechanisms, including KPI performance. Following the Transition phase, we move towards our capability as a pure service provider, with our plant, tools and equipment, managing the day-to-day operations of the different sites, etc” Mr James said.

“We embrace continuous improvement, and since Mobilisation and during the Transition Phase we identified various process improvements that were needed. For example, we had to quickly implement a new electronic time-sheeting application because of the change and inability to use the legacy solution post Mobilisation. Employees can now use their mobile phones to submit their timesheets, which sounds like a relatively minor thing, but was established within a very short timeframe, with minimal cost, developed with key input from field employees and is also being rolled out across the contracts Zinfra has with Jemena and United Energy.

“In addition, by March 2021 we will have completely moved off AusNet Services’ legacy field mobility solution and we’ll have our own Digital Work Order Management (DWOM) solution, which will be designed in line with user needs and offer a great user experience.”

Working together for the benefit of the client

As part of its commitment to building and maintaining genuine partnerships, Zinfra has utilised a ‘One Zinfra’ approach between its Power Services and Projects & Construction businesses to ensure seamless communication with its client.

“We want to present a unified front to our client AusNet Services. As a Zinfra business we are there to provide solutions. Internally within Zinfra, we work behind the scenes to assess the work and AusNet Services needs and determine how best to deliver “ Mr James said.

“The aim is to make it really simple for the client to get the work done in a competitive way and so far, it’s been quite successful.”

Zinfra has also been carrying out targeted recruitment activities to grow its workforce and ensure it continues to have the very best people delivering services to its client.

The need for this newly-expanded workforce becomes even more crucial as Zinfra wins additional project work with AusNet Services, which will be delivered by the TOMSA team.

“The additional works provision under the contract allows other works, namely project work and network augmentation activities. One of the features of that is that it prescribes an upfront set of agreed rates and conditions. The client doesn’t need to have separate commercial instruments in place, they can just use the mechanisms under the TOMSA to engage our team to do the work easily and quickly” Mr James said.

“It also ensures that we’ve got a fully utilised workforce, and our employees are engaged on interesting and varied work. It’s a win for the client because it’s a very efficient way of getting works done.”

Adapting to achieve the right outcomes every day

For Zinfra, one of the main challenges with the TOMSA has been adapting to the ongoing restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This contract went live in March 2020 so it has known no other environment other than a COVID-19 landscape. Having said that, it hasn’t significantly impacted the team in being able to deliver the work, however it has been difficult leading people through the change without a physical presence. With a field workforce, face-to-face communication is obviously the most effective and desirable communications mediums, but the pleasing thing is that our teams have responded very well and understand the severity of the situation,” Mr James said.

For Zinfra, the TOMSA has not only developed its capabilities within the transmission sector, but has also strengthened the collaborative relationship between Zinfra and AusNet Services.

“The transmission network is a very important component of the overall energy network. It’s design built to be resilient, but when there’s a problem, it can potentially be significant so having a competent and responsive delivery partner that understands the specific needs and requirements of the transmission network is extremely important for the client ” Mr James said.

“We’ve got an important role to play for our client in ensuring that the network operates safely and securely. We do the work to operate and maintain this critical infrastructure, so that the continued reliability of the network is maintained for the benefit of the client and customers.”