June 2009, Vol. 21, No.6

Succession Planning

Designing A New Position

Dale E. Kocarek and Mark J. Livengood

Montgomery County (Ohio) Water Services (MCWS), a large, professionally managed utility services organization, employs 220 people in a wide variety of job classifications ranging from customer service to information technology personnel to heavy equipment operators. In 2006, MCWS began looking at ways to consolidate two particular job classifications into a single position. By merging the positions of maintenance mechanic and electrical and instrumentation (EI) technician, MCWS hoped to make service calls requiring both mechanical and electrical skills more efficient.

When alarm conditions occur at a water booster pump or sanitary sewage lift station, the system operator would call in personnel to investigate and correct the condition. Often, alarm conditions were communicated in terms that could be caused by either mechanical or electrical problems, sometimes making it difficult to determine which type of staff to dispatch.

If a mechanic was called in and the problem was mechanical, the problem would be addressed. However, if the problem was found to be electrical in nature, the responding mechanic would have to request an EI technician to respond. This would slow corrective time and, in some instances, create additional operational risks. For example, if a sanitary wastewater pump had failed, the delay could lead to lower than acceptable water pressures or water-in-basement complaints.

By consolidating mechanical and electrical corrective skills, most booster and lift station tasks, as well as water reclamation facility maintenance tasks, could be addressed by a single person, thus reducing both operating costs and the time the utility systems remained in alarm state.

Union Measures
Of MCWS’ 220 employees, 158 are represented by a union, which negotiates terms and conditions of employment as part of a collective bargaining agreement. MCWS currently employs nine people as maintenance mechanics and six as EI technicians, working in either field maintenance tasks or at the two water reclamation facilities.

In order to merge these two skills sets, management had to obtain the full support of the employee union. After researching Ohio’s job classification database, MCWS determined that a new classification specification would be needed to adequately address the skills, knowledge, and abilities required of the new consolidated position. A new classification of electromechanical maintenance technician (EMT) was created and reviewed by the union and the State of Ohio.

Requirements and Rewards
Prior to setting a training program into motion, MCWS had to address fundamental aspects of the new position, including pay scale, type of training modules required, and how new skills should be evaluated. In addition, the utility had to account for existing employees who wished to remain in their current classification after the training versus those in the new position. Finally, it was imperative that the new training system not affect current work loads or take time away from existing work.

Training Modules
After considering these issues, MCWS decided that pursuing the new job classification would be optional for existing employees but mandatory for new hires. The utility developed a self-study program based on existing industry-accepted training modules. The program includes 14 modules. The table (below) lists the module titles and topics.

Upon entry into the program, each employee takes a pretest to measure competency in all 14 areas of study. The pretest is proctored by members of management not directly supervising the employees in the program. When an employee performs well in a specific topic on the pretest, he or she receives credit for that topic.

The employees then must complete training modules for the topic areas they did not pass. Employees receive study materials for all 14 areas of study, even the areas they pass during the pretest. After completing the remaining modules, they take a multiple-choice exam of about 50 questions to document their learning. A grade of 70% is required to pass. MCWS foots the bill for the modules.

Employees must complete all 14 modules on their own time within 3 years of entry into the program. This averages out to completion of about one module every 3 months.

Work Requirements
In addition to the modules, employees in the program also must complete 500 hours each of mechanical and electrical work tasks. The hours are measured and documented by internal work orders tracked by the utility’s computerized maintenance management system.

Existing mechanics were automatically credited with the mechanical task requirement but would have to complete 500 hours of electrical work tasks. Similarly, existing EI technicians were credited with electrical work tasks but had to complete 500 hours of mechanical work tasks.

To complete such tasks effectively, as well as for safety reasons, mechanics and EI technicians had to help each other and look over each other’s shoulders while needed work tasks were performed.

New hires must complete 500 hours of each type of task while being monitored by more experienced personnel.

Correspondence Course
Also within 3 years of hire or starting the program, all existing and new hires would have to successfully complete a basic water distribution, sewer collection, or wastewater plant operations correspondence course as offered by the Operator Training Committee of Ohio.

Upon successful completion of all 14 training modules, completing all required mechanic and electrical work tasks, and passing an appropriate correspondence course, the employee would receive a lump-sum payment and be moved into a higher pay scale.

Training Begins

Between Oct. 29 and Dec. 1, 2008, existing personnel had to decide whether to pursue the new job classification. Of the 15 eligible mechanics and technicians, two chose to opt into the program. New hires who began working in January 2009 immediately began work as an EMT.

With recent regional job layoffs in the automotive manufacturing and support industries, MCWS believes attracting employees with the skill sets needed to perform well as an EMT should be easy. MCWS also believes that creating the EMT position will further improve cost-control measures already adopted.

Dale E. Kocarek is a project manager at Stantec Consulting Inc. (Columbus, Ohio), and Mark J. Livengood is the water reclamation services superintendent at Montgomery County Water Services (Kettering, Ohio).

MCWS Training Modules for Electromechanical Maintenance Technician

Reading blueprintsMachine drawings, hydraulic and pneumatic drawings, piping and plumbing, electrical and HVAC drawings
Reading schematics and symbolsElectrical, piping, hydraulic, pneumatic, welding, and HVAC symbols
Basic electricity and electronicsStatic and current electricity; magnetism; current, resistance, and potential difference; DC and AC circuits
Transformers and AC circuitsPrinciples of AC current, three-phase circuits, principles of transformers
Electrical safety and protectionElectrical hazards, safety equipment and procedures, ground faults and short-circuits
Three-phase systemsThree-phase motors, motor starters, power distribution systems
Air-conditioning control equipmentMotor starters, switches, and controls; control relays; motor control centers
Electrical troubleshootingUsing schematics and drawings to troubleshoot; troubleshooting devices, motors, and lighting systems
Basic mechanicsForces and motion, fluid mechanics, measurement tools and instruments, safe use of tools
Lubricants and lubricationCharacteristics of lubricants and additives, bearing lubrication, special-purpose lubricants
BearingsBearings and shafts, antifriction and roller bearings, bearing seals and lubrication
PumpsPump hydraulics; centrifugal, propeller, and turbine pumps; metering pumps; packing and seals
Bearings and shaft sealsRemoving and replacing bearings, linear motion bearings and shafts
Pump installation and maintenanceMaintaining packings and seals, maintaining centrifugal and rotary pumps
HVAC = heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.

©2009 Water Environment Federation. All rights reserved.

HVAC = heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.©2009 Water Environment Federation. All rights reserved.