Zinfra United Energy partners in service, reliability and safety

Since January 2018, United Energy and Zinfra have been working together to manage the operations and maintenance of United Energy’s electricity network in Victoria. The services contract, which has been extended twice since it was initially signed, has proven to be a testament to Zinfra’s position as a trusted delivery partner, and their ability to build and maintain genuine, long-term mutually beneficial partnerships in the energy industry.

There are currently more than 380 Zinfra employees and a number of additional subcontractors engaged in the delivery of this contract, along with approximately 1,002,300 annual work hours, which gives an indication of the size and scope of works involved.

As for all clients that award Zinfra long term contracts, Zinfra provides 24/7 fault and emergency response services to the United Energy network, as well as all maintenance activities on the network, which includes distribution overhead lines, substations, zone substation maintenance, interface with the relevant State transmission assets and safety regulators as and when required.

Zinfra also carries out customer initiated projects, new connections projects and all field switching on the network.

One of the key highlights of the last 12 months of the contract was the fact that together with United Energy, Zinfra has been able to continue to improve network reliability for their client’s customers – particularly impressive in light of the June ‘21 storms which lashed Melbourne, bringing down trees and power lines and affecting more than 88,000 customers across the network. The improved reliability performance is attributable to the close working relationship and collaboration between UE and Zinfra in their focus on getting better.

Despite the challenges associated with the wild weather conditions, United Energy continues to be rated in the top quartile for reliability by the Australian Energy Regulator.

Throughout the entire course of the contract, Zinfra has also consistently met agreed Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The KPIs for the contract include:

  • Total Recordable Injury Frequency Rate (TRIFR)
  • Network performance – minimisation of both planned and unplanned customer outages
  • Customer initiated work delivered safely and on time
  • Work programs delivered safely by due dates
  • Overall customer satisfaction

Safety is the number one priority

Zinfra has a proven track record when it comes to safety, and their safety performance for this contract has been particularly commendable, with impressive results in reducing both lost time injuries and medical treatment injuries.

According to Sebastian Gallo, Zinfra’s Contract and Performance Manager, “We have continued to improve safety performance on the United Energy contract over the past three years. In the last 12 months, we’ve reduced the number of people injured, having only one lost time injury and no medical treatment injuries, a trend that is certainly heading in the right direction.”

Mr Gallo declares that the excellent safety record has been achieved through the strong partnership between Zinfra and United Energy.

“United Energy is actively involved in our safety initiatives, and importantly, they are really supportive of our safety first approach.

“Zinfra’s leadership team is also focused on safety first in everything they do and the field teams are actively involved in decision making with Health and Safety Representatives in each area, taking the initiative in supporting the business and providing feedback and solutions to any safety issues identified.”

This level of accountability is evident across the entire business, with a very strong reporting culture, whereby all Zinfra employees are encouraged to report any hazards and near misses so that everyone within the business can continue to learn.

“Zinfra’s commitment to and focus on safety has been very visible in the provision of network services to United Energy,” said Kieran Connell, Head of Delivery at United Energy.

“It’s fair to say that Zinfra’s safety performance has been the key underpinning platform in United Energy’s decision to extend the contract by two additional years.”

Advances in digitisation

Particularly significant over the past 12 months of this contract have been a number of digital improvements which Zinfra has put in place.

“Zinfra has a keen focus on continuous improvement, and our team has been actively encouraged to come up with ideas that can save time and remove frustrations across this contract,” said Mr Gallo.

“We have been fortunate that many of our employees have skills and interest in technology, and this has enabled us to leverage their understanding of the business to develop digital improvements.”

In the last 12 months, Zinfra has introduced digital dashboards to monitor financial performance, and the team is currently trialling the use of digital time sheeting.

The team has also submitted applications to further digitise a number of processes. These include:

  • An application to digitise the No Go Zone process
  • An application to digitise customer connections
  • An application to manage the metering and servicing process
  • An application to manage stock picking through bar code scanning

“We’ve achieved a lot already when it comes to digitisation, and it continues to be a work in progress. Ultimately, this work will make the business more efficient, and remove some of the frustrations from our employees’ tasks,” said Mr Gallo.

A successful partnership

After more than three years of working together, the teams from United Energy and Zinfra have developed a close working relationship, which is paying dividends for both parties.

“Having joined Zinfra over a year ago, it is great to see the true partnership between Zinfra and United Energy in delivering safe and reliable services to end consumers,” said Nirooshan Sachchithananthan, Field Operations Manager at Zinfra.

“This partnership has seen significant improvements in reliability metrics, fault responses and safety improvement. The partnership has also extended to challenging the status quo and driving improvement in both businesses.”

“United Energy and Zinfra continue to challenge the operational status quo with a specific focus on ensuring United Energy’s customers are provided with the safest, most efficient best value electricity supply,” said Mr Connell.

Mr Gallo highlights “The key to the success of this contract has been the excellent operational performance and the close collaboration between the client and the service provider.”

“We have been able to respond to the client’s needs, and the client has been understanding of the challenges that have been faced by the service provider.

“We’re looking forward to continuing this partnership for many years to come.”

Laura Harvey is a fifteen-year veteran of trade publishing in the energy and infrastructure sectors. Currently she’s the Editor of Utility’s sister publication, Energy. During her time in the publishing sector, Laura has seen significant changes to the way the sector operates. What has remained constant throughout her career, whether she’s working on a magazine, a blog post, a video or an event, is her focus on connecting audiences with quality, engaging and thought-provoking content.

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