Volume 7 | Issue 6 | Year 2004

As confirmed following the Northeast blackout of August 2003 and the utility financial crisis brought on by the collapse of Merchant Power in 2002, reliability of supply and cost control are key issues facing the utility industry today.

Explains Kuhlman Electric Vice President of Sales and Marketing Brian O’Leary: “To reduce total cost and improve customer service many utilities are switching to strategic sourcing and away from the bid and buy concept. In doing so utility sourcing teams are increasingly partnering with Kuhlman, whose core competences and total supply chain experience are reducing the transformer related costs of providing reliable electric service.”

To help utilities stay competitive, Kuhlman Electric, the oldest independent transformer manufacturer in the industry, has brought to market several industry advances; among these is its Dynamic Ratings(tm) monitoring and control system, field retrofitted to increase the life expectancy and improve the utilization of utilities’ existing power transformer fleets. In addition Kuhlman’s Field Engineering Services Division has grown to provide utilities with complete turnkey installation on both Kuhlman and other manufacturers’ power transformers.

These innovations are just the tip of the iceberg for a company that most probably played a fundamental role in the evolution of the utility industry in its region of the U.S., helping a rural economy blossom throughout the 20th century. It was founded in 1893 by Arthur Etna Kuhlman who set up shop with a start-up workforce of two in Elkhart, Ind. Here the company’s very first transformer was designed and produced. More than 100 years later the product line has grown to encompass four operating divisions.

In addition to Field Engineering Services, the Kuhlman operating divisions include the Medium Power Transformer Division, which manufactures medium-power transformers rated from 7.5 up to 70 megavolt-amperes and up to 161 kilovolts, for bulk power delivery. The Instrument Transformer Division manufactures transformers from 600 volts to 500 kilovolts, rated through 50,000 amperes. These are designed to meet all the metering and relay needs of electric utility generation, transmission and distribution. Finally, the Distribution Transformer Division manufactures overhead, padmount and submersible distribution transformers, all custom-built for the utility electric distribution system.

Manufacturing is located in a 250,000-square-foot plant in Versailles, Ken., which also houses the company’s headquarters, and another plant in Crystal Springs, Miss., which measures 165,000 square feet.

The quicker the better
The company’s claim to fame, however, lies in its agility in producing innovative, quality products within short lead times, with a high rate of on-time delivery and responsive engineering support for its customers.

“Our core competencies of short lead times, high on-time, engineering, quality and entrepreneurship are extendable across all four divisions and have contributed significantly to our overall growth,” O’Leary says. “We’ve achieved this through continuous quality improvement both internally and customer/partner driven. We are proud of our improvements in products and services in collaboration with our key customers.”

Each division, he adds, has made major strides in adding value to products as well as to quickening its level of service. The Power Division, he explains, has built “the finest control cabinet in the industry,” according to customers who worked alongside Kuhlman’s engineering and manufacturing personnel to produce transformers that are user friendly and easy to maintain. In the distribution area, Kuhlman’s customer inventory management programs have contributed “significant cost savings in inventory reduction and just-in-time availability.” Likewise, in the supply of instrument transformers, O’Leary notes, “Kuhlman’s entrepreneurship in design has facilitated extensive new programs in utility metering to accommodate the unbundling of generation, transmission and distribution systems.”

Partners across the globe
Outside of the success the company has achieved within its operating divisions, Kuhlman also has triumphed in building partnerships with companies across the globe, enabling it to deliver on its promise to bring significant cost reduction and value enhancement solutions to its customers. Through its own strategic sourcing program, Kuhlman Electric has realized savings across the board and has made itself a valued player in the field.

These partnerships include Arteche of Spain, Mexico and Venezuela, whose recently modernized facility in Tepeji del Rio (north of Mexico City) contributed enormously to making the recent deregulation in Texas go smoothly and efficiently. Further, O’Leary adds, “Our accurate forecasting and capacity planning was key to Kuhlman-Arteche’s success in providing both medium and high voltage transformers to meet the most recent needs in utility metering.”

A partnership with Dynamic Ratings out of Melbourne, Australia, with U.S. headquarters in Wisconsin “has demonstrated to utilities around the country how much their existing asset utilization can be improved by having a superior means of monitoring, communicating and controlling performance of their existing power transformers,” O’Leary says. “The combination of Kuhlman Field Engineering Services and Dynamic Ratings provides the utility with a complete, turnkey installed, state-of-the-art monitoring and control system.”

The Kuhlman-GEA/Renzmann & Gruenewald partnership has enabled utilities to install reliable and long-lasting pumps and cooling packages and to improve the output of their existing power transformers, O’Leary stresses.

The Kuhlman-Moser Glaser (MGC) partnership “brings to utilities an ideal offering in fully insulated busbar systems for substations and power stations particularly for applications in confined spaces,” he adds.

Building on its partnership with Kanohar Electricals Limited, a provider of small power transformers up to 5 megavolt amperes, based in Meerut, India, Kuhlman has most recently announced a new partnership in large power transformers with Condumex/IEM of Mexico City. These partnerships take advantage of Kuhlman’s particular brand of expertise in the areas of turnkey installation and service.

The company takes its role seriously in other ways as well, particularly of its participation in the Utility Supply Management Alliance (USMA) group (www.usma.com) O’Leary, who is a founding board member and 2005 program chairman, describes the organization as a group of utilities and suppliers formed to stage an annual conference to provide “take-it-home-and-use-it” information on strategic sourcing and supply chain management.

Big developments
When it comes to R&D, Kuhlman is a “fast learning organization,” bigger on development than on research, O’Leary notes. This is because Kuhlman is continually learning from its customers and responding to their requests.

Among these requests was a device that could facilitate high-accuracy revenue meter reading. To help utilities successfully carry out this task, Kuhlman has introduced the ACCUSlip(tm) slipover current transformer, which provides metering accuracy and needs no foundation or construction work, as it fits over the bushing of a power transformer or circuit breaker. The proprietary high-accuracy revenue metering design can achieve excellent results down to ratios of 200:5 or lower.

Another new product, the station service voltage transformer (SSVT), enables utilities to directly use power line voltage for station power, avoiding the need for a distribution line or a generator at the location. “This cuts down significantly on the costs,” O’Leary says. The SSVT performs its operation mounted onto a pedestal or pole with a primary cable tied to the transmission line. The secondary cables are connected to the station power panel. The device delivers self-contained power from the transmission line and eliminates reliance on outage-susceptible distribution lines, or power transformer tertiaries for control power by placing SSVT within the substation.

In the areas of power transformer auxiliary cooling, insulating media and oil preservation, Kuhlman has conducted several successful research projects for its long-term customers. Customer-supplier projects like these, which rarely take place in the one-off “bid and buy” environment, yield significant immediate benefits within the sourcing partnership, bringing together the utility customer, the transformer supplier and its supply partners.

In the area of field engineering Kuhlman provides a patented inspection service for existing current transformers to verify functionality and accuracy.

“If Kuhlman is your sourcing partner, you can be assured that we will more than honor our obligation to keep customers aware of the latest developments,” stated O’Leary.

“Another advantage to doing business with Kuhlman is our flexibility,” he adds. “Many of our competitors have a fixed way of doing business and don’t readily respond and adapt to customer needs. Kuhlman’s lean, anti-bureaucratic organization, with a flat management structure makes us an ideal partner and enables us to respond quickly.” Kuhlman also constantly measures and communicates its own performance to ensure it continually outpaces prior performance levels; as O’Leary says: “That’s why we do so well in the strategic sourcing model.”

Combining a high level of innovation and expertise in its core competencies with its ability to develop partnerships that advance its strategic sourcing business model has enabled Kuhlman Electric to become a major force in the utility industry. All of these initiatives have one thing in common: a dynamic company that knows how to solve problems – at lightening speed.

Previous articleDeck Designs
Next articleWarming Trends