Knowledge is power. Nowhere is that phrase more true — and literally so — than in the electric power industry. In today’s world, most of us take for granted the availability of electric power. Consumers and businesses now demand that electric utility companies provide affordable and reliable power that meets their changing demands. The utilities are faced with new challenges of their own; with deregulation, they must be competitive to succeed. They need to do more with less, maximizing their assets and minimizing outages, oftentimes with reduced work forces and tighter budgets.
Fortunately, the electric power industry has had a strong, reliable partner for more than 80 years: Doble Engineering Company. Based in Boston, Doble is internationally recognized as a leader in the products and services that maximize the safe and efficient delivery of electric power. What the company is doing right now is truly exciting. Since Doble does not manufacture or market utility assets such as transformers, circuit breakers, insulators and bushings, the company has always been in a position to act as the “honest broker” of information related to the performance of these system components. For decades, Doble has been collecting and storing what is now an incredible treasure trove of valuable apparatus maintenance data. Simply put, there exists no comparable knowledge base of information for this industry. Doble has been, and continues to be, the electric utility’s “librarian.”
This resource is noteworthy in and of itself. Yet it’s how the company is using this information base that sets it apart in the industry. Doble recently rolled out its On-line Center, giving its clients access to its vast database of information via the Web. The center also puts customers in touch with Doble’s client service engineers. Clients have always counted on their relationships with their Doble engineers, who work in close partnership with customers, analyzing test data, handling service issues and providing a wealth of knowledge and expertise. Now that interaction is also available online, enabling the round-the-clock support that is so critical in today’s fast-paced global marketplace.
The Doble On-line Center is part of the company’s quest to provide rapidly new solutions based on emerging technologies and services. Doble’s new president and chief executive officer, Robert A. Smith, P.E., who joined Doble in 2000, recognized that the company needed to bring all of its practices into the 21st century in order to meet its clients’ needs, and maximize its unique market position. “While Doble has a long and proud past, make no mistake about it — we have our sights set squarely on the future,” says Smith. “Harnessed with today’s technology, we are developing revolutionary new solutions to offer our wealth of information and expertise in ways that meet our clients’ current and future needs.”
The Doble On-line Center enhances what has been a long-standing tradition of customer support. Being a Doble client involves more than just the relationship shared between the customer and Doble; it also means membership in a community. Maintenance engineers, asset managers and other utility professionals use Doble as their networking conduit for the discussion and exchange of critical information, and for the creation of new industry solutions based on individual and group experiences. Doble’s client committees, client conferences, user groups and e-mail forums have become such an integral part of the industry that they have almost gained an identity of their own, separate from Doble as a company.
Many people associate Doble with the company’s original core business — diagnostic test instruments for evaluating the condition of electric power assets. The M series instruments and the Doble Test, for example, are now industry standards throughout the world for measuring the quality and condition of electrical insulation. The more recent M5100 Sweep Frequency Response Analyzer (SFRA) determines whether transformer repair is necessary without costly detanking.
Doble also manufacturers circuit-breaker test systems and power-system simulators, as well as online diagnostic devices which continuously monitor apparatus and material condition. The health of a utility’s electric apparatus is critical from both a performance and an investment point of view. Reliable monitoring and testing strategy has become the industry’s insurance policy for maximizing valuable resources, and preventing dangerous failures and outages. It is this foundation in apparatus diagnostic equipment that initially put Doble on the map, and has led to the company’s current product and service offering.
As part of its ongoing pursuit of industry knowledge, and the sharing of that knowledge, Doble has sponsored an annual technical conference for many years. This April marks the 69th annual International Conference of Doble Clients. The conference program is created by nine client committees, each having unique expertise in a particular area. Hundreds of professionals will gather to participate in what is considered the industry’s premier event, and the proceedings will be published and added to Doble’s growing resource library. The popularity of this conference has led Doble to establish other annual gatherings around the world to address the specific needs of its international client base — in Europe, Mexico, Brazil, Australia and other locations.
Since insulating oils and materials are such an important aspect of apparatus performance, Doble also has formed a business unit in laboratory services, offering world-class, materials-science research and high-voltage testing. This is an aspect of the company’s business that may not be highly visible, but is quietly growing and continues to support Doble’s greater mission.
One of the newest components of the Doble business is Doble Engineered Strategies (DES), which provides high-level consulting and strategic development services. “DES was created to meet the needs of our clients, with a focus on asset management, asset utilization, and comprehensive risk management solutions,” Smith explains. “DES personnel work with owners of electric power apparatus to resolve specific operational and maintenance issues, with condition assessment, reliability-centered maintenance and new tools like DES’ Dynamic Thermal Model.”
In an age that has seen both dot-com successes and the demise of business giants, Doble is a rare jewel — a company that’s been around for decades but isn’t resting on its laurels. So the next time you flip on that light switch, remember that Doble is doing everything it can to ensure that you’ll get the result you expect. At Doble, the future of the electric power industry has never been brighter.