Jeffrey Hilker with Constellation PowerLabs

Industrial Talk is onsite at PowerGen and talking to Jeffrey Hilker, Marketing/CX Manager with Constellation PowerLabs about “Ensuring power assets are reliable and perform to specifications”.  Here are some of the key takeaways from our conversation:

  • Industrial reliability with a passionate host. 0:03
    • Scott Mackenzie introduces the Industrial Talk podcast at a conference in New Orleans, highlighting the importance of reliability.
  • Parts quality initiative to reduce unplanned outages. 1:11
    • Jeffrey Hilker, manager of strategic initiatives and parts quality at Constellation Power Labs, discussed the importance of parts quality in preventing unplanned outages in the nuclear industry.
    • Hilker shared a story about Exelon's experience with inferior parts causing frequent down times and millions of dollars in losses, leading to the development of a parts quality program to identify and address critical parts.
  • Testing and analyzing parts for nuclear power plants. 3:46
    • Power Labs conducts failure analysis and testing to ensure parts quality, with an average failure rate of 7%.
    • Jeffrey estimates industry savings of $100 million through quality control program for nuclear industry.
  • Transformer testing and maintenance. 7:07
    • Jeffrey explains that PQ (power quality) testing is crucial for utilities to ensure reliability and reduce downtime, and that the company provides a third-party testing service to eliminate downtime for transformers and other equipment.
    • Jeffrey also mentions that the company tests other types of equipment, such as motors and valves, to ensure quality and reliability.
    • Jeffrey : We offer a program where we send a consultant to assess your supply chain and provide recommendations on which assets to test and maintain.
    • Jeffrey: Utility companies are increasingly interested in age-based testing and maintenance, as it lends itself to regulated metrics and ensures equipment is safe and reliable.
  • Improving power grid reliability through testing and collaboration. 12:55
    • Scott MacKenzie and Jeffrey discuss the importance of testing transformers to ensure reliability and safety in the field.
    • They share their experiences with manufacturers and the impact of collaboration on product quality.
    • Jeffrey Hilker of Constellation PowerLabs discusses reliable power solutions on Industrial Talk.
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testing, parts, Constellation, power, transformers, talk, manufacturer, fail, utility, asset, criticality, industrial, circuit breaker, jeffrey, warehouse, good, labs, metrics, work, people


Welcome to the Industrial Talk Podcast with Scott Mackenzie. Scott is a passionate industry professional dedicated to transferring cutting edge Industry Focus innovations and trends while highlighting the men and women who keep the world moving. So put on your hard hat, grab your work boots, and let's Alright,


welcome to Industrial Talk. Thank you very much for joining the Industrial Talk, the number one industry related podcast in the universe that celebrates industry professionals all around the world. As you can tell, I'm reading the thing at the same time as I'm doing an intro because it's very intriguing to me. Anyway, you're celebrated on this particular podcast, we are broadcasting on site here at power gin, in New Orleans, Louisiana. And it is a collection of problem solvers. It is a great event, put this on your calendar for next year if you have not done so. Do it. Make that you know what you get. You get an opportunity to speak with Jeffrey, because he's in the hot seat. And we're going to be talking about well, reliability. But it's just so cool. I'm all I'm all giddy. I love this stuff. Let's get cracking. Good conference.


And having a good conference. Yeah, we're, we're, we gave a presentation on this subject earlier this week. And we've had a lot of people come by the booth and we're having a great conference. Yeah,


so I'm very distracted, because I'm reading all of the good stuff that's happening in this trifold handout. But before I get into it, people need to know who you are. Give us a little 411 on who you are. Okay.


Jeffrey Hilker, and I'm with Constellation Power Labs, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Constellation Energy. My background, I'm a nuclear Navy, person, submarines, went to get out of the Navy went to Westinghouse and then ended up at Exelon which is now Constellation. Yes. So we, so I've run a lab for them. I've done some marketing for them. And now I'm the manager of strategic initiatives and parts quality. And this reliability that we're talking about is one of my one of my focuses.


Okay, we might as well just get right into P Qi. Is that how I said Yeah, parts quality initiative? Correct. Which is interesting, because constantly isn't experienced frequent events caused by part quality issues. So let me


give you a little story, please. The 2006 Exelon, at the time had a problem. They were having too many down powers too many scrammed. For shutdowns caused by inferior parts parts that would fail in the plant and they'd have to take the plant down. So when the plants down, obviously, you're losing lots. Yeah. You don't want that millions of dollars. No, no, no, it was Yeah. So unplanned outages are bad. And so they, they had a lot of these and they they brought the supply chain group together, the managers and the directors and said you got to solve this is so they put them in a room and said they'll come out? Do you figure this out? So they they came up with a the parts quality program that we're going to talk about? Yeah. And it's a two part program. So first, you identify the parts that are critical,


right? If you're criticality rater, yeah, you know, criticality,


if it's a fan for somebody's desk, you know, we don't we don't care,


right? For the air conditioner for the president of the company.


That would might be critical.


That's where it becomes a little sketchy.


But there's a whole criteria that we went through to find the parts that are most critical things that fail a lot things that are obsolescent thing, things that fail and will take the plant down. Yeah, so these are all went into the group of parts that we wanted to test. And then the second part is testing them. So we also do failure analysis at Power Labs. So the failure analysis goes into that it feeds, it's a feedback loop for this parts quality. So we know this particular part, this circuit breaker fails because of it has a bad spring. So we, we put that into feedback loop. So the testing for that circuit breaker will include the testing for that spring, or whatever the part is, you know, whatever is critical, right? So we, we make sure it works, the way the manufacturer says is gonna work. And we also feed back into it all the things we've learned over the years since 2006, why parts fail. So that goes into that testing plan for that part to the part comes in. We buy it new, it comes into power labs, we test it, if it fails on any of those parameters, we send it back to the manufacturer and say this one's no good. And our parts, we average about 7% failure. Still now to this day, 7% 7% of the parts we test fail, no way. These are brand new parts. And if we put them in the plant and end up installed in the plant, they're gonna cause a problem, and we're gonna lose power. Yep. So our capacity factor is is the measurement of how well we're doing right. So our nuclear fleet has a 95 percent capacity factor? We we don't go down? No, because, you know, we for 95% of the time. So we, we estimated that we don't do this just for Constellation, we do this for every nuclear plant in the country, almost every one of them is signed into this program with a few exceptions, and it's send us apart and they, and they have access to our database that has the part number of CDs, I was just going to continue. Sorry. So the database that we supply, if you're a subscriber, we provide you with the part, the manufacturer, stock code number, and this is the failure rate. If it doesn't fail, don't send it to us. If it fails a lot, you got to send it in. And we'll we'll figure out why. If you have a good one for your warehouse, or if you don't. So 2023 we estimate we saved the industry 100 million dollars. In no way in cost avoidance. Yeah, you know, if this park got installed, well, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So. So we know, it's very successful. Now. We've only done this for the nuclear industry, we think, Oh, come


on. That's it, you know that, that there's tremendous applications everywhere?


I believe so. So we were so we're here at power Gen talking about this, and how we can help any plant with this particular. And utilities in particular, we do a lot of high voltage work, and high power testing. Transformers fail a lot. Distribution transformers fail a lot. Yep, arrestors insulators. We can test all those. And we can tell you, if you've got good ones or bad ones,


it's just it just surprises me. Yeah, because being an old utility guy, I just assumed that the quality of the equipment coming in, I was in transmission was was there. I mean, it like like, the manufacturer has their testing


they do. But we're independent, we don't make anything. Constellation doesn't produce any parts or make anything we don't have. We don't have a dog in the hunt. So we were just calling balls and strikes. If it's XYZ manufacturer sends us a transformer we don't, we're just testing it, we just want to know whether it's going to do what you say is going to do as a manufacturer. Now, if you're getting that test report from the manufacturer, he's not going to, you know, they're gonna say it's good or bad, say it's good. So. So that's why independence is really valuable here. And, and we know that lots of transformers fail, lots of them, before they're even put in, you know, you have. So So what utilities end up doing is just having


a huge stockpile, so that the inventory is massive that


so we can reduce inventory, we can create better reliability. So your metrics like Sadie, Katie and safety, where you're getting fined when you have outages, will will go down, because we know that we'll be delivering parts or putting parts that was that will last into


your heart. So the process, how do you? How do you? Well, it's pretty straightforward in the world of nuclear, you're just not going to have a failure, you just don't want to have a failure, it is just one of those things where it's like a plane, you don't want to have a plane failure, you know, you're gonna make sure that the maintenance and, and the reliability of that asset is solid, right. But if I'm, here's the use case, if I'm, I'm a purchasing manager at utility. Now I'm typing it in, I want some transformers, whatever, for whatever reason. I go to the manufacturer, I offer that order. There's got to be this interim step where it comes on in where that then it gets tested by a third party, is that how it works.


That's how it works for PQ exactly how it works. What we can do is eliminate some of that downtime though. So Trent transformers have a very long lead times


it's getting worse. So if you


if you're buying a transformer, and you're and you want to be part of this program, what you can do is have them ship it directly to us. It's done, they're ready to deliver it comes to power labs, we do all the testing for you. And when you get it, it's ready to go. You put it in your yard, you you put it in your pole, whatever you want to do with it, but it's ready you know it's gonna work when you go ahead and store it. And we do the same thing for our plants. So a lot of the new parts that our plants buy come directly to us. We go through the process and they send it out to them and they put in their


warehouse What about like motors and valves and other other pieces of equipment other than power related equipment?


We do just about anything from fuses up to you know, circuit breakers and transformers like we talked about. We do some we do some mechanical testing of some, some products, various things in a plant, but


then again, it gets down to that asset, criticality of the you know, do this don't worry about this, we can You know, there's availability of that those assets relatively easy, but and it's not shutting the plate and town, we are able to sort of do a work around whatever it might be. But all of that criteria goes in, do you work with other companies to come up with that asset criticality rating


we do and what we can, what we what we also offer is, when you sign up for this program, we send a consultant to you, and we will look at your supply and say, These are the parts that you should send to us, these ones you don't need to. And these are the ones that are most critical. Like, if you, if you don't get these tests, you're gonna have problems, we can give you that kind of analysis of your supply chain and your and your stock and go through it. And


what about the ongoing maintenance of the assets? Let's say I'm doing I'm pulling data off of those assets, you know, that because now, I've got a baseline, this is a piece of equipment that is, quote, certified or whatever, it's, it's ready to go. But I have to maintain it. I can't just let it there's a there's an action there.


So the preventative maintenance step plans do is not we're not involved in that we can make recommendations, but we don't do the maintenance ourselves, right? So we just tell you, this transformer you should test the oil X number. Exactly. When when that whatever the frequency is, that will tell you say we also do calibration, and we will recommend calibration cycles for you. But it's up to the customer to make that do those PMs in whatever frequency they're supposed to be done in. We certainly recommend we'll do it, we'll consult with them, we'll tell you what we think. But it's up to the company that owns that because


you don't want to have the situation where you know, you've certified I don't know, what what do you certify for? We call it Testing, testing. You've tested this piece of equipment, it meets the standards that are that are needed. And if they don't do their end, do they ever sort of loop back and say, Hey, you said you tested this thing? Blah, blah, blah. But But there's got to be


that happens very rarely. But there is a there is a movement now, for us to start talking about age, we tested it 10 years ago is that you're gonna have to have that conversation. That's the conversation we're having now. We tested this 10 years ago, it's been in your warehouse, you should test it, you should send it back in, you should send it back and we'll test it again. Because if you go to us it doesn't work, then you have issues. Right? So yeah, so that conversation is happening. Now this this program is very mature for the new world. It's not, you know, utilities don't use this kind of metrics just blows me away. So we would we think this lends itself to vary, especially in utility companies that are regulated and have to meet a certain metrics.


exactly correct. So


we think this would be perfect for what seems like a no brainer. Getting the word out is hard. So I'm glad you asked me to come on. Yeah,


but but but yeah, of course, I'm gonna geek out about. Yeah, this just seems like it's a no brainer. Why not? Right? But no, this is this is fascinating. And it's a surprise to me, honestly, it is. Because I, again, being an old utility guy, I just assumed that that when we put a transformer out in the field, it is typically not tested


on anybody but but the OEM, the original equipment manufacturer tested, that's typically the only test you got,


and you know, failure rate before you started testing.


So when we, when we first started testing, the failure rate was in a 15% range. Now that we've gotten most of the, you know, warehouse, stuff out now, the failure rates about 7%. And we do go back to manufacturers will say, hey, you know, this relay fails 20% of the time, what, what can you do about it, and a lot of times they're standoffish while you're not testing it, right, you know, so we, we collaborate, of course, they're


gonna do that.


Go to their site, and most of the time we, we, we come to an agreement, okay, this is how we test. And maybe you should be testing it too, because this is what we're finding. Most of the time that's happened, sometimes you get, you know, manufacturers that say, we're not going to take your recommendations, we don't want to have anything to do with you. You're not doing it right. You know, sometimes that happens, but for the most part, we get collaboration. And we changed the way they test and and it makes them they have a better product, you know, when they're done.


Again, it just seems like a no brainer.


And what, like I said, we're not, we'll call them balls and strikes. We're not trying to sell


Oh, no, no, no, no, no, you're trying to keep that asset up and running and trying to put in equipment that has that reliability. And without it. Nothing's worse than putting something in and then it fails. You know, a week later, oh, no, you don't want it and plus it. There's a safety component to it, you know, and once you open in environmental, environmental, there's just so much to it that you don't just don't want to deal with how do people get a hold of you my friend?


So Constellation Power Labs, you can find me on the website. Immediately.


Busy on LinkedIn,


I am on LinkedIn. Okay,


we're gonna have their stack card out there on an Industrial Talk. You were absolutely wonderful. Thank you. All right, listeners. We're gonna wrap it up on the other side, we're gonna have all the contact information for Jeffrey out on Industrial Talk, reach out to him incredible stuff and credible solutions that they are deploying there at Constellation, love what they're doing. Constellation Power Labs. Correction. All right. We're gonna wrap it up on the OSI stay tuned. We'll be right back.


You're listening to the Industrial Talk Podcast Network.


All right. Power. Gin was the event that was in New Orleans, Louisiana. Jeffrey Hilker, Constellation Power Labs. All of his contact information will be out on Industrial Talk. Yes, I want reliable power. Yes, I do. You want it to as well. So that's what they're doing out there. I thought it was just absolutely fantastic. What a great service. I love it. What a great service that they provide there at Constellation Power Labs. All right. I say it all the time. You educate you collaborate, you innovate. Go out to Industrial Talk and and soak up this great information, this great content being delivered by people like Jeffrey and and just continue to educate. But the best part about it is that they're available to collaborate. You want to solve problems. You want to collaborate. Yes. Innovation is just a natural outgrowth. All right. People will be brave daring greatly. I say it all the time, hanging out with Jeffrey, you will be changing the world but PowerGen on your calendar for next year. We're gonna have another great conversation shortly. So stay tuned.

Industrial Talk is onsite at PowerGen and talking to Jeffrey Hilker, Marketing/CX Manager with Constellation PowerLabs about "Ensuring power assets are reliable and perform to specifications".
Scott MacKenzie

About the author, Scott

I am Scott MacKenzie, husband, father, and passionate industry educator. From humble beginnings as a lathing contractor and certified journeyman/lineman to an Undergraduate and Master’s Degree in Business Administration, I have applied every aspect of my education and training to lead and influence. I believe in serving and adding value wherever I am called.

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