Compatible Unit (CU) is like a template used mainly in US and UK based utility companies to design their routine repetitive work such as pipe installations, equipment repairs and inspections. A compatible unit is a standardized assembly unit defined for general use by designers, crews and accounting personnel. A compatible unit is made up of labor tasks, vehicle/ equipment hours, materials, accounting information, attachments, default contract/contractors and one or more attributes.
Characteristics of Compatible Unit
- An unlimited number of work tasks (labor tasks) may be assigned to the compatible unit. Each work task assigned to the compatible unit is associated with standard labor and vehicle/equipment hours to install remove or transfer structures. Hours are assigned to the CU via the assignment of one or more construction work tasks.
- An unlimited number of material items may be assigned to the compatible unit to include stock, non-stock, exempt (truck or shelf stock), obsolete (removal only compatible unit) materials and variable material items. The material items are selected from the master list of material items.
- CUs are the building blocks of representing designs (simple and complex) and have specific attribute values known as CU-defining attributes. These attributes designate the features of that specific CU (e.g., pipe size and material type of a 2" Steel Pipe).
- CUs carry accounting information which is used to assign the labor dollars to the correct corporate account.
Typically the field work (O & M or Capital) of any gas distribution company can be categorized as the following business processes:
- Emergency (O & M) -- takes care of the response to emergency call like gas leaks or damages.
- Maintenance (O & M) -- takes care of the planned maintenance jobs for above and below ground facilities.
- Inspections (O & M) -- takes care of equipment inspections to be compliant.
- Repair (O & M) -- takes care of the repairs emerging out of the emergency process or maintenance processes.
- Construction (Capital) -- takes care of the constructions of new pipe lines either planned or customer driven.
CUs plays a major role in all the life cycle stages of a work order and can be applied through several off the shelf products such as Logica ARM Suite, IBM's Maximo, SAP, Arc FM Designer etc.
Role of a CU in Field Work Order Life Cycle:
Work Order Design/Estimation:
The Compatible Units are used as building blocks for the development of utility designs. Usually an SME (Subject Matter Expert) or Business Analyst from Standards Department of any utility will be responsible for the creation and maintenance of compatible units. For example, in pipe installation a pipe compatible unit contains just the materials, and an estimated time for its installation. As mentioned earlier. A task is assigned to every unit of work to be performed. For example, in providing gas service to residential customer, there will be a task for installing the pipe and another task for installing the riser. If there is meter being installed along with the gas service, there would also be a task for installing the meter hardware required for that installation.
CU's plays a vital role in saving lot of effort for designers in case of standard designs which are repetitive in nature. For example, leak repair or equipment inspection designs are repetitive and which can be represented with a standard design.
Using designing tools, designers make use of these compatible Units in representing the construction sketches. Once the compatible units and assembly units (group of compatible units) are determined by the planner/designer, compatible unit details are added to the design and it contains the total cost of the materials, the total labor hours required to perform the operation, and the accounting information used to allocate costs across multiple corporate accounts. At estimate time, all of these materials and labor associated with CU are added together to end up with an estimate for the work order. Once the design is approved by the approving authority the same figures along with compatible units are passed onto the order tracking systems to effectively track the work order.
Schedule and Construction:
Once the design is complete for the work order it is pushed to Work Management System (WMS) to track the work till its completion. If required, CU attributes are updated in WMS with the information needed for the crew to complete the construction. For Example, A Regulator Station Inspection work order may contain multiple CUs individually representing Regulators, Emergency Valves and Relief Valves. Updating information like 'Number of Turns' to open an Emergency Valve and its 'Direction to Open' (clockwise or anti-clockwise) attributes associated to Emergency Value CU are beneficial for the crew to complete his job effectively and efficiently.
Once the required information for crew is entered for individual CU's of a work order, it is scheduled to crew to start his construction. Since CUs are associated with materials, it also helps crews to stock his truck with required materials before en-route to his construction job. Crew will complete the CUs associated with the work order to make sure all the tasks associated with job are complete and also provide as built information at a CU level which is required to compare design and as built values.
In addition to the type of work completed and the time to complete the work, WMS also stores accounting information for the order at an individual CU level which is used to assign the labor dollars to the correct corporate account and the same data is used to compare costs of construction between regions and time periods.
Compatible Unit value matrix:
Compatible units will also improve management of Long and Short cycle work. The value they offer varies within Function and Life Cycle.
CU Functionality Conclusions:
Some of the key business benefits of CU for an organization are listed below:
- Enforcement of Construction and Maintenance Standards.
- Create work orders with consolidated labor and material requirement list from the standard design elements.
- Seamless Integration of Design, Estimation, Mapping, Material Management and accounting processes.
- For speedy design and accuracy in job estimation.
- Generate estimates with respect to current client contract agreements.
- Helps in identifying difference of design to actual cost.
- Helps in integration with Invoicing, Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable.
- Tracks cost of work in progress and work completed by crew information.
- Integrates with the work order life cycle process.
- In compliance with the reporting requirements of the Public service commission and other regulatory agencies.
- Reduction in Inventory costs (Biggest advantage of implementing standards).
- Reduction in wasted field trips due to missing material or tools (CU readily provides the list of all the required tools and Materials).
- Scope for continuous improvement.