A day in the life of Contract Administrator Jesse Jordan and Senior Purchasing Agent Tom Wanner
From a seven-cent washer to a turbine worth millions of dollars, Basin Electric’s procurement division works quietly behind the scenes to make sure every employee has exactly what they need to do their job.
One of the busiest times of the year for procurement is outage season. During this time, bids need to be obtained, contracts executed and enforced, parts ordered, and unexpected discoveries dealt with when equipment is disassembled and potential issues are found.
Prior to Basin Electric’s reduction in force last year, each station had a dedicated procurement employee on site. This year, the outages were staffed instead by several contract and purchasing employees who rotated weeks at a time at the plants in an effort to serve as the first line of defense when unanticipated issues arose.
Contract Administrator Jesse Jordan and Senior Purchasing Agent Tom Wanner were two of the employees who served as procurement’s “boots on the ground.” They were tasked with assisting plant personnel in addressing contract or parts issues that arose during the outages.
Contracts: Getting the best bang for the buck
“For me, outage season starts about a year before the actual outage,” Jordan says. “From the time the contract is bid to the time the invoice is paid, I'm working to make sure Basin Electric and its members get the best work done for the best value.”
Jordan emphasizes “best value” doesn’t always mean the lowest bid. Factors, such as workmanship, commercial terms, project schedule, safety record, quality of work, and more are all taken into consideration.
Once the project work has been requested by the field, Jordan does a walk through with the contractors prior to bid submittal. This allows for consistent information flow, as well as a guided walk down of the project. Jordan, along with plant personnel and representatives from engineering, then analyze the bids and recommend which contractor they believe would be best for the job.
After the bid is awarded, he negotiates and executes the contract. “It is my job to ensure the contract is fair, and if the terms are not followed, there is recourse. This is done to protect Basin Electric and its members,” he says.
Once the outage begins, Jordan participates in meetings to ensure the outage is on schedule. “There are many pieces to the puzzle, and knowing where each department is at allows me to help where a vendor or contractors may be falling behind,” he says. “Because I am on site, I am able to chase problems when they happen so the plant personnel can focus on the outage itself.”
As changes to the contracts are requested from the field, Jordan reviews the change request and compares it to the scope of work outlined in the contract. During discovery work, it is not uncommon to learn of additional work that needs to be done, which may not be outlined in the contract.
Jordan considers himself a one-stop shop plant personnel can count on to find solutions to contract issues, and the primary contact responsible for ensuring each vendor is in compliance with the terms of the contract, whether that is with delivery, schedule, pricing, scope of work, or any other part of the agreement.
“It takes an entire team,” he says. “There are a lot of moving parts, and it takes everyone working together to get outages completed. Procurement staff prides themselves in providing value to our plants by managing risk and procuring materials and services that add value to Basin Electric and all of its members.”
Purchasing: There isn't always the luxury of lead time
Purchasing parts and materials needed to ensure all equipment is running safely and efficiently is another piece of the outage puzzle conducted by the procurement team. Wanner starts ordering necessary equipment and parts one year prior to the outage. Advanced planning is necessary due mainly to long lead times. Purchasing works closely with each facility to understand what is needed and when to ensure all parts are on site before the outage begins.
However, as one would expect, there are a lot of unexpected material needs during an outage. “It’s really important that one piece of equipment doesn’t hold up the entire outage,” Wanner says.
One example happened this spring during Dry Fork Station’s first-ever major outage. When the turbine was removed, some of the bolts that hold it in place fractured. Without them, the turbine can’t be re-assembled. Wanner contacted the original equipment manufacturer, but was quoted a 20-week lead time. Experience directed him to a local fabricator, who was able to reverse engineer the bolts in just a couple days. “Using this company allowed us to maintain the outage schedule and save a considerable amount of money. Dry Fork is the newest, most efficient plant we have, so it’s important that we get it up and running as soon as possible. Parts and repairs add up to a lot of money, so if there is ever anything we can do to help save time and money while still maintaining quality, we do it.”
This wasn’t the only time Wanner has been able to get parts or equipment quicker than originally anticipated. He says that during an outage he becomes somewhat of an expert in expediting requests. “We try very hard to accommodate material need dates by working closely with our logistics group,” he says.
Wanner also serves as a procurement liaison, communicating between the plant and other members of the purchasing staff to facilitate material purchases and expedites. On any given day, he can be found walking around the plant taking photos of serial numbers or contacting multiple vendors to see who can deliver necessary parts at the best price in the fastest time.
“Being onsite during an outage really opened my eyes to what the employees at the plants do,” he says. “They are pulled in so many directions, it’s unbelievable. They don’t need to be worried about calling a vendor to get a part, they need to be able to just focus on the work they’re trying to do. That’s why we’re there, to take care of the unexpected needs so they can get the job done.”
Wanner and Jordan agree that being on site is an advantage for both procurement and plant personnel. “When we’re working with the people in the trenches doing the work, we see the challenges they face, and they see ours,” Wanner says. “We may have talked to some of these people on the phone for years, but when we meet them in person, it’s a whole different ballgame. When we’re at the plant and they see that we genuinely care about it and what they are trying to get done, it builds great relationships. We get to know and trust each other, which makes everyone’s job a lot easier. This is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.”